[Review] Don’t Sink – Nintendo Switch

Written by slimwiggins

Reviewed by Thomas

  • Developer: Studio Eris
  • Publisher: Hitcents
  • Release Date: 03/1/2019
  • Price: £7.99 / $9.99
  • Review code provided by Hitcents

Intro

The grizzled pirate with his high cocked hat looked out over the docks, pondering his existence. Waves lapsed against the rocks and the spray hid the salty captains tears. Perhaps there’s more to life than booty and treasure? Perhaps not. Captain Sticky Taffy tugged at his greyed beard before wobbling into town with his pegleg thump thumping every other step. Stomping up to the nearby merchant, it was time to earn some coin. Using his limited bartering skills, Sticky Taffy came to an agreement of parting with some excess supplies for gold to expand his crew. The merchant agreed and went for the heavy purse and… error message…  game crash… Captain Sticky Taffy was never heard from again. It seemed a bug had devoured his entire world.

Thus the fierce lady, Captain Fluffy Bandit was born. A new character created. She soon would conquer the world and become master of the precious islands. At least until my daughter started a game and saved over my progress.

Don’t Sink is a micro foray into multiple game types. Dubbed a Sandbox-Adventure-Pirate RPG, it dabbles in city building and simulation. As a customized Captain of your own design, you command a ship and crew. The main goal is grow your crew, take over an island, buy a larger ship and repeat. There are 16 islands to conquer and each island requires a minimum amount of crew to take it over. After which you replenish your crew and complete quests to pay for your endeavors. Don’t Sink is ambitious in its aim to fill many game genres. However, the RPG elements are light and the simulation and strategy run as shallow as a reef which sinks many a ship. Don’t Sink failed to live up to these designs and lacks depth.

Find Yer Sea Legs

Don’t Sink has several aspects of gameplay. The main goal is taking over islands and developing them as you see fit. This was an exciting prospect that never fully delivered. Capturing an island is as simple as having enough crew to do so. There are no battles to participate in, no strategy to preserve as much crew as possible. You simply pick the island you want to take over and sail there. Upon arrival, the battle is settled for you. The screen shows how many lives were lost and the island is yours. Once you take an island you can populate it and spend money on building a few structures. The money I earned from my islands hardly warranted the high cost to pay people to move there. After fully populating five islands with every building, I lost interest in the endeavour. Each island quickly became the same as the next. Other than the backgrounds they all felt the same and none of them were a place to hang your hat. Island development and governing was paper thin. Don’t Sink won’t satisfy the casual or hardcore simulator gamer.

Thar She Blows!

Despite its repetitive nature, Don’t Sink had a few unexpected gems. When embarking on a journey from one island to another, whether to complete a quest or lay waste to your destination, Don’t Sink plays out like a familiar PC title. Your ship is displayed on the left with no control from the Captain and a bar fills up to signify distance travelled. Like Oregon Trail, random events or encounters occur, usually an enemy ship out to challenge you, in which case you engage in combat similar to a turn based RPG. You have a few options at your disposal. You can exchange volleys of cannon fire until one ship sinks. You can take precious time for repairs if you have the resources. You can cut and run, fleeing a stronger opponent, or charge and board their ship for hand to hand combat. The combat seemed exciting at first but quickly fell flat. At any point I realised my ship would sink from endless cannon fire, I would charge and let the Captains draw swords to settle the battle. In theory this would serve as an alternate challenge. You can parry, dodge, and jump incoming sabre attacks. In reality I just mashed one attack button until the other Captain was dashed to pieces and their booty became mine.

Don’t Sink gave me little reason to go deeper into the combat because I could easily defeat a crew three times my size this way. I never fled from a battle because this method made it too easy to win even when outmatched. Sure, you lose precious crew if you’re hit but the lack of customisable crew members or interaction with them seemed moot to me when they died. My crew was just another resource I had to stock up on at the next port. No different than wood planks or cannon balls. Soon ship battles became a tedious chore that I’d rather skip all together.

The parts I found enjoyable were the little things. The other random encounters that brought islands and sea to life and immersed me into their world. These ranged from uncharted islands I could stop and search, to being deserted and even having crew fall ill. Those random nuggets didn’t end at sea either. I found exploring each island had hidden quests that you could miss if you just use the quick menu. Loot hidden away, more robust side quests, people who needed your help.

Plunder or PArrrrcel Service, Cap’n Taffy Does it All

The main side quest which I found the most lucrative was running errands for local merchants. I felt less like a pirate and more like a courier. It was an easy way to earn money so I felt chained to it like a full time job. Again, this lacked depth. I would have liked a better bartering system. Like buy an item at one island at a low cost then sell it at another island for profit. Instead it plays out like a fetch quest. You sail to the designated island and the quest is auto completed. Though I did sell off gems which I had plundered, it seemed like an afterthought. The lack of a menu system which displayed the contents of my cargo made me forget to off load the booty I had acquired more often than not.

Adding to the island management, you occasionally get a message that someone else has taken over one of your islands. There are no stats detailing the battle, no clue to how well your defences worked, just a simple message and the island is no longer yours, at which point you can leave it in their clutches or sail back and spend crew to seize it once more.

To be fair, I enjoyed my time in this beautiful world of pirates and plunder, it’s just Don’t Sink is a lot like a sampler platter at a restaurant. It gives you a taste of different genres, just never a filling meal. Don’t Sink is repetitive, lacks depth and replay value. Captain Fluffy Bandit’s days of looting and plundering are over. She hung up her tricorn hat to spend her remaining days in paradise. Which wasn’t long because my daughter erased her from existence to start her own swashbuckling tale.

Yo-ho-ho, and a Bottle of Rum!

The graphics in Don’t Sink fit perfectly with the world they’ve created. There’s a lot of variety in the background of the islands from majestic trees that cover the landscape to paradisaical palms and wintry backdrops. I found exploring each island a joy to take in the scenery. Likewise, the journeys on the ship have lovely views with dolphins swimming around your ship and birds flying above. The night and day cycle for longer sojourns keep it from being a static experience. The music fit in with the graphics and never droned on to the point of turning it off in the settings. The art and audio did well in bringing the pirate atmosphere to life.

Batten Down the Hatches

I encountered one bug with Don’t Sink. At the onset of my first playthrough I tried to sell some lumber. I was met with a long error message and the game crashed immediately. The saga of Captain Sticky Taffy had come to an end as the save file was corrupt. Aside from that one issue, the game played smoothly in both docked and handheld mode on Nintendo Switch.

Final Wrap

Don’t Sink is a perfect title if you’re looking for a casual pirate simulator. Sinking ships and upgrading to larger ships is satisfying in the short term but doesn’t have long term sustainability. If you’re looking for a deep adventure or a memorable cast, then you’d do well to drop anchor elsewhere. Don’t Sink is visually pleasing and has a lot of potential but fails to hit the mark on what type of game it wanted to be. It was fun in short bursts but not worth the asking price for a gamer family on a budget.

Pros

  • Beautiful Arrrrt
  • Perfect for handheld gaming
  • Random events
  • Booty and plunder

Cons

  • Lacks challenge
  • Repetitive
  • Stale combat

Verdict
Don’t Sink is a great casual experience but the lack of depth will leave you feeling unsatisfied.

2/5

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