Nantucket is an indie strategy adventure game developed by Picaresque Studios and released January 18th of 2018 by Fish Eagle.
Plot wise, Nantucket acts as a sequel to Moby Dick: you play as Ishmael, the only surviving crew member of Ahab’s ill-fated Pequod. Traumatized by the events that led to the deaths of so many, Ishmael gives up his life on the seas, meets a pretty girl, settles down, has a few kids, and never, ever eats seafood again.
I’m kidding, he totally commissions a ship and crew of his own to hunt down and destroy Moby Dick for himself. You spend the game doing jobs for different cities, hunting whales, and steadily increasing the experience of yourself and your crew. You upgrade your ship, fighting pirates, take on mythological beasts, and maybe one day, bring that terrifying White Whale to its knees… or, it’s flippers. A bend in its tail: I don’t know. The point is, you’re out for whale blood, and the only way to properly do that is stock up on the best supplies, train the best people, and make a name for yourself in the 17th century age of sails.
There’s no getting around it: I loved this game. Like Sid Meier’s Pirates, it has a simple enough gameplay style that you can play the way you want to play it, while also including all kinds of interesting little moments and tidbits. You’ve got to keep your crew in food and grog, while also selling enough whale oil and doing enough jobs that your prestige as a captain is steadily growing. The higher your level and prestige, the more dangerous of adventures you can go on, including the main quest line that points you toward your final destination: very likely the belly of a whale.
One of the things that really made Nantucket stand out for me was its combat system. Based on a dice and skill system, it heavily resembles the sort of thing you’d see in a board game, and plays even smoother. As you progress, you can gain skills that will help you to survive an attack by sperm whale or even ambush by pirates. The way crew are handled sets Nantucket apart as well: you’ve got four skills: combat, crafting, sailing, and science. And while, as Captain, you can specialize in any of these that you please, it behooves you to have a well balanced crew: a science crewman who can heal you during combat sequences or boil whale blubber into valuable oil, a sailing specialist that can navigate treacherous oceans and fetch the best price at ports, and so on.
Nantucket has a very in depth style of play that is still simple enough for anyone to get fully engaged in. I will give a word of warning to the softer hearted out there: this game takes place during the golden age of whaling, and killing whales for their blubber is a major key to success, particularly during the earliest stages of the game. Hell, the end goal is to kill a whale for vengeance, so you know you’re going to get into it with our underwater mammal friends. My point is that, if murdering the hell out of whales, even in a fictional sense, doesn’t sit well with you, you’re not going to get over it with Nantucket. If it makes you feel any better, however, know that some of those whales will just fuck up your life and your ship if you don’t respect them as enemies.
So there’s that, at least.
Nantucket stands out to me as one of the first great indie games of 2018: at least to me, a man who adores adventure, braving the high seas, and seeking out mysteries through the Atlantic and Pacific. It’s well made, it’s got a great aesthetic, it’s incredibly fun to play, it even has sea shanties. And I love me some sea shanties. It was released today, and it’s worth your while: as long as you don’t mind the risk of being digested slowly in a whale’s guts in exchange for the chance at some vengeance.