Avast, et cetera! Abandon Ship is the FTL-like game of nautical combat and crew management where you sail across a big oil painting of the high seas. We’ve previously peered through the news telescope at its exploration, lifeboats and flailing tentacles (Kraken ahoy!) It’s been a bit delayed, say developers Fireblade Software, and now sails into early access in “early 2018”. As compensation, we’ve been given a 30-minute playthrough to inspect, with running commentary from the lead developer. Spoiler: the navigator gets blown overboard and drowns.
Highlights include being chased down by the shadow of a Kraken, ramming an enemy vessel, and the crew being forced to throw a bunch of food overboard to escape from two ships manned by horrible squid people. It also shows off the kinds of things you can buy and sell while in port. Acid bomb mortars that burn enemy crew, suppression cannons that knock sailors to the deck, and big doubleshot cannons that fire two balls at once. There’s also crew for hire, to replace your drowned shipmates, and you can sell your lifeboat too, which, uh… you probably shouldn’t do?
There’s a lot of other detail about how the game works. Crew morale can diminish, leading to a mutiny (although it doesn't say what happens in that instance), tidal waves can sweep your crew overboard, and the environment has other effects on battles (for example, fire weapons will be ineffective in a rainy storm). Roaming the map meanwhile is mostly about finding enough event pop-ups to unlock the gate to the next area while making decisions about what resources to trade or whether to fight or run from an enemy.
Hopefully, those events and choices are characterful and varied enough to keep things fresh for a decent amount of playthroughs. For fans of desperately repairing hull damage, it’s probably enough that it repeats the frantic man-clicking of FTL. But I’m hoping all the stuff around the battles is just as good. I’m thinking of those high risk, high reward planet landings, or the unconscious castaways who may be villains or pals. All those small decisions that feel critical. If Abandon Ship can harness that, I’ll be a happy sailor.