Premature Evaluation: Make Sail

Make Sail

Premature Evaluation is the weekly column in which we explore the wilds of early access. This week, Fraser’s setting off in a rickety boat in Make Sail. It looks a bit like Wind Waker, but you get to build your own vessel. Sadly, it doesn’t talk.

Once a year, usually around the time of Gamescom, I slink off. I stop writing, disconnect from Twitter and flee to the coast of a sun-soaked country that I can comfortably sail around while sipping the cheapest gin and rum I can find. It’s what I look forward to most, every year, and when I return I’m always a more upbeat, raring-to-go kind of guy. It’s safe to say that I love sailing.

Make Sail has tested that love.

Make Sail 1

The oceans of Black Flag and Sea of Thieves are gorgeous, but no nautical adventure has ever looked as good as Wind Waker, so when I saw more than a hint of it in Make Sail’s screenshots, I had to dust off my sea legs and dive in. It loses some of that magic in motion. It’s not that Make Sail isn’t a striking game — it is — but exaggerated physics, jerky animation and performance problems make it harder to appreciate the fetching archipelago. It doesn’t do much for sailing or exploring the multitude of abandoned islands, either.

I can forgive a lot when the sailing is good. I never clicked with Sea of Thieves, but I still spent countless hours just sailing from island to island with my crew, simply enjoying the routine of manning the ship and gawking at the gorgeous vistas constantly being flung at our eyes. In Make Sail, I just felt a bit nauseous. The boat can’t even chill out in the main menu.

Because the sea is mostly calm, travelling across it isn’t quite as vomit inducing as it is in Stormworks: Build and Rescue, but the boat constantly bounces and twitches and careens, never really giving you an opportunity to simply sit back and enjoy the journey. The wind doesn’t help much, either.

It’s a supernatural wind that circles the central island in the archipelago. You’re essentially sailing through a cyclone. How you fight it depends on the type of sail you use. You start with a single square rig that can simply be raised and lowered; you can then add more sails, as well as a triangular sail, essentially a jib, which makes it easier to get through the wind. So while trying to sail against the wind with the square sail can be pretty tricky, you can do tacking manoeuvres with the jib, zig zagging your way to the objective.

Make Sail 8

Unfortunately, whether you choose to battle the wind or let it carry you around in a circle until you get close to your destination, you’ll be in for a ponderous journey. I’d almost recommend the latter, however, because the combination of sensitive sails, sharp turns and wild physics makes tacking a lot of work for very little speed.

Maybe the default boats are just a bit rubbish, I thought to myself as I hit up the boat editor. I went in with dreams of craft that could cut through the sea, but I lost my cool before I could build anything seaworthy. Make Sail’s editor is cursed with a truly terrible camera and controls that are so colossally awful that I’d rather bounce my way across a dozen oceans before trying to slap together another boat.

Make Sail 7

The simple act of connecting one component to another involves a great deal of trial and error. Each component has nodes that allow them to be attached to any other component, until, for no discernable reason, they don’t. It’s inconsistent, so you never know if pieces are going to snap together until you try. Even if you’ve done something a dozen times before, like connecting barrels to planks, the editor could suddenly become obstructive.

Here I am moments before I deleted the whole thing and admitted defeat.

It’s especially disappointing given the sort of vessels we’re meant to be able to make, if we wrestle with the editor for hours. I’d love to make some galleons and weird catamarans, but I love avoiding anguish a lot more. So I was stuck with the default boat, until I unlocked a brand new boat, sailing upon which was equally as nauseating. I hated those boats. I still hate them. I want to pin their pictures to a dartboard.

There’s nothing to Make Sail when you take out the editor. The whole impetus for fighting the wind and sailing to all these little islands is the hunt for new parts for your boat, along with chimes that expand the map, allowing you to explore even more islands and find even more parts.

Make Sail 6

As my anger grew, my relationship with the boat deteriorated. Instead of awkward silence, I was making my feelings quite clear. “Boat arsehole,” I’d mutter when we set sail. It gave as good as it got. Sometimes it would just stop moving entirely, the sails remaining completely static not matter what I did. I realised it had gone too far when I stepped onto the boat after rummaging around on another deserted island and it just fell apart. There wasn’t anything for it to bump into; it fell apart because I stepped on it. It then proceeded to drift away. I managed to jump off before it took me far out, but I realised its intention: my boat was trying to kill me.

