Developer: Studio Eris
Platform: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Category: Adventure & Role-Playing
Release Date: January 3, 2019 (EU & NA)
Don’t rock the boat.
As one of the opening Role-Playing Games of this year, Don’t Sink strives to put the player into the shoes as a swashbuckling pirate sailing the high seas – however with its lack of depth and compelling story, I instead found myself not obliged enough to come back to this leisurely resource-management simulator. Its unique art-style and sometimes quirky dialogue can make for a great one-time buy, but the game suffers from an extreme lack of replayability.
First and foremost, Don’t Sinks concept is fairly straightforward. You start at the bottom of the ‘Pirate Food-Chain’ and must sail, conquer and trade your way up the hierarchy with the aid of crew-mates and upgrades in what seems to be an infinite fashion, with a bit of rogue-like elements mixed in.
I found myself becoming quite addicted to Don’t Sink upon first booting it up, but after playing for five to six hours, I found myself getting fairly bored as the quests became more and more repetitive.
In the game you’ll sail between different islands in the Caribbean-styled archipelago, collecting resources, helping townspeople, dueling pirates and conquering cities, and while it does sound all fun-and-dandy, a lot of the main aspect of the game just suffers from an extreme lack of difficulty, strategy or satisfaction.
While in its foremost, Don’t Sink is a management simulator – buying and selling different resources to slowly build your way up, it does aim to add some unique RPG elements such as quests and a somewhat purposeful (yet meaningless) story.
A massive bulk of the game consists of sailing from one location to another, occasionally either feeding your crew or fighting pirates. Participating in a duel at first is a fun and unique experience, with many different options of approach such as repair, attack and move in closer to fight the captain in hand-to-hand combat. While the risk-and-reward does seem to be present in Don’t Sink, it’s too easily avoidable.
You can simply flee from a fight without any notable consequences, and attacking the ship with the two out of three viable types of cannonballs becomes repetitive and a game of ‘who has the bigger ship’. The 1v1 duels are interesting, but easily the simplest way to win a pirate encounter, there seems to be a combat system present for the duels, but it is easily something you can bypass, just by spamming buttons until you win with absolutely no downside whatsoever. It’s the difficulty (or lack therefore of) that makes Don’t Sink a mildly boring thing to play once you’ve completed a few quests and something I found pushing me away most of the time.
The management side of Don’t Sink becomes a simple ‘wait to click a button’ in the form of waiting until either your ship’s health is low or waiting until your crew’s hunger, thirst or morale depletes, in which case you can simply press a single button to make everything fine again, as long as you have the sufficient resources (which is very likely, as it is so easy to get a hold of).
In terms of Don’t Sink’s quests, there is some variety to them. There are basic common delivery quests, where you are tasked with reaching an area and once complete you are rewarded with a small amount of money.
Along with these, once talking to an NPC in a Tavern or next to a house, they may task you with doing something specific, whether that be talking to another NPC in another location, or defeating a certain pirate, these quests are a lot more interesting but still just as linear and simple.
Although there is a clear lack of story direction in Don’t Sink, as it is a sandbox style game, it still kind of felt odd that there was no overlying story, as the game felt so fit to have one.
In the game, you can also attack, conquer and govern islands. This side of the game allows you to manage income, build utilities and recruit people to live in your towns. It’s a neat little addition, but once again just lacked any depth or interesting features that I found myself just ignoring it most of the time, as it changed virtually nothing in my playthrough. This part of the game felt really abandoned and bare-bones and felt like it had a lot more potential there – it’s a shame the developers never expanded on it.
The aesthetics and graphics of Don’t Sink are unique and quirky. The retro-inspired graphics fit well and the very vibrant colours weren’t an eyesore at all, in fact, I found myself pleasantly surprised with how the game looked and ran and I’d definitely love a more fleshed out game similar to Don’t Sink with this colour palette and art direction. Plus, the added feature of character creation is a neat touch – making a pirate is a lot of fun.
The soundtrack, inspired, yet limited is nice for the couple of hours of content you’ll get from the game. The main tracks do repeat a lot and do become annoying after a while, but they do fit the game well and almost sound like something from The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, with more of a chiptune twist.
In the end, I was disappointed by Don’t Sink. It ended up feeling too ambitious. There were many different features, all of which lacked lots of depth and ended up being repetitive and too simple. In some ways, I felt the game tried to be a little bit of everything – survival, management, simulation, action, RPG – but in the end, this mix, although interesting just ended up falling flat on its head. If you’re looking for a quirky and short game for the cheap, though, Don’t Sink might just appeal to you.
THE VERDICT: 6/10
*Review Key Provided by Hitcents
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This post was written by Ruairi O'Brien (Lucariocios)