Moby Dick needs a sequel the way Hamlet needs a sequel, but this is a world where Hamlet 2 exists, so gather ‘round the ol’ PC and let’s find out what happened to old Ishmael. Turns out they don’t exactly have disability for whale-induced trauma in Ye Olde Nantucket, so with the ship he can scrape together and the crew he finds in the local tavern, our pal Ishy sets out to do the one thing he knows how to do best: Murder the hell out of a mammal that may equal our own intelligence and abilities, one we barely understand.
Developer: Picaresque Studio
Nantucket leans heavily on the Sunless Sea model of a shipborne roguelike: Your captain starts off in a shady seaport with only a fistful of coppers and must make his way in the world, though instead of the weird world of Fallen London, this is the Nantucket of Moby Dick, Captain Ahab, and times of yore.
The role-playing elements are deeper than they seem. Of course, you recruit crew in a tavern. Everybody can build into one of three skill trees: science, crafting, or stabbing the hell out of whales.
Your stabbers wind up customizable like a fighter in a fantasy RPG, with the usual strikes that do a lot of damage, but also a selection of bleeds and stuns and other interesting strategic options. Crafters focus on keeping the boats together, be they the tiny whaleboats the crew sails to go mano-a-mano with the denizens of the deep or be it the whaleship you call home. Science specialists are alchemists by another name, conjuring up healing brews and debuffs to make the fight easier.
Your crew also has a variety of perks and downgrades, just to add to the intrigue. Some are good–being able to get back to the ship even if knocked out of the boat–and some are bad–you’re drunk and lazy–but that all has to be weighed against crew composition and whale murdering skills.
There are only so many slots in each whaleboat and deciding who gets sent out to get experience makes for some intriguing roster building, especially since there’s always the risk of losing one of them. Humans are fragile things when faced with sharks and squid and other horrors, and your prize harpoon man might get knocked overboard by a baby whale and chewed up by a shark. Hopefully that drunk you picked up back in port can handle the steel.
As a roster-building fiend, this was a wonderful agony. Only so many men can fit on the whale ship and, of those, only so many can go out on a hunt. All you really know is you made contact with something. Send out the B-Team and they may get themselves killed. Send out your hand-picked A Squad and they might wind up chasing mirages across the ocean.
From humble Nantucket, you set sail on an unexplored overhead map that shows things like current and prevailing wind. Learn to tack and ride the right waves and your ship moves faster. Bull forward heedless of mother nature and you’ll find yourself becalmed with a restless crew of rough men that might just toss you overboard for being a Jonah.
Random events and quests occur along the way. Sometimes playing dice with the boys is good sport and sometimes it inspires a mutiny. Sometimes you stumble on a whale breeding ground full of blubbery newborns and sometimes you stumble into the furious mouths of sharks. Every voyage is different and it’s compelling to watch your little boat sail out into the world, wondering if this is the one where Ishmael settles his grim account with the white whale.
Yes, Moby is out there. Waiting.
It’s a game as unforgiving as the sea with a theme you probably haven’t seen before, a literary legend waiting somewhere within, and your own ship and crew of salty sailors to manage. And there’s sea chanties on the soundtrack. You couldn’t ask for anything better.
The Final Word
A surprisingly compelling roguelike about the pleasures and perils of hunting whales.
– MonsterVine Review Score: 4 out of 5 – Good