PREVIEW: Sail And Sacrifice

Avast matey! Are you tired of being a land lubber! I’ll bet you’re looking for a high-seas adventure preferably full of piracy, treasure and swashbuckling escapades. Well, you just might eventually experience that adventure if you’re brave enough to challenge the briny blue. It’s time to Sail And Sacrifice your hard-earned coins to the wind and the waves.

Steam: Early Access
Type: Single-player
Genre: Adventure, RPG
Developer: CAGE Studios
Publisher: CAGE Studios
Release Date: 3 Aug, 2018

Casting Off

Harking back to Monkey Island, I’ve always had a special place in my library for games that let you sail the high seas in the golden age of piracy. Some of those games had a lot of replayability simply because the sea battles were really fun. Truth be told, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is the only Assassin’s Creed game I managed to finish. Not because of difficulty, but simply because it held my attention enough that I did not let other games distract me from sailing the high-seas. Listening to my crew singing sea chanteys as I exchanged blows with other vessels and had sword fights on the deck s of their ships added a touch of realism and brought the game to life. Sail And Sacrifice reminded me of a game I played a while ago now called Tempest. That fact drew my attention enough that I figured I just had to bite the bullet and give Sail And Sacrifice a try despite it being fresh into Early Access.

The reason why I usually shy away from Early Access titles is that they are usually not exactly what the Developer intends the game to ultimately turn out like, rather, it just shows off what they have done so far. I’ve been burned by Early Access titles before when for some reason a Developer held the game in Early Access for years on end with very little progress and/or ultimately abandons the project or worse releases an unfinished game on to the unsuspecting masses. Sail And Sacrifice, in its current state is unfortunately a bit of a buggy mess. It ran absolutely terrible on all three of the test systems it was tried on. One of those test systems is a freshly built high-end machine that more than beats the recommended settings. As this is basically the first release of the game and the Developer has released a few patches since I acquired it, I can tell you that the Developer is trying to fix the issues the game is currently experiencing. Since this game is fairly unplayable in its current state, this preview will be about the potential the game has and the impression it gave me so far.

Apology from JimDeadlock:

I was supposed to produce a gameplay video with commentary in this spot but I’m afraid this proved to be impossible. I played for a while and was sailing my ship on the high seas. Took a break and quit the game. Came back to find myself swimming in the middle of nowhere, no ship in sight, and perpetually drowning so could not progress any further. Fair enough, I thought, I’ll just click the ‘Delete Save’ button and start again. Trouble is, the Delete Save button doesn’t function at all. I rummaged around in my filesystem trying to find a save file to delete, without success, at which point I gave up.

This is probably for the best because during my short play time you would have witnessed broken game mechanics, performance issues and glitches galore. At time of writing this game is definitely Early Access.

Stormy Waters

First off, let me tell you of some of the issues I experienced to help put the rest of this Preview into perspective. The first thing that happened when I started the game was the main menu was a bit cheap looking and not very responsive. Some of the buttons are clearly placeholders and have no function at this time. A good example is the save erase button, I wanted to restart the game from scratch so I hit the save wipe button. Nothing happened, all my progress (what little there was) was still there. Moving on from there, the game had a few game breaking bugs. Near the end of your first quest (which is talking to people), there is a man standing near a fire. If you get too close to the fire, you will catch fire. That is an incredibly nice bit of attention to detail that the Developers put into the game and I think that was a great idea. I always enjoy a good bit of realism in my games. Truth be told, it’s kind of off-putting when you can stand right in a campfire and not be injured. The issue here is that when you enter into the dialogue with the NPC near the fire, for some reason your character often catches fire. When this happens the dialogue box becomes frozen to your screen and you can’t dismiss it or do anything at all due to the way the camera’s locked on to the NPC. This leads to a fair amount of health lost from your character as well as having to force the game closed so you can get rid of the stuck dialogue window. This issue seems to occur any time you are injured during a conversation.

Another issue is the gravity in the game. If you jump into the air, you jump decently high. You jump so high in fact that your character deploys a makeshift parachute so he can land back on the ground safely. I think that if Basketball was a thing back then that your character would likely be a different kind of Captain.

