• Nantucket review by Rick Moscatello




    Politically correct? Nope. Fun? Mostly.

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    It’s a big old world, and there are still many themes of computer games which have yet to be touched. That said, many genres are badly overdone now (hi World War 2!), so I leapt at the chance to review Nantucket, a game based on whale hunting in 19th century America.

    The whaling industry is much maligned now, but some 200 years ago, it was a key component of American industry. Whale oil was a source of power, and whaling ships combed the seas for whales to harvest. At first, finding those whales was easy enough for anyone with a half decent ship and harpoon, but as time passed, factory ships combed the oceans on whaling journeys that could easily take a year or more.

    Nantucket simulates this amazing part of American history, putting you in the role of a whaling captain, seeking fortune at sea. For the most part, the game does things well, scoring points for not shying away from a topic most big game companies wouldn’t touch, while having a few design issues keeping it from greatness.

    You start with a crummy little ship, and your first order of business is hiring a crew. Nantucket is something of a role playing game, and there are three classes of characters, focusing on whale hunting, sailing, and crafting. Then you stock up on food, water, grog, and wood (for incidental ship repair), and it’s off to sea to hunt whales.

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    The non-politically correct parts of the game show up quickly, as you’ll start by hunting down baby whales…seriously, you’re killing baby whales here (the game auto-improves your enemies as you gain levels, so you’ll meet mightier foes soon enough). Stab ‘em with the harpoons, reel them in, and once your hold is filled with blubber, it’s back to port, saving up your money for a better ship. The combat system is turn based and, well, odd, but works once you get the hang of it. In addition to whales, you’ll also fight pirates and ridiculously deadly sharks (they can shred you even if you’re in a boat!). It’s a bit quirky, but I’ll give the game its premise.

    The character development aspect of the game is a bit weak. Your crew can gain experience and levels, but crewmembers die quickly, as the larger whales can one-shot a man with little effort. After a while, you’ll simply hire higher level crew members with the skills you want…but in theory you can hire cabin boys and train them up to whale-slaughtering demigods.

    There’s also a technology tree in the game. It’s a strange speed bump to “research” cannons and such, but once you figure out the system it’s not particularly tough. Many techs require particular skills in the crew, but you can hire a crew member, initiate research, and fire the crew member without much of a penalty. It’s much easier to do this than level up a crew member.

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    While the game is called Nantucket and that city serves as your home base, you’ll be sailing as far away as Honolulu in search of whales (this was a far more treacherous journey before the Panama Canal was built). There’s plenty of staring at the screen as your ship slowly, slowly, crawls across the ocean.

    There are also quests here. The main storyline quest will have you hunting named whales, eventually focusing the big white whale himself, but there are many other quests in the game. Sometimes these quests are multi-stage, and other times it’s just a matter of making a decision or two and then moving on. The rewards from these quests vary from money and experience to “magic” items that enhance your abilities (there’s a very minor inventory system here allowing you to equip a character with 1 item).

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    Characters can develop traits through play, from Strong (better damage with weapons) to Gluttonous (eats more) to, well, there are dozens of others. There’s also a morale system; if you get an sailor’s morale high enough, he’ll even “proposition” you. Amazingly enough, “Sodomite” is a negative trait, not there’s anything wrong with that (it makes one crew member happy, but the others are a bit put off by it).

    I don’t believe there’s a single “mainstream” game producer that would even touch a game where you kill baby whales and get penalties for homosexual behavior, so I have to give some praise for the bold choices being made in this game.

    Overall, Nantucket is a bit rough around the edges with some fearsome loading times (especially in cities), but gets so many bonus points for originality and non-political correctness that it makes it into “worth getting” category despite the occasional barnacle (i.e., the nautical equivalent of a wart).


    Overall Rating: 83
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Nantucket review by Rick Moscatello started by Doom View original post