BEING trapped on a cruise ship is a
horrifying thought for a lot of people right now, so taking that premise and
adding a Lovecraftian twist is an intriguing premise I was keen to delve into.
Developed and published by Zen Digital for
PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch, Dread Nautical has a great idea and setting – a stranded cruise
ship named somewhere in the Atlantic
Ocean, apparently in the thrall of possession from some Elder God.
Unfortunately, the game founders in the
The game’s mechanics are similar to things
like XCOM and Shadowrun Returns, so if you’ve played them you’ve got a fairly
decent idea of where to start.
You play one of four survivors who wake up
in the lobby of the Hope with no idea
how you got there, and someone named Jeb telling you to go and search the ship
for survivors and gear, but watch out for the possessed or mutated creatures
now roaming the gangways.
The graphics are fairly minimalist at best,
and most of the enemies are quite hard to distinguish – it’s fortunate there
are names over their heads, because otherwise they basically seem to be “rolling
ball” or “running blob man”.
The levels all seem to be randomly generated, but are ultimately variations of the same thing with only a few different “types” of room evident.
The game started to get a bit repetitive
for my liking, essentially repeating the formula over and over. That’s part of
the point of the game and its weirdness, but the novelty started to wear off
and I just wasn’t excited about yet another foray into the ship to fight
monsters and head to the bridge, sound the horn, black out, and start the
process again the next day.
The story didn’t really progress much at
all and by level 10 I’d largely lost interest since the game just didn’t seem
to be going anywhere.
When talking to survivors, you have some
conversation options that will influence how they respond to you – but it’s not
always clear how they’re going to react. Sympathising with someone’s plight is
just as likely to piss them off as it is to earn their trust, which makes
things challenging (and a bit frustrating, too).
From a tactical perspective the combat is
solid and works; you have a certain number of actions each turn (which can be
upgraded) and enemies can be flanked and backstabbed, but you never quite seem
to have enough action points so a lot of combat for me devolved into a slugfest
rather than feeling like a tactical exercise – not helped by the fact
unaffiliated survivors in the next room won’t come and help you.
Nautical doesn’t seem to know if it’s a Lovecraftian
Cosmic Horror tale or a parody of B-horror movies; there’s strong elements of
both here but it they don’t meld together well and it creates dissonance in the
I was hoping Dread Nautical would be something on a different tack, but instead
it just ran out of steam and left me drifting.
It’s a serviceable game that is diverting
enough for a few hours, but it’s really something I could only recommend going
out of your way to pick up as part of a Humble Bundle special or something like