Don’t Sink is a pirate adventure game with a minimalist but beautiful 2D art approach. Take to the high seas, completing quests to earn loot and attack islands to claim them as your own. Do all the piratey things; find hidden treasure on deserted islands, drink rum and listen to your crewmates tell tales of your adventures.
Don’t Sink is a game of sea-faring combat and crew and ship management. Whilst sailing from island-to-island, you’ll come across enemy ships to take down (or be taken down by) and enjoy the loot when you emerge victorious. The combat is simple, hold down a directional button in order to choose an action and when the circle fills up, press A to complete the action. You can either attack, repair, flee or board the enemy’s ship. This comes with a level of strategy as you’ll need to consider the best option whilst keeping into account the time it will take for the circle to fill up. For example, you might be close to victory but you may also be close to having your ship destroyed. You’ll need to make a quick judgement call whether you have enough time to go for the win or repair your ship (or even cut and run from the fight entirely). If you don’t feel like having a battle with the cannons, you can board their ship to enter one-on-one combat. The combat is very confusing at first, but all you really need to do is keep pressing A to attack and move the left analogue stick at the right time when it tells you to. Once you get the hang of the mechanics, it comes across as a little dull.
That brings up a glaring issue with Don’t Sink: Whilst the options are varied, the game has no qualms about throwing you into the deep end (so to speak). The tutorials are very ambiguous, which may lead to a few frustrating deaths or wandering around aimlessly. However once you get the hang of it, the game becomes a fun and rewarding experience. If it’s your first time playing Don’t Sink, we would highly recommend avoiding permadeath mode as you will most likely die not due to a lack of skill, but from a lack of gameplay knowledge.
As a captain, you are also tasked in maintaining your ship and crew. This means keeping your ship in working condition by repairing it at the shipyard or buying cloth and wooden planks so that you can repair it out at sea. You will also need to buy food, water and medicine to keep your crewmates healthy, otherwise they will die. Combat can also cost you the lives of your crewmates, so you’ll need to make sure you recruit enough to keep your defences up to scratch.
Traveling across the map is strangely relaxing, completing side quests to earn extra gold for a new ship and more crewmates. You may often find yourself going to an island for your current quest and wind up completing another one that you had forgotten all about. The rate of completion is very therapeutic and it’s easy to get lost in the adventure of it all, just be sure to keep your supplies up as you won’t want to be stranded out at sea with no wood to repair your ship.
Lastly, we experienced a few crashes, but thankfully Don’t Sink has a very generous auto-save system. Towards the end of the game, we also couldn’t repair our ship. The game gave no explanation as to why and it came upon without any noticeable cause. This may be a bug, in which case we hope that it gets patched, but our only option was to downgrade our ship in order to continue with the game.
Don’t Sink doesn’t tend to focus on an overarching plot, rather it is just about your experience as captain, completing side jobs and upgrading your settlements. It truly gives off the feeling of being a free captain of the seas whilst interacting with some interesting characters along the way.
The dialogue is often witty and will make you chuckle from time-to-time. Some scenarios are simple, such as taking cargo from one island to the other, whilst another will find you interacting with a tavern-owning talking dog that has been cursed by a witch for 100 years.
There are 21 main quests to complete, as well as many side quests. Unfortunately, the game ends very unceremoniously, which was a bit of a disappointment.
Music / Sound Design
The music is quite simple and can often get a little repetitive. There isn’t much variety, which is disappointing as music is such an iconic aspect of the pirate life. You will come across some slight shifts in tone from town-to-town, as well as when in combat and so forth, but there is a clear lack of variety in this aspect.
The sound effects are also quite limited, keeping it simple and straight to the point. Some mumbles for dialogue, shanties and cheers from the crew out on the open sea and more emphasis on the environments would have gone a tremendous way in making the world a bit more engaging.
Graphics / Art Direction
The minimalist graphic design may deter players from giving Don’t Sink a chance, but it really plays to the game’s advantages. You’d be surprised with how much Studio Eris has managed to pull off with this Atari-Adventure style approach, and it soon becomes a distant thought as you sail across the high seas.
Despite its minimalist art approach, the camera occasionally pans out when you reveal a new area. These landscapes are surprisingly beautiful, really adding depth to a straight 2D plane.
Final Score 68%
Don’t Sink will have you feeling like a swashbuckling pirate, tackling the responsibilities of ship and crew management whilst enjoying the freedom of the open seas. Despite its issues and shortcomings, the game is a very fun and addictive way to spend an evening. Its ship and crew management keeps you on your toes, forcing you to think before you spontaneously set sail. The dialogue and NPCs are charming, doing a great job at shaping the world. Its major shortcoming is its tutorials and combat, specifically when you board an enemy ship, as it is confusing to figure out and once you do, you can emerge victorious by simply button-mashing.
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