The Captain Is Dead PC Review: Red Alert!

A pretty challenging survival strategy set in space, but that means the rewards are greater. The Captain Is Dead! Abandon ship!

The Captain Is Dead is a great title choice because it evokes several responses that spiral into panic. As the title suggests, the captain of your ship is no more, and the remaining crew have to pick up the pieces. That’s surviving, not gathering the late captain’s organs.

Based on the board game of the same name, there are a dozen characters to choose from, each with unique traits. It’s a turn-based strategy game where survival is key. Put simply, you have to repair the jump core of the spaceship and escape your alien attackers.

However, they’ll throw everything at you, and it’s not that their actions are overwhelming, but the way the game plays out can be incredibly challenging. The first hurdle was the visuals, notably the UI. At a glance, The Captain Is Dead has a vibrant edge to it; the characters are bold, colourful, similar to Hotshot Racing, or perhaps a hint of Space Channel 5.

The Captain Is Dead PC Review - Crew
So solid crew. Source: Screen capture

That aspect is excellent, but the UI takes some getting used to – notably the holographic terminal screens. From a topdown viewpoint of the ship with all the available rooms to attend. Stations are listed to the left and the crew member to the right. Each moves costs a point with the teleporter, but if that breaks, it’ll use more action points – double when the gravity’s on the blink.

The Captain Is Dead is against you as each time you solve one problem, another arises

The Captain Is Dead is against you as each time you solve one problem, another arises. This could sound pessimistic, but that’s the lure of the strategic element. The initial steps are deciphering the display and how skills work. 

As familiarity crept in, I realised how demanding this game is, as some mechanics can seem unfair if you’re new to the title (assuming you also haven’t played/heard of the board game). You’ll move one space, and BOOM: there’s an anomaly, aliens blocking your path, or you’re injured. Actions can be significantly impaired.

To counter anomalies, you have to research them. Aliens are easy as selecting them defaults to an attack. As for injuries, head to the infirmary or be healed by the medic. Alas, I spent more time in the infirmary than anywhere else. It’s worth noting that all of these cost action points, and after each turn, a new alert appears and more problems to deal with.

The Captain Is Dead on Steam
Source: Steam

The alerts in The Captain Is Dead are fundamental. After each turn your sensors will indicate an attack and the effect it’ll have. Alien invaders will teleport into a room, your shields may drop, or stations go offline. It’s possible to bypass these with an override, pending you have the right character or skill, but typically you’ll have to manage it with the tools available. If you have more than 12 aliens on board at a time, or your shields go down, it’s game over. 

Honestly, the action points and having to endure an attack between every turn was hard going, but I persevered, though with little progress. I even lowered the difficulty to coward <ahem> to experiment without failing so quickly. The most challenging aspects are getting used to the anomalies and toying with the crew’s abilities. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t put me off, but The Captain Is Dead has grown on me, and I expect it’ll be a game I will play for the months ahead.

In terms of concept, it’s excellent. How accurate it is when compared to the board game, I don’t know, but once you get accustomed to the style of play, it’s a challenging, yet rewarding game. The humour is brilliant, and I love both the visuals and music throughout. In fairness, the UI – in particular, the holographic monitors were a very good idea; it just didn’t resonate with me early on, that’s all.

The Captain Is Dead doesn’t come across like a typical board game, and if it weren’t for the press material, I’d never have drawn any comparisons. The game is a standalone in itself with no knowledge of its predecessor necessary. While it’s not as immediately accessible as Space CrewThunderbox Entertainment’s game has the same replay value. I see myself returning to this again and again the more I improve my crisis management skills. Damn that captain and their mortality.