If you enjoy strategy games, there’s a high probability you have already played or, at least, heard about the XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Developed by Firaxis Games and published by 2K Games in 2012 (interesting fact: few know the game was a remake of a 1994 classic strategy called UFO: Enemy Unknown by Micropose), the game created a gender few other studios dared to follow later. Maybe because ‘strategy’ is a very niche gender we haven’t seen many titles in this format in recent years. Well, not until now because the Hungarian studio ZEN Studios is bringing some Hope for us.
Dread Nautical is a roguelike tactical RPG that places you inside of HMS Hope navigating through the Atlantic. What started as well-deserved Vacations quickly turned into a nightmare: controlling a survivor, you will need to explore the grids of each deck of the ship searching for food, tools and other survivors so together, you will be able to face the monstrosities that swarm Hope and live to see another day. Think your moves carefully because you will need all the strategies you can getter to live on and see another day. Now let’s explore this ship from prow to stern and check everything the game has to offer.
What we liked!
- Audio: The first aspect of Dread Nautical I want to emphasize is the audio: the music employed by ZEN Studios in this game is perfect to create an atmosphere of mystery and thriller as you explore the different floors of Hope. The music AND the exquisite voice acting from characters – each one of the survivors you will encounter in this adventure has a remarkable voice work– and the narrator. Kudos, guys! You did an amazing job here!
- Gameplay: The best part of the game, without a shadow of a doubt. You start your adventure by selecting one of four survivors to be your main character (Fargo, a personal investigator, Mirage, a lounge singer, Hatano, a former Yakuza, and Vi, a young gamer). With him/her, you will venture through the 20 floors of Hope searching for food and answers. And the siren that indicates you completed the level. Eventually, you will cross paths with other survivors who can join you in your quest if you manage to gain their favor (and have available beds in your base of operations). Food will be your primary concern because, after each incursion, you will need to feed your troop. Keep in mind that if you don’t have enough food for all of them, they will be hungry (what reduces their status) and can even die from starvation. So please, take good care of them. In your exploration you will also find scraps and runes: scraps are used to fix and upgrade your equipment and base of operations while runes are used to upgrade your characters.
- Your base of operations: Talking about your base, there you can chat with other survivors, giving you a better insight of their personality, fix and upgrade your equipment, make health replenishers, upgrade your character’s status (more about it later) and treat their bad conditions. From there, you can select a group of three survivors and venture into one of the many floors of Hope. Just remember to equip yourself for the task.
- Your arsenal: Using whatever you find in the decks of Hope to protect yourself, you will count on frying pans, mops, kitchen knives and more to eliminate threats. But it looks like someone was transporting an arsenal in this ship because you will also find swords, pistols and rifles to help you survive the horrors of this ship. Each piece of equipment you get has durability which means how many times you can use it or how many attacks it can sustain before breaking. If you don’t want to toss away the broken equipment, you can always take it back to your base and fix it. Equipment rarity goes from common to uncommon, rare, ultra-rare and cursed. Weapons are divided according to what kind of damage they inflict (cutting, blunt, piercing and others) and can have added status effects like inflicting bleeding, burning, stealthy bonus and more. Try to select the equipment that best suits your playstyle to increase your chances of survival.
- RPG Elements: Dread Nautical has some light RPG elements that add a special charm to the game. Each one of your survivors has a different combination of status between Maximum health, Action points and Inventory space. They also have a pair of abilities, one active and one passive, with quite different effects (like healing the group, placing traps, paralyzing enemies and so much more) that can do wonders while you’re exploring the ship. I’m sure you will have your favorite characters according to their status, but you can always upgrade the less favored in your base.
- Graphics: The visuals of Dread Nautical may not be the most appealing but they will surely do the job. I loved the cartoonish visual of the ship and characters, who are quite different from each other (aided by the great voice work already mentioned). Except for the odd animations while they’re talking (I believe they all have some Italian background, but you will only understand it when you see them talking), their movement is satisfactory. The scenarios are interesting but repetitive: you will see lots of kitchens, casinos and infirmaries which look all the same. Some more variation would do wonders to these floors, but as they are randomly generated, we will give them a discount.
- Enemies: The game offers a good variety of enemies, each one with different behavior and requiring a different strategy to be defeated. Their visuals, on the other hand, don’t look anything special (and no different at all in the first levels). Even in more advanced levels, their visual fails to impress.
- Confusing first impressions: My first impressions with Dread Nautical UI weren’t the clearest, I must admit. Exploring the decks, selecting equipment, identifying how many action points my characters have left and a few other things were confusing, to say the last. Thankfully, the developer added some easy-to-access in-game hints and tutorials to help you whenever you feel the need for that. And there’s no shame in using them, so feel free to do so. But after an hour or so, I was ready to face anything!
What we disliked
Nothing: Dread Nautical is one of those rare cases here in LifeisXbox that we have nothing bad to say about. Yes, some aspects of the game could have been better, but the way it has been published I have nothing to complain about it.
Have no doubts, my friend: I loved Dread Nautical. The sinister atmosphere, the well-dubbed characters, the awesome gameplay all combine into a solid and particularly challenging title. Fans of XCOM-like games will have a feast with this title and those who aren’t (yet) in this genre have here a great opportunity to try it out. Prove you are a real leader to survive this madness that overtook Hope and save all the survivors on this ship… before it’s too late.
With a history of gaming that goes from his old man’s Atari 2600 to his Xbox One, Rafael or RAF687, our Brazilian editor, has a love for games as old as he can remember. He has already spent countless hours in many consoles (Mega Drive/Genesis, Sega Saturn, PS1, PS2 and Xbox 360) and is always ready for more (as long as his wife is asleep). Raf has been writing for LifeisXbox since 2017, with a passion for games of almost all genres – though we know he has a special place in his heart for RPGs, racing games and anything that includes pixel art. Writing about games has always been a childhood dream to Raf, dream that he has fulfilled reviewing games for you here. You can drop him a message at Twitter, Facebook or Xbox Live at any time.