Indie games are much-loved across the industry. They allow developers creations to flourish and can usually be produced with much smaller budgets and man-hours than triple-A titles. I’m always keen to see what the future holds, so when Xbox announced its [email protected] Summer Game Fest I couldn’t wait to get started. There are plenty of demos and games to choose from, but one, in particular, caught my eye. Watching the trailer, I fell for the cartoon graphics and bright colours. I instantly downloaded the demo and waited patiently for Sail Forth to install.
Developed by David Evans and published by the Quantum Astrophysicists Guild, this is a procedurally generated adventure title. You control the captain of a vessel who is free to explore the wonderful and massive deep blue sea. You will sail to different locations, identify new islands, and assist people you encounter.
Sail Forth in a great shape for an Alpha title.
The demo allows you to experience everything that has been created. I have to say for an Alpha build game it’s thoroughly impressive how well the developer has done. Yes, it screams indie game in style and gameplay, but it has a high-end finish I don’t always associate with this market.
You begin the game with the choice of two vessels. Each has advantages and disadvantages, and you must decide which matches your style. You also get to pick your flag, its colour, and the look of your boat. The options are basic, but they allow you some freedom to be creative. Once you are set up, you set sail for the high seas. Sail Forth allows you to pick your path and you can do as much or as little as you wish. Want to help the local fisherman? Grab a rod and catch some rare specimens. Pirates bothering you or the locals? Fit some guns to your ship and blow them out of the water. Do you fancy starting a race? You can do that as well. None of the quests is mind-blowing, but they offer enough variety to keep you interested on your journey around the world.
Procedurally generated, so no playthrough is the same.
Now, the word procedurally generated will fill some gamers with dread. Some players love the familiarity of running through the same stage repeatedly. Not me, I love when the game is constantly changing, and this is one element that David Evans excelled with. The thought that each time I load into the game I’ll have a unique experience is impressive. With so many little elements combining to drive the main concept, this makes for an intriguing prospect.
Every playthrough will have new NPC’s to interact with, and your friendly merchants will be found on different islands. It is the epitome of exploration and adventure and I loved it. The merchants are key to your success as they sell you new ships and guns. You can also sell them excess items that you find in crates and when you blow up pirates. The game’s currency is wooden planks! Boy, oh boy, do you need a lot of these to succeed. This is possibly one area that needs a little balancing as it’s quite difficult to gather more supplies.
Sail Forth wants you to be the captain of a fleet of ships. Gather sailors from the water, find new boats, and rule the waves forevermore. As your fleet increases, you will learn to use simple commands to keep everyone in check. This is essential when you attack pirate forts and luckily it is easy to do. Being in charge has never been so straightforward, allowing you to pillage and plunder to your heart’s content.
Sail Forth has surprisingly good graphics.
I went into this with low expectations. The trailer I saw gave me glimpses of what to expect, but I didn’t want to get excited about an Alpha build game. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by the quality. The colourful world and cartoon imagery are reminiscent of Zelda Wind Waker and Sea of Thieves. The multitude of islands is devoid of life at the moment, but they vary in sizes and fauna. As the game develops, I’d expect the world to become more vibrant and interesting. Alongside the look, I was impressed with how well the gameplay ran. I had no issues at all. There were no screen tears, crashes, or glitches. It was quite impressive.
The audio lacked a pirate edge, sadly. I expected jolly sea shanties and more “Yarrrrrrrrrr’s”. Instead, the world is mainly full of gentle atmospheric sounds that help to transport you onboard your vessel. The airy tunes gave the game a surreal finish that worked well with the strange and unusual gameplay. The sound effects, however, are very good. The crashing of the cannonballs, your boat colliding with land, and the random noises from the NPCs are all great. Though it didn’t match what I expected to hear, it was delivered to a high standard.
Sailing has never been so easy.
When a game allows physics to impact its mechanics, I get a little worried. Fortunately, Sail Forth uses the idea of wind direction and speed generously. You must control your mast’s position and the amount of sail you wish to unfurl. This sounds like a complicated task, but it’s straightforward to achieve like the rest of the controls. A radial menu hides all your commands, and controlling your boat is a joy. Combat is easy thanks to a crosshair and grid that shows both aim and maximum distance for each cannonball. If the developers can maintain this simplicity, it’ll be a cinch to play.
As this is only a small demo it’s hard for me to decide how much replay value it holds. I have no visibility of the achievement list, nor do I know how in-depth the quests will become. In its current build, I found the gameplay addictive, and it was hard to put down. If the game continues in this vein, I believe it’ll keep gamers playing for hours.
Sail Forth has a bright future.
Obviously, an Alpha game can change direction and mechanics at the drop of a hat, so gameplay may alter from now to full release. Yet, I don’t think major changes need to be made. This demo is proof that Sail Forth has a bright future and I can’t wait to see how David Evans develops it further. I recommend you try the demo here! Be aware it is only live until June 21st 2021. Life on the open waters is dangerous and thrilling, so grab your ship and crew, and go adventuring.
Sail Forth is a wonderful procedurally generated game that is fantastic to play. With plenty of tasks to complete, new islands to explore and vast ships to sail, you will soon become the King of the Seas. An Alpha build game currently, this has great promise to be an amazing Indie title.
(Reviewed on Xbox Series X. Also available on PC, Nintendo Switch and PlayStation.)