Yo ho ho, is it a pirate’s life you seek? Then you’re in luck as there’s a new game sailing the seas on the Xbox One, hoping to provide an RPG adventure which tasks you with becoming a ruthless pirate. Coming from a small development team, will Don’t Sink have enough quality facets to deliver a hearty and enjoyable experience, or are you going to be downing a bottle of rum in order to get through this swashbuckling tale?
Well shiver me timbers, it’s actually quite easy going and there’s more to it than most might expect, so the alcoholic enhancements are an optional extra rather than a necessity.
In Don’t Sink, the aim is to live out the life of a rookie pirate, sailing the high seas and managing your crew as you stake a claim to be a legend; in the same vein as Blackbeard, Jack Sparrow and Captain Hook – essentially you could be a mixture of all three. When creating your character, the options are quite limited though and, given the use of pixel art, it’s quite hard to design a pirate possessing many standout features, but that’s the least of your worries. Because with just a bit of cash at hand, a budget ship to navigate and a world full of others vying to rule the waters, you’re going to have to hit the ground running.
Within the world of Don’t Sink are no less than 16 islands to conquer and traverse between, each having their own buildings which could include a combination of a shop, a tavern, a shipyard and other points of interest. The shop stock varies from place to place, with items such as ammo, ship supplies, food and drink available to purchase. Bigger and better ships can be found at the shipyard, whilst the tavern is the go-to place to recruit crew members and gather citizens to help populate any islands you may own. Ensuring your cargo is well stocked is the most important aspect for the journeys ahead though, and it’s these tips between islands where the action kicks in.
Depending on which island you’re off to, the voyage could be a long one (based on in-game time that is) and as time passes by, the hunger, dehydration and morale levels come into play. Therefore you must manage your cargo via a pop-up menu and decide what to feed your crew, how much water to provide and whether to break out the ale for everyone to have a jolly good time. Random events can occur at any point on your travels and some of them deplete your stock and others take you to cool mysterious locations off the beaten track. But the exciting part is when a battle ensues.
These battles give you four choices; shoot at the opposing ship, repair your ship, flee from conflict and grapple hook onto the enemy’s vessel. All of the options take a few seconds to perform, so you can’t just fire off a load of cannon balls at once as you’re limited to the capacity of the ship owned. This leads you to weigh up two factors: do you have a bigger vessel than your foes, and are you carrying enough ammo to sink them? If the answer to both is yes, fire away! Otherwise, you best flee because to stop firing to repair is utter madness and the grappling scenario leads to a one-on-one fight with the rival captain using poorly explained mechanics. Seriously, even when you think you know what to do, it just doesn’t pan out in your favour.
Whilst you may reap the spoils of war, the main influx of cash comes about by fulfilling a number of simple quests that really bring the world of Don’t Sink alive, with little stories about the residents of these islands that are wacky, funny and heart-warming. Completing these won’t be overly challenging, mainly consisting of traversing to and from various ports to defeat specific pirate crews to put people’s minds at, delivering supplies and the like. Truth be told – apart from one confusing and convoluted quest – doing the quests is the best bit because there are narrative snippets to take in and enjoy. Sadly, there are not enough missions to complete and it’ll take merely a couple of hours to finish the lot.
The only other aspect to cover is that of governing the islands under your behest, with the hope of funding new buildings and managing the overall focus of the population to ensure a healthy profit will line your pockets. Whilst it’s a valid source of income, the cash investment needed to see a return is often a bit hefty and when the quest money dries up, times are hard. Once you’ve conquered all, that’s that, and there’s not much point playing anymore; especially seeing as the leaderboards are broke, so there’s nothing else to prove to anyone.
As previously mentioned, a pixel aesthetic is used and for everything apart from the characters, it works very well. The islands all appear unique in a visual sense and some of them are really lovely due to a great use of colour schemes. In regards the audio, and despite the sheer simplicity of the soundtrack, the whole feel you get from it is that you’re about to embark upon a journey of epic proportions – which is exactly what’s needed to get you in the mood to be a seafaring scallywag.
Don’t Sink isn’t a micro-managing RPG experience that you’re going to sink a ton of hours in to, however the time spent with it will be mostly full of charm and provide a decent amount of joy. The quests are splendid to partake in, the upkeep of your crew and ship will maintain your focus, and the islands are sure to please your eyes. If only the battles weren’t let down by the combat mechanics, the governing of islands wasn’t a bit of a pain and the leaderboards weren’t broken.
Should a pirate’s life be the one for you then Don’t Sink should scratch that itch for a little while at least!