A review of Stranded Sails, indie studio LemonBomb’s open world exploration and farming adventure which is now available for PC, Playstation 4, Xbox One, and the Nintendo Switch.
Below is a transcript of the YouTube Video Review of Stranded Sails: Explorers of the Cursed Islands.
Hey, how’s it going, internets, Nathan from This And That Tech. And today we’re taking a look at Stranded Sails, Explorers of the Cursed Islands, which is an absolute mouthful.
But it was developed by Lemonbomb Entertainment and they’re a very interesting group to me because they’re a small indie studio that actually met while studying game design in Germany. It looks like from the website there’s only about five of them and they managed to complete this game all on their own, which is very impressive.
Now, Stranded Sails’ story, you open the game as either the son or daughter of this captain who wants to set sail on the seas to find some new land. You embark on this journey and of course the ship doesn’t make it and you are separated from your crew and stranded on an island. So, the object of the game is basically to find what’s left of the crewmembers, survive by whatever means necessary, explore, and hopefully get off the island in the end.
Controls and Elements
As far as controls and elements, I suppose you could say that Stranded Sails resembles Rune Factory for the Wii or maybe even Harvest Moon because it’s effectively a farming/exploration simulator. And in this simulator, you’re really going to be doing two main things: farming, crafting – oh, and a third, cooking.
And the crafting is fairly self-explanatory, but a lot of times you’ll come to a point in the game where you need to either build something or you need a new tool. And the only way to do that is to use a crafting kiosk of sorts, where you have to collect different items while you’re exploring. Maybe that’s rope, maybe that’s wood that you actually have to cut down, and then you can build something else with it, like, for example, a ladder. And then that allows you to further go on your quest and explore other new areas that were not reachable at the time.
And look, for the most part, that works pretty well. I found myself enjoying the idea of like, oh, yeah, what happens if I upgrade this new thing? And then maybe that’s gonna allow me to be able to farm more ingredients so I can level up some characters.
But then, part way through the game, some of that started to change for me. I was noticing this trend where I wasn’t able to get the type of upgrades that were getting me amped to keep playing. So, for example, there was a couple times where I was unlocking a potential new upgrade and they would just say something like, we are going to create this new place for you to get water from for your farm. And here, it’s 10 feet over this way. So, it didn’t make like a huge difference for me.
And then sometimes there were shortcuts that they’d create that, again, weren’t that big of a deal. So, I would have almost rather had those shortcuts just granted automatically through the storyline or perhaps just a better type of upgrade, like maybe your stamina bar doesn’t go down as fast. Because otherwise it just seems like they set arbitrary annoyances in the character’s path in order to slow them down and I’m just not too fond of that mechanic.
Now, no matter whether or not you’re crafting or exploring, it’s always gonna be determined by your stamina meter because everything you do costs stamina. And that’s good and bad. It gives you something to strive for with your upgrades, maybe being able to carry more food, so therefore you can travel further or cut down more trees or fish more, maybe row farther.
And that reminds me too, you get a boat early on and when you row, it just eats up your stamina. And almost to a frustrating amount where it’s – it just seems a little bit too excessive, like maybe they need to pull back some on how much it depletes your bar. I think that would make the game more enjoyable. It’s not necessarily a game breaking situation, but I do think a lot of people will find it annoying. And, to be fair, I could be in the minority on this, so it just really depends on what style of player you are. I don’t mind micromanaging to a degree, but sometimes when I feel like arbitrary things get set in my path that then maybe the game doesn’t respect my time as much.
Now, the other element we gotta talk about is the fighting because eventually you’re gonna get to a point where you’re gonna unlock a sword and you’re thinking, “Man, I haven’t really seen any enemies in this game yet. What is this gonna play like?” And I gotta say, the fighting is just not every good. It works, it’s fine, it’s just not great because literally any enemy you come across, you can go around them in a circle over and over again and basically just not get hit. And if you’re not used to that type of fighting style, in general, like maybe it would be a challenge for you, but I have to assume that most people won’t find that challenging at all. So, it’s there as something to entice you, it’s certainly not great, but one has to also remember there’s only five people working on this game and they only have so much time to work on these different elements, so it is what it is. But at the same time, the game doesn’t focus that much on fighting, it’s really at the tail end of the game, so I don’t think it will necessarily make or break your experience.
Lastly, we gotta talk about this unique and clever idea they had with the level up system. Normally, games like this, you see experience or maybe you need to earn gold coins or something like that in order to advance your character’s level. But in this case, it’s all about upgrading the camp. And the only way to do that is by cooking stew for the other members of the camp. Of course, right?!? I know…I don’t think anybody was thinking that.
