In Abandon Ship players take control of a ship and its crew as they explore a procedurally generated world, take on quests and deal with random, and sometimes life-threatening, events.
Abandon Ship is best described as an adventure strategy game and is essentially split up in three different areas that each affect the experience: exploration, combat and tactics.
Players are able to explore the game's world by navigating a miniature version of their ship via the game's Exploration Map. Players choose whether to manoeuvre past events or to engage in combat to unlock new areas or to complete quests.
In the Exploration Map environments are contained within a picture frame and feature art styles that are inspired by classic Naval Oil Paintings. These environments can feature many different biomes, time of day, weather types and water roughness.
Environments are also procedurally generated based on the world seed key that is randomly selected when a new game is started, ensuring that exploration is never the same.
Once players do end up in combat external factors from the environment enhance the experience. For example, if you happen to be sailing in stormy weather this may end up playing a significant role in the decision making process. Making the wrong decisions during these battles may result in your ship sinking or even dying.
This is also where the game shines as these external factors are beautifully depicted and truely enhance the experience. It is a flavor on top of tactical combat that makes it much more exciting.
In combat the player controls the ship's crew by instructing them to fire weapons, repair the ship, pump water, or ram the enemy ship. It are these actions that eventually decide whether or not you defeat the enemy.
How good your crew performs these actions is tied to their respective class and statistics. For example, one crew member may be better suited to handle cannons while another may be better at repairing your ship.
This is also where the game's tactical management view comes into play. In this view players are able to upgrade their ship and crew by purchasing new weapons, repairing, or by hiring new crew members.
These three areas are what makes the game tick and are impossible to consider separately. The only way to continue exploration is to complete events or quests and these almost always result in naval combat.
At its heart the game is very much a tactical combat game. In order to succeed, ensuring your ship and crew are properly equipped and supplied is just as important as the decisions you make during combat.
Story and exploration
During my time with the game I got the impression that the game's main attraction is exploration and combat while its actual story seems to be taking a back seat.
The game tells the story of The Cult of Haliphron, a cult that worship ancient sea monsters and are intent on world domination. These creatures own their own fleet of ships and will hunt you as you try to escape.
As the game progresses players will face The Kraken, a giant, relentless sea monster The Cult worships. While at first players won't be able to fight the monster, they will eventually gain the knowledge and power to confront it instead of fleeing.
Ultimately, players will discover there is more to The Cult than meets the eye.
The story serves its purpose for what it aims to convey but ultimately is inferior to the game's combat experience. Hopefully storytelling can be improved upon during the game's Early Access development phase.
For those who aren't interested in the exploration aspect of the game a separate Combat Campaign mode is also available.
The Combat Campaign mode is said to be a completely standalone game mode that focuses on combat and upgrading gameplay that roughly takes half an hour to play through.
Development studio Fireblade Software has recently released the game's Early Access roadmap which contains a list of features it wants to implement before coming out of Early Access.
The most interesting item on this list is the studio's plan to introduce so-called "Abandon Ship Stories", large updates that unlock new regions featuring new environmental modifiers and new side-quests.
Abandon Ship released on Steam Early Access yesterday. Its Early Access price tag is $19.99 US in North America and €19.99 in Europe and is currently on sale until February 28, 2018.