Welcome to Coverage Club, the weekly series where we shift our critical eye towards smaller games that deserve some attention. Each week, our review editors select two titles and provide honest first impressions in the style of our full reviews. Games can range from brand new titles hitting Early Access to older hidden gems that never got their due. No matter your preferences, you’re sure to find something off the beaten path here.
Avast ye readarrrrs, there be skull and bones ahead. This week, we're in full-on pirate mode to honor the release of Sea of Thieves! Courtney dove into the open seas of Tempest by Lion's Shade. Across the bow, Alex tries his hand at escaping a deadly sea cult in Abandon Ship by Fireblade Software. Will these games walk the plank? Read on and find out for yeself.
Covered by Courtney Ehrenhofler
My initial interest in Tempest stemmed from both my love of pirates and the fact that The Tempest is my favorite Shakespeare play. While I am completely aware that this game is not some sort of a Shakespeare RPG, I am just that shallow.
Which ended up being a good thing, because Tempest is a good game. Much like the old classic Sea Dogs, you start the game as a man who just inherited his father’s ship and is about to carry on his legacy. Sort of. Your father wasn’t a pirate, but his old partner is willing to murder you to get his hands on your ship so it looks like you’re a pirate now! Yo ho!
The game is based around an open-world where you can choose what you want to focus on and where you want to go. Your only real limit is your skills, which will grow as you continue your adventure. The combat was what impressed me the most, it strikes a nice and rare balance between being easy and complex. There are several systems to learn and many skills and upgrades that let you customize your ship according to your fighting style. You can also try to make your living as an honest merchant, but that’s not quite as fun.
The gameplay is a little overwhelming at first, but the tutorial does a good job of laying it out in an easily understood way for new players. The only problem is that it does take some repetitive playing before you can actually remember all the controls and aren’t just sitting in the middle of the battle going “KRAKEN! HELP! What button do I press again?!” That usually just ends in a rather damp, rather unpleasant death for you and most of your crew. Once you get the hang of it, the systems are logical and easy to use.
While Tempest doesn’t bring anything revolutionary to the table of pirate games, it’s definitely fun and accessible, with a usual twist of magic and nautical legends to add to the fun. It may not be the next Pirates! But it’s a game worthy of carving out its own fan base amidst the seas of pirate and nautical themed games.
Tempest was played on PC via Steam with a copy provided by the developers.
Covered by Alex Santa Maria
For all the games about pirates, there is a severe lack of diving into the intricacies of sailing. Sure, your captain might toss around quotes like "Hoist the mainsail!" and "Turn to starboard!". However, those actions are generally carried out by AI followers. Abandon Ship is different, taking the basic structure of FTL and placing it on the high seas. Fireblade Software's Early Access debut adds intense strategy and dark mysticism to your swashbuckling good time.
You play as a cult initiate. After seeing the tentacle-filled results of a dark ritual, you become disillusioned and escape the compound. You free sailors from jail and set sail to escape the pursuing cultists and the horrible monsters they've created. From there, the game truly begins, with your crew venturing from map to map and running into randomized events. There could be floating treasure to collect or another wayward ship just about to sink. In any case, you have to move fast, as the cult is always nipping at your tail.
This will all sound familiar to anyone who's into FTL or its derivatives. Your ship goes along the map and runs into events, which inevitably leads to combat encounters. This is where things change just a bit. You manipulate your crew as always, but dealing with inaccurate cannons and gradual steering give battles a slow pace. I found that there wasn't enough to do as a player during these bits. You'll have to manage hull repairs and put out fires as you go, but there's a lot of downtime as you wait for the next reload. This style of encounter can be tense when you're on the verge of death. By the same token, it's pretty boring when you're just waiting to crush the opposing vessel.
Despite taking a lot of ideas from run based games, Abandon Ship aims to provide a more singular experience. The story campaign takes around seven hours to complete at the low end, and that's in its Early Access state. While you won't want to play that mode over and over, there's a separate ladder focused on combat. This mode is great for practice, and it's designed to last only a half hour or so. You may even want to dive into that mode first since the combat is pretty challenging even if you're going through the initial tutorial in the main game.
If you're up for micromanaging a crew and getting through tough scenarios by the skin of your teeth, Abandon Ship may be up your galley. The theming is incredibly unique, combining the Age of Sail with the Cthulhu mythos in a way that simply jives. The randomized events and combat scenarios are a bit samey in the current build, but this is a great foundation that could blossom into an engaging strategy game once it's fully released.
Abandon Ship was sampled on PC via Steam with a code provided by the developers.
What do you think of this week’s Coverage Club selections? Do you know of an overlooked game that deserves another chance? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to follow our Steam Curator to keep up to date with all our reviews.