For my own safety, I’ll be staying on land for a while.

Make Sail is out now on Steam for £15.49/$19.99/€19.99.


  1. Someoldguy says:

    Definitely needs more time in dry dock. Pass the nausea pills.

  2. Premium User Badge

    Aerothorn says:

    I’m a Fig backer, and everything I’ve seen from the devs suggests they really want to make a great, lovely game and are releasing it in early access precisely to get this sort of critical feedback – so while I imagine this will be a gut punch, I think they’ll aim to improve it.

  3. Tuidjy says:

    while trying to sail against the wind with the square sail can be pretty tricky

    I sail weekly.

    I admit it’s been years since I’ve been on a boat with a square sail, and that I have never been on anything with just a square sail…

    Still, I cannot fathom how you can sail into the wind with the contraption in the screenshot and just a square sail. At all.

    A super light vessel, with a well designed keel, a mast positioned just right and an oversized rudder may allow you to tack with a square sail… at single digits from 90°. But you may as well be using the rudder to row.

    I fail to understand how you’d sail against the wind with the square sail at all, forget about it being just pretty tricky. Do I have a monumental blind spot due to being spoiled by modern rigging, or am I just dumb? Please tell me what is your trick.

    • Fraser Brown says:

      Make Sail doesn’t have realistic sailing, but sailing against the wind with the square sale was still a nightmare. One that ended with me going backwards, a few times. I honestly can’t remember how I got anywhere at all, but I wasn’t able to properly do any tacking until I got the jib.

      • Tuidjy says:

        Oh, I must have misunderstood the relevant passages, I guess. I thought that ‘Make Sail’ was actually trying for a realistic simulation of sailing, and that the wind/rigging/keel/rudder modeling was just in need of tuning. So I wondered about the physics of tacking with a square sail.

        To be honest, in the same way that I Mount&Blade has replaced HEMA, I think soon enough some sailing simulator will replace taking the Mer d’Alors out. (Yes, I did name her that. Yes, I regret it. No, no official has sussed it)

        • monsieurZb says:

          The Mer d’Alors :D
          To be fair, it has the kind of poetic tone usually associated with ship names. If you don’t take the terrible pun into account.

      • Shacklestein says:

        Out in the Real World™, you absolutely 100% need some sort of jib in order to tack a square rigger. It varies from rig to rig and ship to ship, but typically the closest to the wind you can sail is around six points (67.5° in Newspeak). Without a jib you’d need enough momentum to carry you through the entire twelve-point arc in order to tack. While I don’t know enough advanced physics to tell whether that’s _theoretically_ possible, in practical terms it most certainly isn’t. Not without losing all headway in the process.

        You need a well drilled crew and a competent officer just to get through the eye of the wind, at which point the headsails are crucial for quickly pushing you onto the new tack. Missing one of those key components means your only practical option is to wear ship instead. And even if you _can_ tack, wearing ship is safer, less stressful, and causes way less wear and tear on the rig, at the cost of a less efficient manoeuvre requiring more sea room.

  4. rushakoff says:

    I hate that the red “make sail” hyperlink links to a search of RPS for articles about this game in which there is only one. and there is no link to the actual game.. kind of redundant and stupid.. Are those hyperlinks entered manually? and if so… why did you do this?

    • Colthor says:

      I guess it’s RPS house style, because it’s always like that. So it’s not Fraser’s fault, but it is irritating to have to web search for the official site or store page of any interesting game covered.

    • Fraser Brown says:

      Because we’ve only written about Make Sail once, the link only shows one article. It’s not redundant, as we might write about it again in future. The lack of a link to the game is my bad though. It should have been at the bottom, and it is now.

  5. Templar says:

    Wow this game looks fucking terrible lol.

  6. DantronLesotho says:

    I happen to know the devs behind the game, and I know that they are super committed to improve the game through feedback, hence the Early Access launch. It’s got the potential to be something really special, and I am confident that when the kinks are ironed out it will be the game you expect it to be.