Across uncharted waters and treacherous seas, lurks a beast below, a true tyrant of the depths, the Kraken. It’s the legendary sea monster at the forefront of Fireblade Software’s Abandon Ship.
Taking place in a fantasy-like naval world, where ships rule the sea, you take command of your own, with a crew in toe, and explore a procedurally-generated world. Abandon Ship’s story places you the boots of the Severed One, an escapee of the Doomsday Cult that devotes itself to the Kraken. In an open world that wouldn’t go amiss from the works of H.P. Lovecraft. The interactive story sees you severing yourself from the cult after questioning them as a whole, you become free, commandeering a ship and escaping. With the cult in pursuit, it is here where your adventure and survival begins.
Diving into the gameplay, for those who have played Faster Than Light (FTL), you will be quite familiar how things are structured. So just think, pirate ship instead of a spaceship, but with that being said, as someone who hasn’t played much of FTL, I’ll be only talking about Abandon Ship and won’t be making any comparisons.
During your escape, you’re given an opportunity bring along a crew, these lonesome cult prisoners escape alongside you and help you embark on your journey across the uncharted waters. As captain, your selected crew members have set of skills they are proficient in. These skills vary, but to get going, you can take along with you three crew members in classes ranging from Navigator, Surgeon, Marine, Gunner and Sailor. Their classes provide bonuses for specific tasks. Navigator, for example, is proficient in manoeuvring the ship, Marine is a skilled swordsman, while the Surgeon greatly benefits crew members in healing and recovery. Each crew member can do all the tasks you tell them to do, whether this is repairing, fighting or manning the cannons, but it’s still best to leave the task to the best-suited crew member, but even then in the heat of battle, it can be a juggling act.
The biggest factor of Abandon Ship, as well, your ship and how well you can manage and maintain it during your voyage. After all, your goal is to survive and not actually abandon ship, but when all things come to an end, well it’s not the end, but I’ll get to that.
From the start, your ship is well equipped and can be quite fearsome. While there are story related moments forcing you to fight, you can actually avoid combat, should you choose. Eventually, it’s unavoidable and when you do engage, Abandon Ship becomes a remarkable micromanaging, combat simulator.
Similarly to an RTS, you can select your crew members or as a group and give commands with a simple point and click. This can be manning the weapons or repair the hull. If you wish, you can also pause the combat and provide commands. Whether it be the cannons, chain-shot or grapeshot, firing takes patience as each weapon has to be prepared before attacking the opposing ship with a right-click. Micromanagement comes into play during combat, as you'll be incurring damage throughout and maintaining your ship is critical to victory. Manoeuvring takes time, and as you hit the enemy with cannons you can get closer to range to unleash more powerful weaponry such as the flamethrower. However, you must be wary of this, as the closer you are to your target, the higher risk you have of being boarded by the cult’s deep-diving sea creatures: the Haliphron.
While I found combat for the first few rounds easy enough, there is no way of completely repairing your ship without reaching a port, so if things do worsen during combat and your ship begins to suffer hull damage to the point of flooding, your best bet is to flee otherwise, well, abandon ship. If that does come, the loss of your ship is not the end. As Captain, laying on the drifting debris, you may be fortunate to be saved and board another ship allowing your adventure to continue, but if not and in my case, multiple times, you become another victim of the sea and you have start all over again. This can be a pain as you can’t have multiple saves and you can only save upon exiting.
At certain points in-game, eventually, you’ll be pursued by the Kraken, a creature that can strike fear in your crew. In these moments, there is little to do but defend and flee. As the Kraken rises from the murky depths, its tentacles pierce your ship from multiple angles requiring your crew to cut away at the attached on appendages to break free and escape.
Outside of combat, the map has the look and feel of a living naval painting with water-like paint strokes. Zooming out even shows the map to have a classic gold-trimmed picture frame. The exploration of the world is like travelling through a fog of war. As you proceed the map reveals more of itself, during this you can find supplies adrift and encounters in combat. The main objective in exploration is to unlock the gates to the next area, requiring you explore a majority of the map before proceeding.
Since the world is procedurally generated, the location of supplies and enemies is random, even the port that you come across, which is where you can rest and recuperate, as well as upgrade your ship, make repairs, visit the tavern for some well-needed ale and bring on more crew members. Hiring on additional crew should be a priority, as once a crew member is dead or lost overboard, they’re gone for good.
Lastly, for those who want a pure naval combat experience, with progressively more difficult scenarios, you can play the Combat Campaign. This is a separate mode that removes the exploration and has you fight increasingly more difficult battles with breaking in between to allow for upgrading, crew management and repairs.
Built on the Unity Engine, the game isn’t that visually impressive, however, its design, with an oil-painting style of aesthetics makes it stand out. While still in Steam’s Early Access, Abandon Ship even in its current state is an excellent roguelike, FTL of the seas. Even if, like me, haven’t played a lot of FTL, if you’re a fan of strategy and combat sims, you’ll find something to enjoy in Abandon Ship.