“My mind’s an endless storm out in the cold unknown.”
My relationship with X-Com is one of unrequited love and passionate hatred. Even though I got into the turn-based party quite late with Firaxis’ 2012 version of Enemy Unknown, I still found myself absorbed in an adventure that took a year from my life. It was an astonishing time, albeit the victory was short-lived when I remembered that every battle was one accomplished with save-scumming, which was expected, even if it still took the wind out of my sails.
Even now, 8 years after Enemy Unknown set the AA-market on fire with a vivid reminder as to how intense turn-based combat can be, no other developer has been able to recreate the same fire — not even Firaxis themselves. X-Com 2 lacked the same fiery strategy, even with a stealth angle, Massive Chalice over-complicated how you could approach the enemy, and Phantom Doctrine suffered from being too dry. Let’s see how Dread Nautical can fare from the rest of the squad.
This is the latest title from Zen Studios, a team responsible for the 3,452 different pinball tables present in Pinball FX. Varied landslide of over-sensationalized bar games aside, Zen have also seen themselves dabbling in various fun little exercises for casual gamers, like the tower-defense breeze of Castlestorm, or the quite in-depth Infinite Minigolf. They certainly have an eye for easy-to-pick-up games, and Dread Nautical is no exception.
You play as a survivor, lounging about on a ship named Hope with various other hedonistic bastards whose middle names might as well be “decadence”. While everyone is spitting on the workers unlucky enough to reside underneath the Second-Class deck, the capitalism that fueled their cruise trip collapses, and the souls of the damned begin to take over, bringing the ship into an inescapable loop of purgatory. It’s up to you and whoever you can find among the vast ship and its decks in order to find a way out of this madness.
Dread Nautical‘s gameplay is something worth observing, if only for how ambitious it seems to be. From the beginning, you have one premade survivor with a small backstory as to their presence on the ship, and you’re stuck in a small room with an elevator connected to every single part of the ship, inexplicably. If this elevator is to be believed, then the ship is the size of Blackpool Tower using the Sphinx as a skateboard, but nevertheless, you jump into the elevator and begin your journey to freedom.
If those strained opening paragraphs weren’t enough of a clue, then allow me to reiterate that Dread Nautical‘s gameplay is heavily inspired by the meaty dish of X-Com, with a side-order of roguelite mechanics, but we’ll get to that. With a maximum squad of three, you barrel through the abandoned leisurely spots of the ship, fighting whatever nasties come up, until you reach the helm and sound the foghorn. Once the foghorn is sounded, you and your party pass out and wake up once more where you began, with more of the ship opening up.
When you’re in the vicinity of an enemy, you’ll immediately switch to a combat …