Thank goodness for virtual worlds, as without them, I wouldn’t have been able to invest the hours in Dread Nautical – a survival game based on a cruise ship.
First up, the sea scares me – for many reasons, but we can save that for the couch.
The second is the motion sickness and disorientation of being on the waves. No thanks!
Imagine my surprise that for the past week, I’ve been floating on a big hunk of metal, hunting down ghoulies and staying alive.
Let’s get the show going with…
…a Dread Nautical PS4 Review
So you’ve finally escaped a life of organised crime or been investigating the crims that occupy that world, a diva looking to break into showbiz or want more subscribers to your gaming channel.
What do you do?
Go on a cruise.
The back story of the four main characters in the game are mostly trivial as going on a cruise is a bit of a niche market in the first place, but before our characters know it, all sorts of weird @£!# starts happening.
Supernatural tomfoolery has taken over the ship, and it’s down to you to round up the remaining survivors and stick it out until the end.
There are some RPG elements thrown in and also some rogue-like mechanics as should you die (you will), you return to your base potentially losing all your gear.
Think you remember the layout of the deck to go back and undo what just happened?
Round ’em Up
Each level is set on a deck of the ship that is accessed from an elevator located in your base.
Before setting out, you have a number of stations that you can build and upgrade to influence your stats, weapons and the number of people that can join you, but more on that later.
As a turn-based game, combat is built around action points – when you’ve used them up, it’s the enemy’s turn.
However, outside of combat, you are free to move as you please without being held back, but you select where to go with the cursor rather than freely with the analogue stick.
Throughout Dread Nautical is a wealth of loot you can scavenge from battle or tuck away in rooms, but your inventory capacity is quite low so either you swap out for an item you no longer use or hand to another member of your party.
Also, items have a durability rating, so once it hits zero, the weapon or item can no longer be used and needs to be replenished at your base.
Once you’ve completed the level.
Amongst all this loot hunting and zombie bashing are other survivors that you can coax in joining you by doing them deeds or selecting the right dialogue choice during a conversation.
As long as you have the beds back at your base, they can join your party, making the game significantly better as you now have someone who has your back.
Best of all, you can control them separately and upgrade their stats, so not just limited to the starting characters.
Who you decide to play with doesn’t make too much difference at first, despite each character having an active and passive ability.
My first choice was the ex-yakuza Kenichi as he’s a melee character but soon realised that his base health doesn’t exactly have tank qualities.
The first few decks are relatively straightforward, but regardless of technique, you’re going to end up taking a few hits either from ranged enemies or the harder-hitting sub-bosses.
Poor old Kenichi was getting dropped too often, and I’d already squandered by investments on upgrading my quarters and weapons.
Getting to day six or so, I decided to start a new game, this time playing Fargo, the private eye, as he’s a ranged attacker.
Initially, this didn’t make much difference as ranged weapons are quite scarce, but I was swift to invest in upgrading my pistol to have a few more rounds and power – game-changer; I got past day six.
However, investing points into one area and neglecting another will bite you on the arse as I soon found out as this time around, I had only made one extra bed.
After some days, your party will start getting stressed out.
You can counter this by calming them down with your health station, alternatively, sit them out for a day or so to recuperate.
The problem was, I hadn’t recruited anybody else and soon found myself playing solo once more.
Dread Nautical is a strategy game, so you need a bit of forward-thinking as to how you’re going to play the days ahead if you’re hoping to survive.
Back at your base, you can invest in the quality of each station; you can only build/upgrade items up to the level of the station, i.e. a level 5 weapon station can only upgrade a gun to level 5 and so on.
One of the best stations that I had overlooked on my first attempt was the occult station.
Here you can increase the stats of a player; their health, ability points, defence etc., and instead of parts, you spend runes.
There’s a caveat though as the more runes you use, the more likely you’ll suffer corruption.
Despite the cartoon appearance of the game, the actual gameplay is quite thought-provoking, and it’s highly unlikely that you’d be able to run about gung-ho – you need to invest your time in being able to survive.
It’s this same visual style that takes the edge off the game, as it has the potential of being a bit eerier, but the concept still works.
The biggest issue for me, however, was the voice acting and lack of character depth.
Having been Kenichi first, he says the odd Japanese word that is only heard in a B-movie, or my preferred character Fargo, calls everyone a wiseguy.
It’s just a little too cliche at times and a little off-putting during dialogue scenes.
But… the gameplay is enjoyable, and the fact that I spent another Saturday morning deciphering runes and saving cruise-goers confirms that there’s enough depth to stick with it.
- Straightforward controls and easy to get used to.
- Plenty of replay value.
- No one playthrough is the same.
- Characters are weak: design, voices and appearance.
- The easiest setting can be moderately hard at times.
- Takes a bit of time to see the potential of characters.