Thursday, January 3, 2019

Review: Don't Sink [Nintendo Switch eShop]


When I think of games involving sailing the seas and plundering the first thing that comes to mind is Sid Meier’s Pirates! Originally released in 1987 and remade at least once since this is my gold standard for piracy and, for the most part, the crazy thing is that while there are more elaborate games out there you can’t fault the craft that went into the multiple aspects of the game. Having established that as my benchmark let’s discuss Don’t Sink and how though it may have some charm it’s completely lacking in ambition and fun.


Starting with the positive being able to somewhat customize your pixel-based pirate is nice, and once you’ve done so you’re off! Your goal is to build up your pirate empire by taking down enemy ships by brutal force or swashbuckling skill, acquire as much gold as you can, build up a town to call your own… and that’s about it? Talking to various shop owners in the islands you’ll explore can yield small quests complete with some cute little stories as a wrapper but there’s honestly not much to it.


That leaves it to the action to save the day and unfortunately that’s sorely lacking, whether by comparison to a game that’s now over 30 years old or up against minimally fair expectations. Ship-to-ship combat is poorly explained and dull. You’ll have a choice to fire your cannons (choosing between 3 types of ammo that aren’t explained), move in to try to take the ship through a swordfight with the opposing captain, repair, or flee. Each command will take time to execute so you’ll need to choose pretty quickly but aside from choosing to fire and what you’re firing you have no control over things. No skill in aiming, no accounting for anything, no getting into position. Just fire and assume you can outlast your enemy. The sword fighting is equally muddled and unsatisfying, again with no guidance and using an interface that seems to only roughly correspond to the directions you input, and again feeling unsatisfying even if you’re winning.


In the end with so many higher quality offerings in the Switch eShop, though none of them involve pirating and the other pirate title I’ve played is even worse than this one, I can’t see recommending this. Trying to make a better game than a classic designed by a team led by a legendary game maker is a tall order but I think I’m more disappointed that it doesn’t even feel like this game is trying. You may choose the high level actions executed but where things would count and there’d be room for strategy, skill, or fun there’s just nothing to be excited for. It may not sink but it’s taking on serious water and isn’t terribly sea-worthy.


Score: 5

Pros:
  • Against the one other pirate game I’ve played on Switch it’s the better of the two (though that’s not really much of a compliment)
  • The little stories and interactions can be cute
  • You get to design your own pixel pirate

Cons:
  • Thoroughly unsatisfying play overall when it comes to the action
  • Nothing is explained very well
  • Lacking in ambition