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Review: Nantucket

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All the fun of whaling with only half the depression

A few months back I read a book about whaling in the 19th century called The North Water. It was dark, grisly, and at times made it hard to continue because of its graphic imagery. I also couldn't put it down so after it was finished I was kinda left hanging in the breeze with a new obsession with whaling.

Almost as if hearing my pleas for something whaling related in the gaming world, Nantucket came out last month silently like a whale beneath the waves. While it is not without its flaws, it is one of the more engaging strategic role-playing games I've seen in recent years.

Nantucket (PC) 
Developer: Picaresque Studio
Publisher: Fish Eagle 
Released: January 18, 2018
MSRP: $17.99

Nantucket has two gameplay states: sailing the high seas, and negotiating in various ports around the globe. Right from the beginning, you begin as a whaler that starts off in the port of Nantucket with an empty dingy ship. As the Captain, you must fill your ship with working men of various classes. You can have a hunter, a navigator, a scientist, a craftsman, or a cabin boy all with strengths and weaknesses. There is no upfront cost to hiring a crew but every time you come back to port with blubber, depending on the level of the men they get a certain cut of the profits. It's a fresh take on the NPC mechanic and I rather enjoyed that as it added a bit of depth to choosing who you want for your crew.

As well as hiring a crew, you must also buy the supplies to keep them alive while you are out at sea. The supply mechanic becomes a tug of war between how long you want to stay out versus how much free space you want for all that precious whale blubber. If you are the type of person that likes to load up and forget it then you'll have an issue here because there is a bit of realism thrown in where if you don't use your stock quick enough it can go bad.

After you've prepared your crew and ship you must head out to the open sea in search of money. You make your money by two different means, whaling or taking random jobs. You pick up jobs while in port that can range from simple stuff like finding new whaling grounds, or delivering goods between ports, to more complicated and dangerous tasks like discovering what happened to ships that never made it back to port. Whaling is pretty simple and an easy way to make money and experience early on. You go out to different grounds depending on the time of year and poke those innocent whales with spears until they're dead.

The spear poking is done using a battle system which boils down to a dice game. Most low-level characters have a 50% chance to use an ability on their turn and as they gain levels that percentage goes up. Depending on the class of the characters you choose to use in the whaling boats you will have different dice that allow for different abilities. The hunter brings the offense, the navigator allows you to dodge attacks, the scientist acts as a healer, and the craftsman allows anyone else to re-roll. The cabin boy can attack but only has a 33% chance to attack.

The battle system is a little rough towards the player. In sea battles, the amount of turns you get per round is determined by how many whaling boats you have, and for a decent portion of the game you only have one whaling boat. Contrast that with the fact that every animal you face in battle can attack every round. In battles where it is 1v1, it's not so bad because everyone is on an even keel, but if you get triple-teamed against a band of sharks the game can quickly turn on you, as it did multiple times on me. There is a bit of a difficulty spike when it comes to some story missions but it provides a nice hump to try and get over, provided you aren't doing the Ironman mode. More on that later.

Nantucket's story is told through missions and picks up at the end of Herman Melville's epic Moby-Dick. While you can name your character the base state name is Ishmael and it is implied that you are the lone survivor of the whaling ship Pequod. While I cannot speak on how well the story picks up the pieces of Moby-Dick, You can tell that this is a passion project for the creators from the amount of detail put into the story. The story is static though which isn't a bad thing unless you are planning on playing the game in Ironman mode.

Which brings me to a little suggestion to all new players: don't do Ironman mode until you get comfortable with this game. There isn't enough variability in Nantucket to warrant the amount of frustration of losing all your progress because you went into a new whaling ground thinking it was just a bunch of whales and it turns out to be a shark ground. I do enjoy a good challenge but if you want to experience the story better, save Ironman for the replay.

Some other little things that stuck out to me was that the random text encounters dealing with your crew got to be a bit annoying when you were trying to manage your resources. It was such a nice little surprise to hear sea shanties that your crew was singing but the fact that it gets cut off every time you go into a battle proved to be very jarring.

Nantucket is well worth your time if you are looking for a fresh take on the strategic role-playing game genre, or are a fan of the original story that it is based on.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]


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Nantucket reviewed by Anthony Marzano

8

GREAT

Impressive effort with a few noticeable problems holding it back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.
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Anthony Marzano
Anthony MarzanoContributor   gamer profile

Cblog recapper, writer for Flixist and Lover of all things strategic and can you find me on the internet? Twitch: more + disclosures


 



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