A short while ago, I checked out an adorable survival game called Stranded Sails – Explorers of the Cursed Islands while my colleague Jeffrey Lerman tried his hand at a Zelda-esque game called Sparklite at a press event in New York City. I only got to experience a short press demo and was keen to see what the full game is like. Now that it arrived, it’s time to get on the open seas with my Stranded Sails review!
Your adventure begins in quite a different fashion from my time with the demo. Rather than waking up on a beach, you start in a city, getting ready to leave your home for the first time in search of a new world to settle. Your father is captaining the ship along with a crew of seven capable men and women, each of whom has their own specializations like carpentry, engineering, or cooking.
Unfortunately, your ship encounters a terrible storm and you soon wash up on the shore of a mysterious island. It is here that the fun really begins.
Stranded Sails Review — Your First Days
The opening moments of the game proper have you stuck on a diminutive island with just one other person and a busted-open barrel of apples. You’ll have a quick chat with your companion before hastily assembling a ramshackle raft and heading towards the mainland, gathering up another two members of your crew and getting a base camp started.
Your initial focus is going to be on gathering the missing members of your crew. While you’ll find the first few easily enough, the others have landed on other islands in the region and are slightly more difficult to discover. Getting to them will be a task unto itself, especially with a lack of food stores at the beginning.
I had been quite keen to gather up everyone as fast as possible, but I soon realized that I would need a certain level of infrastructure set up before I would be able to take the rowboat around the game world and explore the islands. That is where I first began to understand that this isn’t a terribly complex or difficult game.
Stranded Sails Review — A Streamlined Experience
One of the most notable ways that Stranded Sails decomplexifies the survival experience is in the energy bar. This is a survival game, but there are no separate bars for health, hunger, thirst, or stamina. Instead, everything is combined together into one energy bar. Running, rowing, chopping down a tree, swinging a sword, or taking damage will all lower your energy bar, and sleep or food will restore it.
There isn’t some expansive list of things to acquire for crafting, either. In fact, the cooking portion of the game is arguably more in-depth than the crafting portion — there are nine finished products in crafting and sixty possible recipes in cooking. Some of these recipes will give you temporary buffs like more efficient tool usage.
The simplification of this game isn’t all downsides, though. There’s absolutely zero inventory management to worry about. Normally, a game like this would involve a lot of juggling items in various chests and constant trips back to base because your inventory is full. As far as I can tell, you never run out of inventory space.
Generally speaking, Stranded Sails is a survival game, but it isn’t a complex or difficult one. One of the other casualties of this lack of complexity is, consequently, a lack of freedom for the player.
Stranded Sails Review — Build Where I Tell You To
Part of the charm of survival games is the freedom that’s afforded to a player. Typically, you’ll create tools, gather up materials, and then build the stuff you need to stay alive. Stranded Sails works similarly, but with a fair few restrictions.
To start, you’re given most of your tools in the first few hours of the game by completing basic quests. These will empower you to gather the items that you need to set up your crew with living quarters and get some basic amenities and crafting stations going.
Unlike many other games in this genre, Stranded Sails has predetermined positions for erecting structures that you cannot change. Everything is decided for you in this respect. It makes things easier, but I also feel that it robs the genre of some of its charm.
Stranded Sails Review — Spectral Swashbuckling
I’ve spent the majority of this Stranded Sails review talking about the survival mechanics and one might wonder if there’s any combat. The short answer is yes. The long answer is yes, but you’re not going to get a lot of out it.
The vertical slice I played at the press event some weeks back gave players a sword and had them face off against three types of ghost pirates. I had hoped that this would be expanded upon in the finished product in some significant way, but alas, it was not.
There are three types of pirates players will encounter:
- Blue pirates which have regular attacks.
- Green pirates that throw their sword.
- Red pirates who spin around in a whirlwind.
Each of these pirate types has its own unique patterns and challenges to overcome, and they come in multiple sizes. It’s rare that you’ll come up against just one pirate; you may fight small blue pirate, two medium-sized green pirates, and a gigantic red pirate, all at the same time.
I never once felt in any significant danger at any of the battles required to progress through the story. Fighting involves running away from attacks and hitting the bad guys while their attack is on cooldown, simple as that.
There is, however, a built-in survival mode where you can face wave after wave of these ghost pirates if you’d like to give it a whirl. I’m sure enough of them would prove a threat to even the most experienced of players, but I found the combat to be far too simplistic to be adequately entertaining.
Stranded Sails Review — Great For Beginners, Not So Much For Experts
It’s rare that I ever bring up a game’s ESRB rating, but I’m going to do it for my Stranded Sails review. This game is rated E10+, meaning that it’s deemed appropriate for everyone over the age of 10 by the ESRB. A rating on the lower side of the spectrum is not necessarily an indicator of quality, complexity, or difficulty, but it is in this case.
In the 13 hours it took me to complete Stranded Sails – Explorers of the Cursed Islands, I had more fun than not. However, I couldn’t honestly say that I felt particularly challenged at my skill level. Aside from a measure of frustration that I felt about the energy bar (namely, that it felt like it ran out far too quickly), Stranded Sails was a relaxing experience for me that didn’t come close to testing my abilities.
The clearest example of how easy Stranded Sails can be lies in what happens when you run out of energy: you pass out and wake up back at the shipwreck. You do not lose any items. There is no other penalty. I eventually took to viewing it as a tiny inconvenience (if that), rather than a genuine penalty that discouraged failing.
If you’re an experienced survival game player and you’re looking for something to challenge you, Stranded Sails – Explorers of the Cursed Island will not do much to fill that need. If you’re buying this game for a younger gamer in your life or you’re brand-spanking new to the survival genre, then Stranded Sails serves as an excellent introduction.
TechRaptor conducted our Stranded Sails – Explorers of the Cursed Islands review on PC via Steam with a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.