Management sims: you either love ‘em or hate ‘em. Nantucket is a game that I personally should hate. I’m the worst at management games (bar Football Manager), as they go completely over my head. But then I found myself finishing this game in one day-long sitting…
Nantucket is the tale of a crew of men, whom you captain and who sail around the world chasing down the legendary Moby Dick, cultivating fortunes along the way. Not only does Nantucket have an interesting main story to follow, but with a decent amount of side stories on offer, it’s easy to become immersed in this world. The main story is progressed through cutscenes between completing main mission quests, but where I unraveled most of Nantucket’s story and discovered its charm was through the text dialog moments.
As with any management-style game, you start out at the bottom of the totem pole in Nantucket, and you must earn your stripes in order to progress. You are given a very basic ship, and you set sail around the world on the hunt for blubber from killer whales. This is the game’s main mechanic for generating money. Go hunting for whales, go back to town to sell the blubber for cash. Simple.
However what happens out at sea adds a whole other level of depth that really took me by surprise. Whilst you are sailing, randomly generated events pop up in the middle of your screen. These events can be really be anything: your crew members are having a game of cards on the deck – do you go and play with them? Or do you sit in your quarters and let them play on their own? One of your crew members falls in love with you – do you feel the same? Will you take them to bed? Your decisions in these events will have consequences. They may be good, they may be bad, but they all make your story unique.
Your crewmen hail from four professions: hunters, sailors, craftsman and scientists. Think of these as classic RPG classes of sorts. Hunters deal damage, sailors are the tanky role, craftsman are support, and scientists are healers. You hire crew members when you visit the local inn in town. The more experienced the crew member, the higher level you need to be as a captain, and the bigger a cut they will want of any money you make.
When your crew takes part in the random events, the consequences often mean stat changes to your crew, or maybe special attributes, skills or debuffs added to their character sheet. These events allow you to play how you want to play, and build a band of merry old crew members that you will grow attachment to, much like in games such as XCOM.
Once you have a crew set up, you can then undertake bigger whale-hunting missions for more money, or start venturing out into the world to explore one of Nantucket’s biggest appeals: the side quests. All side quests are randomly generated, so you can just keep farming them till the cows come home. There is no limit to how many you can complete; if you just want to farm money and exp, this is the quickest and easiest way. The only negative to this was that I found myself becoming way too overleveled when it came again to progressing in the main story.
Nantucket’s other main gameplay mechanic is the actual combat. I won’t lie, when I first started out playing, I did not enjoy the combat mechanism a simple turn-based system where only one of your characters (per boat) can carry out an action per round. This initially felt very limited, and I became frustrated. It was only after the fourth or fifth hour that I really got to grips with the combat, and it became really easy; and by the end of the game, I was wiping the floor with whales, pirates and other beings.
I completed Nantucket in a single day; that whole day, I was glued to my computer. Almost fifteen hours, with breaks for lunch and dinner. It is extremely rare that a game can capture me like that. It soon got to way past my bedtime, but I needed to finish the game. I questioned life the next morning, but it was worth battling through.
Nantucket’s worst feature, without giving away too many spoilers, is definitely the end boss. It is a huge letdown compared to the rest of the game, and is basically a huge RNG slog. I managed to beat it, but it was a chore that really left a sour taste in my mouth, and almost cost Nantucket dearly in my mind. If you manage to get there yourself, you will feel the same. I’ve not seen a single person praise the last boss, so that speaks volumes.
The game can be controlled completely using the mouse, with optional keyboard support. Mechanics are explained through a pretty good tutorial system (it must have been good for someone like me to understand the game, so that’s saying something). Nantucket might be a good entry for newcomers to the genre – it might not be as in depth as games like Crusader Kings or Stellaris, but there are elements of both games on show here, despite the different setting.
Despite being completely 2D, and looking like it could run quite easily on an iPad, Nantucket is plagued with horrendous load times. You will be seeing those loading screens en masse, too. Every time you enter a port, exit a port, enter combat, exit combat, you’ll be seeing the same dull loading screen, with the same handful of “Helpful tips” that scroll by every couple of minutes. I even installed the game on my system M.2 drive just to see if that made a difference sadly not.
Despite the lacklustre end boss and the massive load lag, Nantucket was still able to completely hook me from start to finish, compelling me to finish it in one sitting. That speaks for itself. A simple premise, built on a randomly-generated event mechanic makes each time you play unique. Combined with a storyline that lends itself to joyful exploration, all these elements really give Nantucket the potential to be one of the best strategy simulator games to come out in 2018.
- Real sense of progression
- Build your own story
- Endless randomly generated missions and events
- Loading times
- Disappointing end boss