Stranded Sails – Explorers of the Cursed Islands offers an adventure role-playing game with some farming elements. It was developed by Lemonbomb Entertainment, and published by Rokaplay, Maple Whispering Ltd and Merge Games. It was launched on 17 October 2019.
This review is for the PlayStation 4 platform.
When I started playing Stranded Sails, it reminded me very much of ‘My Time at Portia’. It had the same graphical cartoon style with very similar game mechanics, although not quite as advanced. It has an top-down isometric camera that remains the same throughout the game. When you enter new rooms or areas, there is a fade-out and back into the new area. These areas are limited though, especially when you get into the main part of the game.
You start off setting off on a sail ship with your father and his crew. And not long after setting sail, a storm hits and you are stranded on an island, hence the title of the game. Your first job is to find the other crew members, and then start farming and obtaining resources that will help you build a new ship. In the midst of this, you find a strange pyramid and an ancestral ghost, who asks you to defeat some nasty ghost pirates.
I love the progression style in the mechanics of the game. Surrounding your island are four other islands. However, you cannot sail to the other islands in your small canoe, as it will be destroyed. So you start farming and completing missions for the crew until you unlock a stronger boat to get to the other islands. Then certain parts of the islands are closed off until you unlock further items later on, like ladders and climbing ropes. The developers made sure that you cannot enter into these advanced areas until you reach a certain part in the main story.
As exciting as this level of progression is, strangely the main character doesn’t level up at all. There are no skills or abilities, simply blueprints that you unlock for the crafting table and cooking pot, as well as new farming seeds you unlock as you enter new stages of the islands. I suppose this makes the game very simple (in a good way) and not overly complicated… but in a RPG game like this I kind of expect a lovely skill and ability tree.
I also rather enjoyed how each island you venture into has its own soundtrack. When you are on your main island and building your homestead, there is a pleasant tune. Venture onto the pirate ghost island, and you get dreaded horror music (over-exaggeration on my part).
There are some fun side activities. One if them is the cooking pot, where you unlock new recipes every time you obtain a new food resource. Unlocking the recipe becomes a game of trial and error, selecting various ingredients to see what they make. There are indicators telling you how many ingredients are correct, and which are in the correct slots. Rotate these with other ingredients until you have all of them in the right spot.
And this is not just a fun side activity. One of the mechanics in the game is stamina, which runs out no matter what you do. Craft some things, row your boat, do some fishing… all of this depletes your stamina until you either sleep or pass out from exhaustion. However, the food you make will restore some stamina as well as add some buffs to certain activities.
The only issue I really have with the game is the repetitive nature during the stale parts of the game. In order to craft some of the more advanced items later on, you need to sail to certain islands to obtain the necessary resources. If you don’t have enough food for stamina on you, especially in the beginning, this will mean sailing quite a few times up and down, back and forth, until the resources respawn again. This tends to drag the game on a bit, which may be a good thing, considering that the game itself isn’t that long (if you take away the resource-hunting aspect of the game).
Watching the island progress and grow as you complete missions is very satisfying. When you start from nothing, and end with so many structures and farms and items on the island, it gives a definite sense of progression, until you actually don’t want to leave the island. It gives an old timer like me, that certainly loves grinding for items in games, a certain joy.
Finally, the combat system is also very simple. Hack, hack, slash. I learnt a very important rule of thumb in the game: as long as you are hitting the enemy, you are safe. Each colour ghost has a certain attack, and only THAT attack, and there is always an indication of when it will attack. So you either hit it before it can hit you, causing it to knock back, or run out the way. Man, I really wish the guy could learn how to dodge!! Sometimes stopping, turning and running is so slow, it becomes the only reason you would get hit. The character needs a really good ‘dodge and roll’ move.
One last activity that extends the life of the game is the pyramid combat challenges. If you are a trophy hunter, this will keep you playing long after the game is complete. For each artifact your collect, there is a challenge. It is a basic challenge of defeating a certain number of enemy waves. After a set number of waves, you can either continue towards the highest goal, or quit. But if you quite, the wave number is reset. Since three of the trophies have to do with completing these challenges, you will be sitting hacking and slashing away to reach the goals (such as 100 waves).
Stranded Sails: Explorers of the Cursed Islands is a fun adventure game that will have you playing for hours, but only due to the grinding for resources and the time it takes to visit and complete each island. The story itself is relatively short, so you yourself will need the stamina to sit through the farming and collecting aspect of the game. Personally, I loved this part of the game, and only wish for more of it. I was disappointed when the game was over, but I sincerely hope that there will be a sequel with more features.
It deserves a high 8/10 from me.