Nantucket review: A quirky, if repetitive strategy adventure

Credit: Picaresque Studio
Credit: Picaresque Studio /

Nantucket attempts to establish itself as a premier seafaring strategy game but falls short of being an amazing title in the genre due to the repetitive mechanics.

Developer: Picaresque Studio
Publisher: Fish Eagle
Platform: PC
Release Date: January 18, 2018

Nantucket is the first game released by Picaresque Studio and in some ways, this is evident through the gameplay and aesthetics presented. In other ways, this game excels, leaving behind a sense of accomplishment.

The story of Nantucket is primarily based on the adventures of Ishmael, the only surviving crewmember of the Pequod in the 1851 fictional book by Herman Melville. Of course, I am talking about the beloved Moby-Dick. In Nantucket, you take on the role of Ishmael with your own personal name in his place if you so desire. For the purposes of this review, I kept with the Moby-Dick universe canon to see how everything planned out.

Tasked now as a captain years after the sinking of the Pequod, you travel from port to port, hunting various sea life, fending off pirates and oncoming threats, creating and managing your diverse crew, upgrading and exchanging your ships and pocketing all the booty. The final goal, it seems, is to finally kill the elusive Moby-Dick.

When first starting the game, one of the most obvious features, and one that is very prominent in the game, is text. Everywhere you look you’ll find another document, tip, problem or task you must read. In fact, this is how you learn most of the plot as the cutscenes the game offers, while very well done for the vintage style the game uses, are few and far between.

…sometimes the player is given missions beyond the scope of what is actually possible.

At times it is very difficult to understand what it is you’re reading or even what you’re supposed to be doing as the text is small and sometimes seemingly changes the font. With such a reliability on the text, it is a shame it distracts so much from the game’s playability.

As with any strategy game, there is a lot of thinking involved. The decisions you make have some form of consequence. There are a plethora of ways that your decisions directly affect the way your game plays out. Examples of this include the randomized tasks you receive while sailing where your answer will cause a change in morale, character traits, money, supplies and current missions. This can be both negative and positive.

That system specifically was well-created in theory, as it always provides a sense of insecurity. It causes the player to think on their feet and determine the best choice for not only their protagonist and crew, but the very future of their voyage. One obvious flaw with this system, which becomes increasingly evident as the game progresses, is the same randomized scenarios can be very repetitive. You’d find yourself answering the same events repeatedly for the exact same reward or casualty.

Credit: Picaresque Studio /

It is necessary to travel from the various ports while improving your ship and increasing the levels of your character and the crew employed under you. While doing so, you complete missions to earn more money. You can also hunt the various creatures lurking in the ocean’s depths. Doing so can usually be most profitable as blubber can sell for a good price and the food can either be sold or kept for your crew to consume as they travel.

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Speaking of, food isn’t the only necessity. Water, grog and wood are all items any ship should have in their cargo as they will need them to get through their journey. This is another strategic element that works well, forcing the player to think about resource management and finances.

The whole aspect of accepting and completing missions can at times be detrimental to your success in the game. Depending on how confident you are in your abilities, saving every half an hour or so does go a long way. Missions usually offer $200-$250 and the occasional prestige point for completion, but by participating in them, they can sometimes use up more resources than you’d get in return if you aren’t careful.

Credit: Picaresque Studio /

In addition to this, in a somewhat frustrating fashion, sometimes the player is given missions beyond the scope of what is actually possible, such as an oncoming pirate attack or creatures with high health and attack damage. While this is believable and works realistically to how many missions would feel in the real world, the game also limits what missions you can accept based on certain factors like cargo space or ship size, even if the mission is otherwise doable. Even if I understand the realism, this combined with nigh-impossible missions felt incredibly restrictive, especially with a limited number of missions available.

The combat itself is based on a randomized dice system. Each turn you have the chance to roll a die, which randomly selects one slot on each character to determine whether they can attack. Depending on character skills, classes and the equipped item they possess, attacks can fluctuate in damage. The four main player skills in Nantucket–Hunting, Sailing, Science, and Crafting–can all be used in battle, through the Hunting class is by far the most dominant of the skills.

Credit: Picaresque Studio /

While the system is simple enough to learn, the battles aren’t always simple. For the most part, the player can only make one attack per turn and while facing multiple enemies, players will find that each enemy can attack them each turn, putting the player at a severe disadvantage. I can’t count the number of times I lost a fight and had to reload due to that system.

One redeeming factor of the combat system is the random combat conditions. These can both positively and negatively affect both sides, which adds an interesting and fun dynamic to the game. Well … maybe not so much fun when it affects you when you’re already at a disadvantage, but still a very interesting and enjoyable inclusion into the system.

Credit: Picaresque Studio /

Overall on the gameplay side, while I did find a good amount of what I believe to be oversights, I quite enjoyed playing the game. The aspects of travel, sustainability, and combat make for a fun and addictive experience. Beginners can act carefully while more experienced players can take more risks. Heck, hardcore gamers can even challenge themselves to try and complete the game without dying once.

Upon entering every port you’re met with the exact same sight. Same places, same people. Nothing changes.

The art style Nantucket uses feels vintage, with cutscenes that feel like they came straight out of an old comic book. For the genre, it was a perfect fit. There is not one section of the game where I felt like the style was out of place. Everything gelled together as one would hope for.

One nice feature that employs the use of this style well is the map. As you travel around, the map gradually opens to reveal where you’ve been and where you’ve yet to travel. This has come in handy when searching for specific missions with a hidden location to find. It also gives a sense of progression and achievement.

Credit: Picaresque Studio /

The ports themselves come few and far between. I would have loved if the game had a few more as the lack of places to stop the ship, while strategic, can be cumbersome. Upon entering every port you’re met with the exact same sight. Same places, same people. Nothing changes. Nothing feels diverse. The only noticeable differences were the star rating listed on the buildings and if your ship can receive upgrades and repairs. These are minor.

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My favorite part about Nantucket was the soundtrack. I loved the sea shanties, the melodic tunes as you cross the ocean and the themes that play at the various ports. From the engaging battle music to the calm sound of the waves, everything seems impeccable. I do hope that Picaresque releases this music for players to download or stream.

6.5. <em>Nantucket </em>attempts to provide an immersive experience for players, complete with a flawless soundtrack, difficult and strategic mechanics and an interesting story based on your own decisions. However, it suffers due to the repetitive and somewhat tedious gameplay and numerous other factors that detract from the whole experience.. Picaresque Studio. . Nantucket

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.