Dread Nautical Review

Long-time readers of the site may know I don’t tend to get on too well with roguelikes; while the gameplay is often fun, dying and restarting from scratch tends to rub me up the wrong way  (though I think it’s because I’m old now – who knows how many times I did exactly that as a kid on the Mega Drive games…). Dread Nautical seems to have listened to criticisms such as mine and offers up a range of challenge to satiate players – and it’s all the better for it.

Set aboard a Cruise Liner that has been abducted by otherworldly beings, we must search each floor of the ship for supplies, survivors and to solve whatever the hell is going on here in order to get back home. There are a handful of survivors to play as from the off, though we won’t get far by ourselves. Each has their own perks and abilities, so you’ll need to carefully weigh up your personal style before starting. I used the detective for his ability to scan rooms for extra items and powerful handgun, but others have equally useful perks that will suit others better.

Each floor is randomly generated at the start of each play, though the objective seems to stay the same. We tackle things one day at a time. Sometimes, we’ll simply need to ring the bell at the opposite end of the ship, causing our characters to faint and awaken back in the safe room, the day ended. This is always the end to a level, but most of the time there’ll be an objective or two along the way to complete, from finding out what is causing a disturbance to killing X amount of enemies to unlock a sealed door. These are clearly defined, and seeing as each floor is relatively small, they don’t require too much exploration to complete.

There are also survivors to find and help, with the eventual goal of getting them to join your party. They take some work though. A choice based dialogue system lets us choose whether to be nice to them or not, but the answer isn’t always obvious – I’m convinced the film star literally hasn’t a nice bone in her body! Help them out with something, or speak to them over enough days and they’ll appear in the safe room. From here they can then join us on expeditions, though should they die out there, that’s their lot.

And die they will. It doesn’t take too long for the difficulty to ramp up. We move around the floor of the ship in a pseudo-turn based strategy style, but once we approach enemies, combat begins and it turns into a full on turn based affair. Each character has an amount of action points per turn, with different weapons and actions consuming varying amounts.  In order select an action we use the d-pad, but aiming is controlled via the analogue cursor on screen. It is sticky enough to lock onto individual squares, but I did find it occasionally tricky to select a specific thing, the cursor locking  on to the wrong square. We’re not timed though, so it’s more of a mild annoyance than anything.

It’s in death that the games options appealed to me most. There are 3 difficulties to choose from; the default will only reset or progress to the start of the current day as it was exactly, the medium ups the ante a tad with less reliable teammates, while the 3rd is the traditional roguelike mode we all know and love (kinda) – back to the beginning with you to start from scratch.

I appreciated this helping hand, as I died a lot. Getting ambushed as I entered a room would usually end up in my demise. The enemies, while not exactly the smartest bunch, sure as hell dish out the damage.

The safe room can be upgraded to enable us to improve weapons, craft kit and build more beds to house survivors. As it gets more packed, so improves or chances of survival. Each stage can be cleared in less than half hour if we really take our time to explore, and it’s well worth doing so. We need to feed everyone each day, so sourcing enough food to keep everyone fighting fit is essential. There are also rare weapons and item to find that may help – or hinder – progress too.

Conclusion

Dread Nautical is a rougelike I can see myself coming back to for some time yet. With a good range of classes to choose from, some helpfully accessible difficulty options and a fun gameplay loop it is well worth checking out.

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This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by the publisher.
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Good
  • Fun turn-based gameplay
  • Fun, schlocky story
  • Great difficulty accessibility
  • Charming visuals
Bad
  • Cursor control is a little finicky
8
Great
Gameplay - 8.5
Graphics - 8
Audio - 7.5
Longevity - 8
Written by
I've been gaming since Spy vs Spy on the Master System, growing up as a Sega kid before realising the joy of multi-platform gaming. These days I can mostly be found on smaller indie titles, the occasional big RPG and doing poorly at Rainbow Six: Siege. Gamertag: Enaksan

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