Wave After Wave In Ship Of Fools

Stormrider is THE best ship on the Archipelago, but is it good enough to stop the Aquapocalypse? Ship of Fools PS5 review!

If you ask me, and I’m assuming you are to some extent as you’re reading this Ship of Fools review, a rogue-like needs to offer some merit of progress, rewards that make it worthwhile and provide a fair amount of addictiveness. You should be able to start a run immediately upon death, right?

Developed by Fika Productions and published by Team17 (who recently released another excellent rogue-like, Bravery & Greed), the premise for the game could not be simpler: prevent the Aquapocalypse. Boarding your ship, Stormstrider, you sail from The Great Lighthouse to protect the Archipelago, which is now swarming with enemies intent on sending you to Davy Jones’ locker. You don’t want to end up there. It smells of fish.

Each Ship of Fools run begins at the lighthouse and proceeds based on your chosen path. All routes lead the same way; kill the boss, then head to the next area. If you’re strong enough. The game can be played as a solo run or co-op (local or online), and while going solo is my preference, co-op is way better. Stormrider has four points for your cannons – two on the starboard, two on the port, and you can pick up your cannons on the fly and move them based on the direction of attack. Said cannons are limited to 180º and must be refilled with ammo frequently, so expect some hectic gameplay.

Ship of Fools Review PS5 - Pea soup
Pea soup. Source: PR

Ship Of Fools Review PS5

You’re allocated two cannons, and on a solo run, one is automated, acting as AI. As long as you reload them and place them on the correct side, they make solo play manageable, allowing you to switch to the other side to take shots or man the deck and melee enemies with your paddle. The latter is just as crucial as the cannons, as you can repel those invading the deck and larger enemies and bosses that get a little too close to the ship.

Repelling/defending is straightforward enough. An exclamation point hovers above an enemy who is about to attack. Alternatively, charging up a paddle attack and standing in the right place will knock a projectile straight back. Beware: paddles, while not causing any damage to health, will knock the other player back, which can be pretty irritating. However, the hardest thing in Ship of Fools is neither the difficulty nor repetition, but disengaging with the cannons quickly enough to move to the other side or to interact with them without accidentally picking them up.

After a dozen or so runs, Ship of Fools felt far too hard, but reassessing the use of the paddle soon made sense, and knowing which path is best will pay off the further you get into the game. The map is made up of hexagon tiles, and for each move you make, the right side fills up black with your impending doom (the boss fight kicks in once you click on a black tile). Your path will depend on what you think will help now or later. Do you aim for the wood to repair your ship, stack up the gold, go for power-ups, or collect the tendrils?

Ship of Fools Review PS5 - Pea soup
Pea soup. Source: PR

Sail, You Fools!

Tendrils upgrade the items at The Great Lighthouse. Perhaps you want to upgrade your guns, strengthen your hull, or begin with more coins or harpoons. Harpoons are fired from the guns to collect items from the sea. Tendrils are my recommendation as they allow permanent upgrades, whereas, because this is a rogue-like/rogue-lite, the gold and power-ups only relate to the existing run. 

New characters can also be unlocked, though how to do these is a hidden achievement, so expect to do a run where you don’t fire a cannon and so on. Aside from brightening up the deck with some new aqua character, they come equipped with trinkets that allow them to reload faster, hit harder with the paddle, or go into a rage when they get stunned. The differences seem subtle, but they genuinely make an impact.

In summary, I can’t stop playing Ship of Fools whenever I can. The runs aren’t brief either, so when you die, you accumulate enough upgrades to get a little further. After x number of runs, that first – even second boss feels like an absolute doddle, but the next boss – heck, even the waves themselves are a real challenge, but the balance of difficulty and reward pays off. For a game that is essentially Overcooked at sea, Ship of Fools is a lot of fun and one I recommend – especially as a co-op experience.