ReviewsReview: Dread Nautical

Review: Dread Nautical

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The idea of a desolate ship floating somewhere on the vast ocean sends a shiver down my spine. The fear of isolation and sorrow must overpower if you were one of a small group of survivors aboard this meandering metal prison. If you then chuck in a sense of Deja vu and monstrous creatures, you have the beginnings of a nightmare. This is Dread Nautical in a nutshell. A Rogue-lite survival strategy game that asks you to search the many decks searching for survivors and resources to live just one more day.

Developed and published by Zen Studios, this suspense filled survival title asks you to explore a ship known as “The Hope”. You control your chosen character, who must leave the safety of the lower lobby to undertake missions in each of the 20 decks of this massive vessel of doom. You must search through furniture for; food, scraps, equipment, and other useful objects. As you explore, survivors will cross your path, and you must try to convince them to join you.

A unique experience.

Unlike other strategy, resource management survival games, this one has an eerie and creepy main concept. Each day ends with you sounding the ship’s horn for help, but doing so causes you to collapse and return to the lower lobby. From here your day begins again just like the last. This perpetual loop of searching, collapsing and searching some more keeps you busy as you desperately look for items that will help you survive.

Hack, hack and hack some more.

The lobby forms the hub of all activity and is your HQ throughout your stay aboard “The Hope”. You can upgrade this area to ensure that you can house more people, repair, upgrade or scrap any weapons you find, and more. Poles, guns, paddles, harpoons, are but a few of the objects used to attack the many ghastly beasts you encounter. You are free to keep, store, scrap or dump anything that you find. Once you discard an item, you can’t get it back once the day ends. This is the joy and the burden of this procedurally generated world. You are constantly shifting your approach and changing your tactics to suit the situation that you find yourself in.

Turn-based battles and convincing others.

Scavenging is but one part of this suspense-filled title, the other key layer is turn-based battles. You move around each level using a grid system. When no enemies are present, you may freely roam with no issue, but if an enemy is nearby, it automatically reverts to a turn-based system where Action Points are the currency of choice. Stealth is a key tool in victory, as is the weapon that you choose. Each has a set amount of uses, and each exhausts Action Points. You must analyse a situation and decide whether the fight is worth the risk. Once your foes are vanquished, they will drop much needed resources, but is it worth losing your weapon or life for one piece of food?

Alongside monsters, you will help or protect survivors who are caught up in this mess. A choice based dialogue will be presented, and depending on your answers, you may encourage them to join you, or you will offend them and they will risk their lives fending for themselves. Not all survivors are useful to you, and an extra body is an extra mouth to feed. You must decide who joins, and who is left by themselves. It’s tough, almost certainly unfair, but survival is key, and solving the mystery of this ship won’t happen if you die.

The perfect setting for a bloody performance.

A cartoon style with creepy undertones.

The artistic style was fantastic to look at, if not a little dated. The cartoon models were basic in design, but colourful and easy on the eye. The cutscenes used for the conversations were weirdly animated with most characters flailing limbs around like they couldn’t control their bodies. It was odd, but made me chuckle repeatedly so I forgave it. The core portion of this title plays out from a 3D isometric viewpoint. This was a clever choice from Zen Studios, as you had a brilliant view of all the action, and it allowed you to take in the vast emptiness of the world that you inhabit.

The audio is a sombre and melancholy affair. The sinister aura wraps itself around every element, and the tone and pace of the music emphasise this brilliantly. Echoed footsteps, the sound of the sea, and silence help to create a sense of foreboding and loss. Though there are no jump scares, and it goes nowhere near the horror genre, you can’t help but be on the edge of your seat throughout.

Easy UI and 3 difficulties.

When I was offered this, I was worried that I’d have to spend hours learning all the finer details, I couldn’t have been more wrong. A simple UI and a well implemented tutorial allows you to understand the fundamentals with ease. Once you get into it, you are left to your own devices, and this could cause confusion as more complex concepts aren’t as well explained. Yet with a small amount of trial and error, you progress easily enough. The well laid out UI is easy to navigate and helps you to power through the opening stages.

Where better to search for food than the ship’s galley?

Like with all procedurally generated games, the replay value is really high. To add to this, Zen Studios used 3 difficulty modes; Normal, Hard and Insane. The latter 2 will challenge experienced players of this genre, so I recommend cutting your teeth on the normal mode to start. A gradual learning curve and forgiving settings will allow you to master the game without wanting to rip out your hair. Add in a nice sized achievement list, and you get an awful lot of game for only £16.74.

Making friends and surviving, no matter what.

Dread Nautical is an interesting title that is unique in its core concept. It doesn’t ham up its sense of foreboding, nor does it hammer you with difficulty in the lowest setting. Its user friendly approach wants you to enjoy everything it has to offer before you move on. Team and resource management are 2 key elements that keep you playing. Who do you save, and who fends for themselves? You have limited food, who eats, and who starves? It’s tough, but as the group leader you must decide! Do I recommend it? Absolutely! A copy can be purchased here! Search, gather, help, fight, and sound that horn. This is your life until you solve the mystery surrounding your presence on the good ship “The Hope”.

SUMMARY

Deja Vu will strike you every day. Search the decks, find survivors and solve the mystery of the good ship "The Hope". Dread Nautical is a challenging survival game that will force you to make some tough decisions.

+ Nice cartoon style.
+ Eerie audio.
+ Simple UI.
+ Plenty of replay value.
- The animations in the cutscenes are odd.

(Reviewed on the Xbox Series X. Also available on PC, Mac, IOS, Nintendo Switch and PlayStation.)
Daniel Waite
Former editor and reviewer for www.bonusstage.co.uk, I've now found a new home to write my reviews, and get my opinion out to the masses. Still the lead admin for Xboxseriesfans on Facebook and Instagram. I love the gaming world, and writing about it. I can be contacted at [email protected] for gaming reviews.

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