Whoever thought that being shipwrecked could be so much fun (and energy draining)?
Stranded Sails: Explorers of the Cursed Islands begins with the player setting out on a voyage at sea, but, of course, you end up shipwrecked on an island and having to be resourceful in order to survive. You also have to look after your crew and complete objectives for them, with the ultimate goal being to put together the ship you need to leave the island. This consists of multiple things, with the player expected to be a bit of a jack of all trades if they ever hope to make their way back home again…
Looking after your crew is broken down into multiple things, with farming and crafting at the forefront. In a similar vein to the likes of Stardew Valley and Harvest Moon, you’ll plant crops in order to grow your own ingredients to help feed your crew. Admittedly, it’s a much simpler farming system than that found in those aforementioned titles, but it’s still satisfying to see your own selection of crops take shape.
Then there’s the crafting, which is even simpler again: you’re told what resources you need in order to craft something and you’ve just got to find them. Crafting is mostly tied in with the objectives you’re given in-game (such as housing your crew and so on) but it can also be done to add a personal touch to your new castaway home. It’s simple yet satisfying and I had a lot of fun putting the resources I gathered to good use.
You’ll also partake in some cooking, with the ingredients you farm and those you discover around the island essential when putting together some good hearty meals. What’s interesting is that the game doesn’t actually tell you any recipes, but rather encourages you to experiment with the ingredients you have like some kind of shipwrecked Gordon Ramsey. This can be a bit of a mixed bag – it was satisfying to come up with some meals, but it was also annoying when I couldn’t remember the recipes I’d come up with and was back to square one.
It wouldn’t be so bad if food wasn’t essential, but players in Stranded Sails: Explorers of the Cursed Islands have an energy meter in place that dictates everything they can do. Heck, even walking around drains your energy meter, meaning it’s not always safe to even just go exploring if you’re not equipped with a few meals. Fortunately, the consequence of losing your energy just sees you get sent back to your camp, but it’s certainly a pain when you’re just trying to get engrossed in the game world.
It’s a shame that the energy meter is frustrating because there’s quite a bit to do in Stranded Sails: Explorers of the Cursed Islands – objectives are dished out to you by your crew, there’s plenty of locales to explore and secrets to uncover on the island and its surrounding area, and you even get the chance to head into combat with the many baddies you encounter (the combat mechanics are simple but fun). There’s a real sense of adventure to be had and it’s fun to experience it, whilst some of the resources out in the wild are essential to progress. Actually doing these things just consumes so much energy though and even the most simplest of tasks run with the risk of the player passing out and losing their progress.
It’s nice to have a bit of a challenge (Stranded Sails: Explorers of the Cursed Islands isn’t really a tough game) but the amount of energy you consume doing htese simple things just felt like a bit of a burden. It’s going to take a bit of patience to enjoy being shipwrecked on THIS island…
Stranded Sails: Explorers of the Cursed Islands is a bit of a mixed bag. The general gameplay cycle itself is pretty fun and there’s plenty to do, but the energy consumption elements and the cooking just drove me around the bend. Fortunately, it wasn’t enough of a problem to make me dislike the game and I certainly appreciated its laid back approach to survival, but you’ll definitely need a bit of patience (and a whole lot of energy) if you ever hope to make your way back home from the island.
Developer: Lemonbomb Entertainment
Publisher: Merge Games
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
REVIEWERS NOTE – After this review was written a patch was released to improve energy efficiency in the game. Our reviewer didn’t get a chance to try it out, but it’s something to consider given that it was one of the issues pulled up in this review.