Review – Dread Nautical
2020 has not been a great year for cruise ships, and that only gets worse with the release of Dread Nautical – the newest game from Zen Studios, arriving on console and PC after debuting on Apple Arcade in late 2019. This turn-based RPG (roleplaying game) drops gamers onto the cruise ship Hope, out for a holiday cruise just as it comes under attack by supernatural forces, tasking you with exploring – and surviving – 20 decks full otherworldly terrors.
Gamers must explore the ship as one of four Hero characters, cleaning out each level of monsters and scavenging for food, weapons, Runes used for upgrades, and other survivors. Locate a fellow survivor and you may be able to convince them to join your cause, provided you can talk them into it or otherwise persuade them, and given that you’ve created enough space in your makeshift headquarters in the ship’s lobby. Survivors added to your camp can be taken with you on your outings, there’s space for two extra in your party, but every person in your camp is another person you’ll need to keep fed and happy using your limited resources.
Levels are randomly generated each time you restart, ensuring a different play experience every single time. The game also has other roguelike elements, but it allows players to choose the type of experience they want to have. If you want an easier time of it, dying won’t cost you supplies or crew members on the lower difficulties, but if you crank it up to the maximum and you’re basically restarting entirely every time you succumb to enemy forces.
Combat is standard turn-based RPG stuff, with each character having Action Points that determine how much they can do in the round. Positioning and stealth – if applicable to the battle, your party will be ambushed at times – are key elements in combat, with many of the melee weapons doing bonus damage when attacking an enemy from behind, and even more yet when that enemy is also unaware of your presence.
Most weapons can only be used a few times before breaking down, but there are unbreakable ones available if you are lucky enough to find them. This does necessitate some inventory juggling, especially at the outset as your inventory space is limited. Gamers should have no trouble with early enemies but mastering movement and upgrading stats and weapons before taking on the game’s later enemies, mini-bosses, and boss battles is a must.