Nantucket Review (PC)
Following on from the story of Moby Dick, Nantucket places you in the life of Ishmael. As the sole survivor of the Pequod, and plagued by the wrath of Ahab, you seek to find your revenge on Moby Dick.
With Ishmael comes the Role Play part of Nantucket. As you progress through the games story you will gain experience. Levelling up lets you spend points on one of the 4 main skills in the game; Hunting, Sailing, Science and Crafting. Each of these areas also has 3 skill trees. As you level up, you unlock extra slots for these skills, and can equip up to five of them by the late stages of the game.
Starting with a small sloop you will look build up your fame and fortune. In the various ports around the map, including Nantucket, you will hire crew and upgrade your ship. The local newspapers can provide you with jobs that act as side quests. And the store allows you to trade supplies for the ship.
Your crew are the most important part of Nantucket. Cabin Boys are low-level characters without a class. Taking them on board allows you to spec them as you see fit. You can also take on higher level, already skilled crew members. Each crewman will expect a certain percentage of your “lay”, eating in to your profits.
These profits are vital to upgrading your ship. Each ship type has various upgradable compartments. You will also be saving up to buy a bigger ship. And with a bigger ship comes more compartments and a bigger crew.
Once you have a crew and enough supplies to go sailing, it’s time to hunt some whales!* Nantucket plays over a 2D map, with an icon for your ship. As you sail around and reveal parts of the ocean you will stumble upon whale feeding or mating grounds. These areas are only active during certain periods of the year. But you can also find the migration routes between them, which opens up near all year round fishing. Hunt the whales to gain blubber (which can later become oil) to make some money.
The actual hunt of the whales takes place using a dice mechanic. Some of the earlier mentioned skills take form as a side of the characters die. Each character rolls their die and you can choose one from each whaleboat to use. Later on, when you have three whaleboats but are taking on the big fish, crew combinations are crucial. Being able to choose between defending and attacking can be life saving for your crew.
Nantucket places itself somewhere between my favorite game of all time, Crusader Kings II, and my favourite game from 2015, Sunless Sea. Like Crusader Kings II, it has random events that add or change characters traits. And like Sunless Sea it has this grueling, yet beautiful, map that needs revealed. The character progression and brutality of losing crewmen are akin to both games. The main difference being that if Ishmael dies, then it’s game over.
To match all this great gameplay is a solid storyline. There are a few side quests that earn you some specific rewards, such as items for your characters. The main story has you following the trail of destruction left by Moby Dick. Finally, it prepares you for hunting the great white beast. The final mission requires a lot of preparation to complete. The only issue I had is that the game ends after completing that final story mission. It’s still a good 15-20 hours of gameplay, but I felt like I was left wanting more.
But that is because of how good Nantucket is. Not only is it one of the few games I actually get to complete, it is one of the even fewer that I will play again. And again. The art style is gorgeous. The audio fantastic, though I do wish that the shanties would play more often. The story is solid and interesting. And the combat system works a charm. If you have any interest in 19th century history, the age of piracy or whale fishing, Nantucket will be right up your street. Or inlet…
9 blue whales to the slaughter out of 10
*Glitch Free Gaming and Picaresque Studio in no way endorse illegal whale fishing. There’s even a note in the games credits making this point.