But it’s a unique idea because you’ll go up to this pot and this giant circular wheel will show up and it will have every member of the camp on it. And your task is to discover which ingredients particular members of the camp are fond of because if they like that particular ingredient, like, for example, maybe one of them likes potatoes, you’re going to be granted more experience points on this circular bar you see in front of you right now. And if that goes all the way around, 360 degrees, you’re going to get, basically, one level, I guess you would call it.
And once you get enough of those levels, that will unlock a new potential upgrade for the camp itself, which I think is really clever because a lot of times you would think with like a farming simulator type game like this, the only reason you’re making that food is basically to control your stamina bar. And this helps branch out from that idea and incorporate it into an experience system that’s unique and kind of fun to figure out, especially once you figure out what the preferences are for each camp member.
Graphics and Sound
You know when I was first approached about this game, I actually received an email from PR and they said that the game was a little bit Legend of Zelda. And honestly, when you look at the aesthetics graphically, it kind of reminds me a lot of Wind Waker. I think that’s quite impressive given that it’s only a team of five people.
And if I had a critique, I guess I would just say when you’re in towns, especially at the beginning of the game, I would like to see a little more life. You see some crabs and tortoises and different things along the seashore that help envelop you into the world, but I would have liked to see just a bit more. And even some more enemy types would have been nice because there’s really only, I think, three or four variants. And just to help make the world that much more realistic to the player.
And I gotta give credit to whoever did the sound design because the game does have nice punctual hard beats when something ominous happens or when you find an item, et cetera. Just, it’s very satisfying, so props to them for that.
Now, the pacing is a tough one for me because it’s really, for me, personally, the most important aspect of any game. Because if a game doesn’t respect your time, I don’t know, I get upset. I don’t know if you do, but I sure do. And Stranded Sails still has a lot going for it in this regard. There was plenty of moments where the pacing was keeping me into it, the idea of what I could craft next, what would be the next upgrades for my camp. That was very intriguing.
But then when you look at things like the stamina bar depletion being a little excessive, especially when you’re rowing, you have upgrades that aren’t always that meaningful, and then sometimes you’re also, back to the rowing again, you have to row to islands on multiple occasions for what seemingly seems like no good reason. Really, they’re just taking you back and forth from Point A to Point B, so I would almost rather they have a quick travel for something like that. I know that defeats the purpose of the stamina bar system a little bit, but there’s just moments where I don’t want to sit there and row for three or four minutes just to get back to the same point I was just at a half hour ago.
And while I’m thinking about it, even sometimes the farming is a bit slow. You’re gonna notice that here when you see my character digging. It’s just a little bit to plodding. If they could just speed that up a bit, I think the game would be much more enjoyable. And you know the map size, pacing-wise, it’s actually quite generous, there’s a lot to explore here, but again, it goes back to that rowing. You end up in that boat a lot and it takes a while to get to each island. So, you know it’s a catch-22 a little bit for me because there’s moments where I feel like my time is respected and then moments where I feel like they’re just adding filler to the game to make – extend it out a bit longer.
But this game should take you about maybe 10 to 15 hours to complete, give or take, and I think that’s reasonable for the type of game it is. You just one and done, you play through it once and that’ll probably be it for most people. There’s really not much else to do in the end game other than upgrade your camp some more, but I don’t really see what the purpose of it would be.
I will say, too, while I’m thinking about that, there was one bug I ran across for the sword upgrade, where that crew cooking stew system that I had said that upgrades were available from Brenda, who Brenda is the blacksmith of the campsite itself. And for whatever reason, I would go up and talk to her and it would just never trigger. And then once I got really close to the end game, it finally did, and it seemingly was out of nowhere. So, I’ve seen announcements since the game went live for reviewers and it looks like they’re working on little mini updates, so maybe you won’t run into that at all, but I’ll just note it right there.
So, what’s the conclusion here? I think Stranded Sails is a decent game, not great, but for $20, which is what they’re apparently asking for it right now, and I think it’s 15% off right now on the PC store, for sure, for this first week, I think that’s reasonable for what the game is. It’s certainly an impressive achievement for a team as small as they are. And sure, I had some criticisms about the pacing, but overall I think it’s a nice, complete package. Could maybe use some updates. I hope they actually do in terms of the speed and the stamina bar. That would be really helpful. But, it’s not too shabby, so might be worth a look if you’re into this type of simulation farming/exploring type of game.
But, hey, that’s all I got for you today. Please leave a like or comment down below and let me know what you think about the game. I’m curious whether or not you have played it. Are you interested in it? Are you not? Let me know.
Thanks for watching. Have a good one.
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