The game also lags quite badly and has massive frame rate issues regardless of the settings in the menu and the power of the machine it is being played on. The game would slow down, stutter, and actually ran so poorly that it was difficult to tell the difference between the character’s sprinting and walking. This poor framerate was particularly problematic when it came to sword fights. The sword fighting animation ran so slowly it was like watching people trying to swing their weapons through cold molasses or tar. You never really knew the outcome of the fight until someone fell down. The best way to describe it is kind of like those movies where someone does a bunch of quick movements and everyone standing around them doesn’t even realize they are dead until they kind of slowly start sliding apart. It’s like that but not nearly as cool or enjoyable to watch.

Now comes the fun part! I get to tell you all about travelling at sea, the boarding of ships, the heated sea battles, and the plundering of booty! Yep, sailing off to an adventure in the unknown and all the rest of that good stuff! I have to say that this is my very favourite part of these sorts of games. Having made it to sea, I saved my game and went to bed because it was quite late and I had work in the morning. The next day after I got home from work the moment I had waited for and anticipated all day was finally here! Time to sail around in my ship and look for trouble! I loaded my save and…. sadly, this is where my Captain’s adventure ended. For some reason when my game loaded the ship didn’t load with me. My Captain quickly found his way into the briny deep where he promptly drowned because it’s rather hard to breathe in the water. Reloading my save yielded the same results. Luckily, I wasn’t that far into the game so I could just use that handy-dandy save reset button and start over from scratch… except as I mentioned earlier, that button does nothing. It’s game over for me now and there is no way for me to progress or reset at this time. Funny thing is, this exact same thing happened to the other Save or Quit staff member who was producing a video for this game.

Over the Next Horizon

With the annoyances aside, let’s talk about the potential. I’ll remind you this is a game fresh into Early Access and is probably the most Alpha game I have ever played outside of my time of working for a game company as Quality Assurance Lead and Public Relations Manager. This game probably should not be out for the public yet, but it is flying the Early Access flag as well as the Skull and Crossbones so that makes it forgivable. The game is getting patches, at least once a week, so at least at the current time the Developer appears to be actively working on it. Assuming they keep up this pace it definitely does seem like it has the potential to shape into something quite interesting much further down the road.

One nice feature I can comment on is the fact the game is a bit of a choose your own adventure style game. Early on you can choose which faction you want to support. These actions are kind of mutually exclusive at times so a replay would be needed to see how the other options will pan out. With that kind of built-in replayability and the fact there appears to be consequences to your actions means that this may be a game you will need to spend a fair amount of time on just to see all the content. The idea of choosing the kind of person you want to be rather than being forced into just watching your life unfold is a concept that I quite enjoy.

With the world being very large, open and also shaped based on your actions, it makes it appear like Sail And Sacrifice will be quite an interesting title once it is finished. Combat taking place on both sea and land adds interest and helps shake things up a bit. If you get tired of hanging out on dry land you can swagger on down to the docks. Why not hop into your ship and set sail through the foaming waves for a new high-seas adventure? Are you playing as a pirate and spot a likely looking ship you want to plunder for its riches? Open fire before it can escape, hit it with your harpoon and hoist it into boarding range. Fight your way through the current occupants who clearly don’t know the bravery and ferocity of the person they are dealing with and take their booty as your own! Use that booty to better equip yourselves and otherwise manage your crew to ensure they remain loyal to your cause. Of course, there will always be those among you who need reminding just who is in charge around here, but you don’t really want to abuse your crew too much as you do need to ensure you keep your crew decently happy. You wouldn’t want a mutiny on your hands! The Developer also promises to have rich lore for you to enjoy as you progress through the game so that is definitely something to look forward to.

Verdict – Sink or Swim?

So, should you get Sail And Sacrifice? If you want a game that is ready to go immediately after installing, that you can play for hours on end and enjoy every moment of, then no, you should not get Sail And Sacrifice right now. If you are a fan of high-seas adventures where you get to play as a Captain of an old-style sailing ship, fending off pirates or risking life and limb to plunder additional riches then I would say, to avoid any frustration, wait and see how Sail And Sacrifice shapes up before picking it up to. If you are willing to put up with bugs and other snags caused by it being so early in its development cycle and want to support the game early on to help fund its development rather than just paying for the finished product, then yes you should pick it up. While it doesn’t run that well right now, it likely will in the future. The patches released between the time I started playing it and now have fixed a few of the issues that I experienced early on, but there is still plenty of issues remaining such as the ones I outlined above. As long as the developers keep working on it, the game has potential. Perhaps we should wait a while yet before we decide to make Sail And Sacrifice walk the plank.

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September 2018

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