After spending the last few months playing story-heavy games like Persona 5 Royal and Death Stranding, I was looking for something a little lighter that allowed me to play in short sessions. And along comes Dread Nautical, a stylish turn-based roguelike with serious Eldritch horror vibes. I was instantly hooked!
Dread Nautical offers four Hero characters for you to choose from, each with his/her own special abilities, one active and others passive. For the purpose of this review, my focus point will be from Kenichi the swordsman, although I did also take Vi the gamer out for a quick spin.
You wake in a makeshift camp set up on the lobby level of the lost ship Hope. At first, it’s just yourself and a survivor named Jed. The goal is to reach the uppermost deck by methodically clearing out the levels in between of monsters, all while scavenging for weapons, food, and other useful tidbits. You’re able to run through one deck per day, immediately returning to the Lobby once you sound the horn on the Bridge. Depending on which difficulty you choose to play, if you should perish before reaching the Bridge, you may retain the items you set out with or lose them completely.
Deck maps are procedurally generated from specific sets of tiles based on how far you’ve progressed, meaning no two maps are ever the same. The only two constants are the Aft Deck and Bridge. Day after day you will set out to uncover the truth of what happened to the Hope through discussion with the other survivors and mysterious tome pages scattered about the ship.
All You Need is Kill
Dread Nautical uses turn-based combat for taking down the waves of otherworldly creatures impeding your progress. Each member of your team has a certain amount of AP available per turn, which is spent on movement and using items to attack the enemy. Rounds are broken into your team, enemies, and a third round if there are any survivors on your deck and in the same vicinity as you. You may also walk into a trap, finding yourself ambushed and locked in a room until all of the enemies have been defeated.
There’s an entire arsenal of tools for you to use in battle scattered all around you. Weapons spawn in containers on deck and sometimes drop when you take down an enemy. Each one has an AP requirement as well as limited use. If you’re really lucky you might even find some unbreakable ones. Silent weapons like throwing knives and pool cues mean you won’t alert the other enemies in the room, where louder ones like pistols and shotguns will. There’s also positioning to consider; some weapons come with bonuses for sneak or flanking damage.
Since the weapons and protective gear can break down, make sure you hit up the crafting station in the Lobby before you head back out. Here you can repair and upgrade your items, and turn ones you don’t particularly need into additional scrap.
The Scooby Gang
It’s dangerous to go alone. That’s why you need to befriend the other passengers wandering the halls of the Hope. By passing speech checks and retrieving items, you can earn their trust and convince them to join you in the Lobby. Much like your Hero, each passenger has unique active and passive abilities that help you clear the decks easier. One of my favorites is Mel. When she joined me it opened up the Crafting Station. But her true power lies in her passive ability to return the team to the Lobby from the elevator.
It’s very important to take care of your growing army. You’ll need to spend those scraps to upgrade the living quarters. You can’t recruit people if there’s no bed for them to sleep in. And living in a post-apocalyptic tin can is pretty stressful. Look after those who might be displaying signs of stress by granting them some downtime. A book or some yoga will do wonders for their state of mind.
Food is also very important, but when supplies are low and there isn’t enough to go around, make sure to be strategic about it. I’ve found that making a run on an easier floor every so often has helped keep up my supply so we can all eat at least every other day.
And what about all of those weird runes you found? These mysterious stones bestow upon you the ability to increase your stats. Need more AP? Spend some stones. Want an extra inventory slot? Stones. How about better defense/melee/ranged capabilities? You guessed it. I cannot stress how important it was for me to up those inventory slots immediately. (If you know me at all, I am the type of gamer who needs to pick up all the things all the time.)
This game has been so much fun to play. Even when I am cursing at the screen during a boss fight, Dread Nautical has me coming back for more. It’s wonderfully sadistic and addictive in all the right ways. Sure, there are a couple of things that irk me. Like when the reticle wanders across the map and I have to figure out where it went. Or when just as I am moving my third character into a room the ambush happens and my character holding the medkit is trapped outside. But that’s the heart of the game, and I am here for every single moment of it.
Dread Nautical review code provided by publisher. Version 1.00 reviewed on a standard PlayStation 4 console. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy.