Nantucket is a new naval adventure IP from Picaresque Studio, where you’ll live through the golden age of American whaling, manage your ship and crew, and live the story of Ishmael, the sole survivor of the Pequod, a few years after the events narrated by Herman Melville in his classic, Moby Dick.
Nantucket will see you leading your own Whaling ship out of the port of Nantucket, where you’ll start with your humble little ship, and 7 seas to explore.
You’ll start off your time as captain in the port, where you can talk to the local paper boy to read the news, taken from real world events of the time, and check the classifieds for jobs. Was it called the classifieds back then? anyway. This is where you’ll find work for you and your crew, and becomes your primary source of XP and income. You can browse the General Store, where you’ll spend a lot of your time replenishing your supplies of Water, wood, food, and most importantly, Grog, Or Rum, to those still stuck in the 21st century.
You’ll then realise you need a crew, and where else do you go when you need people willing to risk their lives for pennies and booze? The pub, of course. You’ll have to choose from a selection of skilled tradesmen, hunters, scientists, sailors, craftsmen, or a cabin boy, who you can take under your wing, and train in your image.
These crew members will all come with their own attributes and skills, and its up to you to choose which of these you desire when putting together your crew. One factor that might influence this, is the last area of the port. The shipyard.
The shipyard is where you’ll be able to upgrade your ships technology, make repairs, and even trade in your ship for something a little more fancy. The base upgrades, such as your ships harpoons, are all available as standard. More complex upgrades, such as the captains quarters, will require you to, as a captain, possess a certain skill(s) in order to progress the technology, or for you to have a member within your crew possessing the same skillset. This poses one of Nantucket‘s biggest flaws.
You’ll spend your time building your perfect crew, only to realise you’re lacking a vital skill to upgrade your ship to the next level. Before you know it you’ve got a whole new crew just for the sake of an upgrade. What’s worse? your old crew have left the building! Completely, they’re long gone. You can address fired crew upon the initial firing, but after that? Not a hope. I would like to see some form of a ‘home base’ scenario, so that you could alternate between crew members, without losing anyone you have put considerable time into nurturing.
Perhaps some form of a ‘Shore Leave’ system, or something equivalent could be added to give another dynamic around the idea, similar to the stamina system used by pit crews in Motorsport Manager.
Nantucket‘s main quest line follows the story of Ishmael, the sole survivor of the Pequod, but the vast majority of the quests you’ll be participating in will be searches for new hunting grounds, delivering goods, and following the path of lost ships to discover their fate. These missions can have multiple outcomes, With hunting grounds potentially being shark feeding grounds, and various different fates for the ships you investigate. The delivery quests have no alternate outcomes, although your route can be hindered, which goes for all missions.
Throughout your time on the seven seas, You’ll be challenged with scenarios and random encounters which you, the captain, must make the executive decision as to what action to take. Be it something as simple as one of your men becoming somewhat of a picky eater after you’ve filled up the hold with 1000 days of food (pretty sure food preservation wasn’t that good back then?) or maybe of a couple of your sailors have developed a love interest? Or considerably more alarming, a bunch of pirates are trying their hardest to murder you all only to find 1000 days of food in your hold and sod all else?
The choices really are endless. What happens in these scenarios is up to you, and you’ll be given a selection of choices, that can sometimes even give you additional stats, for better or worse. While there are a multitude of different scenarios, they do become a little repetitive. Every time you have an abundance of food, one of your crew becomes picky. It gets a bit old fast. I understand giving the player more to interact with, but at the same time, it does start to take the piss a bit.
Thankfully, the main story breaks this up a bit in Nantucket with a nice array of cut scenes to tell the story, as well as a nice variety of objectives. They help to build a nice narrative that you can explore at your own pace. I didn’t really explore much into the story until I’d built up a good few levels, but I believe you could definitely do so earlier on. There are also multiple side quests along similar veins for notable characters within the game. You’ll even get some from your crew from time to time, which really breaks up the game, although the crew missions do get a little repetitive after a few hours gameplay.
Lastly, and arguably most importantly, is Nantucket‘s combat system. The class of a character determines what dice they can roll, with the captain having access to all 4, with his level in each determining the number of active slots in each. You’ll want to pick who you fill your whaling boats with carefully, to ensure you have a nice balance of damage output and potential life saving should it be required. Just stacking hunters works well too however. Just saying.
The combat is a turn based system, based on dice rolls. You’ll select what dice you’ll roll for each member of your crew before you roll, and you’ll also see where your opponents are placing their attack/defend cards. Environmental factors can effect the combat, such as choppy seas disturbing characters, or revealing creature cards. The game then rolls the dice for your sailors, and one can perform his action from each of your whaling boats. the bigger your ship, the more boats (up to a total of 3) you’ll have to use. The big issue is that the dice-roll mechanic is heavily favoured against the player. Unless countered by death or an ability, all of your opponents attacks will land. Guaranteed. Meanwhile you’ll roll 6 dice, and not land on one attack.
While this is statistically possible, this often happens 3-4 times in a row, causing you to lose your entire crew. When your rolls do land however, there is a good deal of strategy involved in choosing the right target, and becomes incredibly fun, if not often frustrating.
Overall, Nantucket is a really enjoyable experience. With its quaint and timely art style, historical accuracies, and charm, Nantucket sets an impressive atmosphere which becomes increasingly immersive. While the gameplay isn’t without its frustrating faults, excruciating load times, and repetitive quests, Nantucket is a game where you’ll lose hours without even realising.