Stranded Sails: Explorers of the Cursed Islands Review
Lemonbomb Entertainment looks to add their own colorful spin to the world of farming and exploration with the charming world of Stranded Sails: Explorers of the Cursed Islands. With the likes of Yonder, Stardew Valley, and My Time at Portia reinvigorating the genre with fresh ideas and new, creative directions, does Stranded Sails offer than same level of innovation, or is this better left out at sea?
Stranded Sails: Explorers Of The Cursed Islands Review
Stranded Sails: Explorers of the Cursed Islands is, as its base level, a simplistic, relaxed, and approachable game that sticks to the core foundations of the farming and exploration genre without pushing too hard to reach new shores. If you’re searching for something new, something deeper, or something more complex, you won’t find a lot of that here. However, for those looking for a calming, easy to understand exploration adventure, Stranded Sails has plenty to offer.
Stranded Sails begins as you and your companions shipwreck on a small island. Scavenging for supplies, locating and rescuing your crew members, and building up a small base of operations takes much of your initial time before you begin exploring other nearby islands and discovering the root of the curse that claims these lands. The story is basic and doesn’t offer much in terms of complexity, but it’s easy to follow and often charming in a simple way.
The games two main attractions, farming and exploration, are featured heavily throughout. However, both never really seem to hit a chorus. Every activity, every action, even walking around camp, takes up stamina. This stamina is recovered through resting or eating food. The entire game revolves around farming crops to discover better food recipes, which allows the player to explore further distances from camp and obtain more useful ingredients.
While this basic concept often left me wanting, the complex nature of other games in the genre can be equally off-putting for other potential players. Recipes and exploration are simplified; it’s all very easy to understand and very easy to follow.
As foundation mechanics, these are not inherently bad. They are present in some of the genres most beloved games, but unfortunately in Stranded Sails, that’s all it is – a foundation. I failed to find any real substance to much of the late game activities. A few hours into the game, I had recipes that offered enough stamina to explore anywhere the story sent me, leaving the latter farming feeling unrewarding and unnecessary.
This frustration is further amplified by the poor objective design of the main story. A single objective tasked me with finding an item on one of the distant islands. After 10-15 minutes of farming and gathering crops, I’d fill up my food satchel with meals and set on my way. Traveling between each island is as simple as jumping into a row boat, holding a single button and waiting until you arrive. After the dull journey, I arrive on the island, exploring each area to find new farming ingredients and. eventually, my quest objective.
After gathering a few more ingredients, I return home using the in-game fast travel, deliver the quest item, and receive another quest sending me to the same island to find another item, an item that isn’t visible until you physically have the quest objective. In a game that struggles to stretch to the 15-20 hour mark, having this repetitive design cemented into the main narrative time and time again, made much of the experience a total disappointment.
Stranded Sails struggles with many aspects of rewarding players for their efforts. In the early stages of the game, there’s a flurry of obstacles, problems, and frustrating design choices, only for solutions to these problems to appear much later in the game. Certain aspects of this design direction work well and are often a staple of the genre, such as unlocking bigger areas for farming or obtaining better tools to speed up menial tasks. However, the level design is another matter.
Shortcuts are unlocked during the latter stages, by which point you’ve exhausted the majority of the quests anyway and already wasted hours of time just walking between areas. If there’s a single defining aspect of the rewards mechanics that carries a positive direction, it’s cooking up a stew. You’re able to toss a bunch of ingredients into a large cooking pot, a social hub of grub for you and your companions. As you stir up more stews, your allies provide you with rewards. This is the bulk of progression, as practically all advancements at camp or with tools happen within this feature. While I found it too basic for my liking, it’s a refreshing design idea. It removes any level of frustration from the average digging around multiple side quests and reward avenues for a single item you desire, replacing it with an easy to discover progression system that’s both simple and understanding.
It would have been a more positive experience without half the progression rewards and better quality of life design at the home base. Instead, developer Lemonbomb Entertainment has seemingly created needless problems, only to later offer solutions disguised as a reward for players.
Stranded Sails does feature a combat system, one that is centered around making single attacks and retreating to avoid enemy attacks. It’s very basic, but it works well. The collision detection is solid and visually accurate. It’s definitely not a focus of the game, as it only appears towards the later chapters of the story.
Stranded Sails: Explorers of the Cursed Islands is a solid entry into the farming and exploration space, and a perfect entry level title for younger gamers or those new to the genre. Its simplicity helps it stand out in the crowd, but not always for the best reasons.
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