Everyone wants to be a pirate, right? Between swashbuckling sword fights, the battles at sea, and the looting of treasure, it seems like the kind of job that’ll bring a whole new adventure every day. Well, with Don’t Sink you can take on that role, though it might be a bit less exciting than you think. I mean, who would have thought that being a pirate would require so much man management?
Don’t Sink puts you in the shoes of a pirate captain who adventures from island to island, all whilst completing menial tasks for each island’s inhabitants, sinking the ships of enemies who confront you, and working to make enough cash to ensure your crew is kept fed and happy. There’s a surprising amount of things to do across the adventure too, so you’ll certainly have to keep on top of everything if you’re going to live a long life out at sea.
The biggest aspect of the game that you’ll need to keep on top of is resource management. You’ve not only got to make sure you’ve got enough food, water and medicine for the journeys you take across the sea, but also make sure you’ve got enough resources for battling too. Find a rival ship in your path? You’ll want to make sure you’ve got enough cannon balls to sink it. Take some damage of your own along the way? You better have wooden planks on board, otherwise you’ll find yourself sinking to the bottom of the sea.
You wouldn’t necessarily associate so much resource management with being a pirate, but it actually proves vital to your success in Don’t Sink. Believe me: poor resource management is deadlier than scurvy or a rival pirate ship, and it’ll be the one thing you need to keep on top of more than anything in the game. Fortunately, resources are easy enough to come across during your journey as is the gold you need to purchase them, so it never becomes too stressful. You do have to bear in mind that journeying to different islands can vary in travel time though, so you’ve got to make sure you’re well equipped for each trip.
You’ll spend a lot of time travelling across the sea in Don’t Sink, though it all boils down to simply picking a location on a map and then seeing your ship sail there in real-time. Unfortunately, you don’t take the reins as far as sailing is concerned, but you will have to monitor the status of your crew and ensure they’re kept happy. You’ll often come into different situations when sailing that’ll affect your crew and ship too, be it an outbreak of a sickness, a collision with a sunken ship, or just the appearance of a sea creature – these situations typically just require the use of some of your resources though, so there’s never much to worry about when they arise.
Battles with rival ships on the other hand will require a bit more thought. Battles take place in real time, with the player given four options: attack, repair, approach, and flee. Each action takes a set amount of time to charge so you can’t do them without a bit of waiting though, so you can’t just expect to spam cannon attacks and hope for the best.
Whilst more involving than some aspects of the game, there’s not a whole lot of strategy required when battling – it’s clear at the top of the screen how much damage each ship has taken, so it’s easy enough to know when to repair and when to attack. Sure, if you leave your ship’s health go down too low it can be difficult to repair it in order to survive, but it’s something you adjust to after just a few battles in-game. One interesting aspect is approaching the other ship to board it though, with the player then able to take part in a duel with the rival captain. These duels could feel a little clumsy in-game with the controls proving to be a bit confusing at first, but they still added a nice touch that made the battles a bit more personal than just launching cannon balls back and forth.
The battles are fun enough, but they’re so simple in design that it’s difficult to get too absorbed by them. Even getting better ships and more powerful weapons doesn’t change things up that much either – it just makes battling that little bit easier.
Provided you’ve got the right crew and resources, you can actually take over some of the islands you visit and govern them yourself to bring in some extra gold. You can set up certain buildings on the island and have a line of businesses running to keep the income going too, so you can definitely add your own personal touch to each one. Much like every other aspect of Don’t Sink though, managing islands lacks the depth to really hook you in. Whilst it does offer an extra thing to do in the game, like everything else it just involves the pressing of a few buttons here and there and doesn’t require too much thought from the player.
There isn’t a deep narrative to be found in Don’t Sink either, but you can take on quests for the different inhabitants you come across on each island. The quests themselves don’t vary too much out of finding an item for someone, delivering an item for them, or pursuing an enemy, but at least they give you something to work towards. They’re often charming in design too and whilst they may not offer too much variety from a gameplay perspective, the stories behind them makes them all feel worthwhile.
I’ve complained about a lack of depth with Don’t Sink, so it’s probably worth mentioning it’s not an expensive game – it’s only £7.99 on the Nintendo eShop, which felt like a fair price given that I did have some fun playing the game. Don’t get me wrong, I felt like I saw all of what it had to offer after just a couple of hours of playing and it’s lacking depth in most aspects of its design, but I certainly didn’t have a bad time playing through the game’s pirating adventure.
Don’t Sink offers a lot of different things with its mixture of ship management, naval battles, and governing of islands, but it lacks the depth to really hook you in to any of those features. Everything often consists of just clicking a few buttons here and there and letting the game do the work for you – it’s something which takes the excitement away from being a pirate and just ends up feeling a bit too simple.
Whilst Don’t Sink may not have a lot of depth though, it does have a fair dosage of charm within its pirating world and it certainly has its share of fun moments. That charm might not be enough for some swashbuckling Switch owners but with a low price point and some enjoyment to be had across its adventure, Don’t Sink may still be worth checking out if you want yourself a pirating fix.
Developer: Studio Eris
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC, Mac, Linux