26 people found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
0.0 hrs last two weeks / 30.1 hrs on record
Posted: Sep 19, 2020 @ 4:04pm
Updated: Sep 19, 2020 @ 4:41pm
Product received for free

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Stranded Sails - Explorers of the Cursed Islands is a casual survival adventure with emphasis on exploration, with additional elements of farming, crafting, fishing, cooking, and very minimal combat. The word that really comes to mind when thinking about this game is grindy so make sure you keep that thought in mind when planning to buy this game.

A crew of varied professions get sick of their daily city lives, and they set out to find a new home and a fresh beginning. Captained by your father Charles, you set out on the adventure only to be shipwrecked on these islands that have been cursed. It's up to you to lift the curse.

The game features a reasonably open world, and you can travel to any of the islands as you wish, though a bit slowly. You will have limited mobility in certain areas until a certain part of the story has been unlocked, and then more areas to explore become available at that time. Faster travel options gradually open up as well, though with limited uses by your exploration and gathered resources. You will also find ways to spend less energy to perform the same tasks, hold onto more food, run faster, etc. as you progress, but in the beginning, your limited energy will significantly limit the game's pace.

What moves the story and the game along are a linear series of quests that you just follow one after another. Most are fetch quests, some require gathering resources to craft something new, others require you to perform a specific task, and you finally unlock a few simple combat encounters about halfway through the game. There are almost no side quests to distract you aside from if you wish to fully explore some areas, to do some fishing, farming, cooking, or resource gathering, etc.

The Grind
There's nothing to this game if not for its grind. Your exploration is limited to progressively unlocked sections. Energy-limited, you will be walking slowly especially in the beginning. Your combat is minimal, but super grindy if you tackle the optional arenas. Your farming endeavors use a ton of energy and after unlocking all of the farming plots, this alone will take you quite a long time. Fishing is fairly straight forward, but it's a single button press on repeat, timed by on-screen waves, so that gets a bit tedious after a while too. Cooking food for yourself involves progressively "discovering" new recipes as you get more available ingredients. And it's a whole lot of trial and error to figure out each recipe, especially later on. The recipes you have to figure out by permutations, not just combinations.

Anyway, whatever you do, make sure you are up to the grind before you buy this game.

Farming is very simple, you will be planting within an available plot of 6x6 area, eventually unlocked to be 4 such areas all interconnected. You dig a hole, put the seed in, water, and wait for harvest. There are no rainy weather, so you have to water when the ground dries up, otherwise the plants will die after a while. Only carrots, potatoes, and onions you will get seeds back and need to replant every time, everything else will just keep bearing more fruit after you harvest. Maintenance becomes a bit easier with a better watering system, but planting/harvesting later in the game takes quite a long time.

Find a pre-determined fishing spot, cast, wait for bite, and do single button presses until the fish is reeled in. This gets easier when you get an improved rod, but still there are things that are hard to fish out even at the end of the game.

There are two different aspects of cooking. One is figuring out recipes for yourself, so that you can carry some food on your adventures to replenish energy when needed. As mentioned above the recipes you need to figure out as new ingredients become available. HINT: It's best to go try to blunder through recipes after finding each new cooking ingredient, otherwise you will have a lot of empty recipes and it takes a lot longer. I really wish you need to only figure out the ingredients, not also the permutations, this is the worst when it comes to 4-ingredient recipes.

The other aspect of cooking is making stew for the crew. There's a bit pot of stew that you can make with whatever ingredients that you have to please your crew. You use at least 3 ingredients and if the associated member likes it, you will a full bar contribution toward the next happiness level. Otherwise, they will give you half bar. Eight full bars equals a new level of hapiness, and this gradually unlocks things that will help you on your adventures as well.

Crew Happiness
As mentioned above, the happiness levels increase as you make more stew for your crew. And this will unlock more optional aspects of the game, sometimes it's helpful for your adventures, so it's worthwhile to do.

There is also a separate component where you decorate your crew members' homes in order to unlock passives that also help your adventuring. These are also helpful and worthwhile. If you raise everyone's happiness with the decorations to full level, you unlock an alternative ending to the game at the end as well.

Crafting, As Needed
Crafting is minimal in this game, primarily it's used to prepare different materials to build more things. This is simple and not very involved.

Combat, Easy But Repetitive
Combat is easy. It's action combat but the only fights you have to do in-game for moving the story along is very simple. The combat gets more tedious as you fight in the combat arenas for some optional content.

Casual Nature
There's nothing but casual strolling and easy quest completion in this game. Not a single part of this game is hard. You just end up going through the grind, again, and again, and again.

Areas to Improve (Sept 2020 Build)
1. Early game energy usage still feels too punishing, to the point that wasting time to walk is preferable to running. This gets old fast.
2. Late game farming could use more automation, auto-irrigation and batch-harvesting would be awesome.
3. In-cave areas do not have any kind of mapping system. There are a couple of islands where the cave systems are a bit convoluted and would benefit from auto-mapping.
4. Combat involves swinging the sword left, and swinging the sword right, using a single button. I wish the combat is more interesting. I understand it's casual to involve more audience members, but at least give a bit more difficulty to the optional combat arenas.
5. Would love to see the recipe discovery not require permutations. If ingredients A, B, C, and D make up a recipe, so should A, D, C, and B.
6. Crew members' shacks/homes are really small in some cases to make them look good with all of the decorates/furniture to get to full level. Would be nice to be able to actually have enough space to make the space look better.
7. Would be nice to have favorite selections for stew making. Currently you need to drag each ingredient in every time. (I find myself making the same stew almost all of the time.)

Stranded Sails - Explorers of the Cursed Islands offers casual fun with linear story progression and a series of quests from beginning to end that has minimal required combat. It's adorable and has nice music, and the gameplay is easy to understand and to get into. The game is very grind heavy and could still use some improvements.

Score: 7/10

I received the product for free. I did not receive any compensation to write this review. The opinions represented here are entirely my own and were not influenced in any way.
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Rhyagelle Sep 19, 2020 @ 6:00pm 
Game looks really cool, hopefully it goes on sale during the Winter Sale.
FruitNDoggie Sep 19, 2020 @ 5:34pm 
This sounds like a decent game. Might have to try it myself.
YQMaoski Sep 19, 2020 @ 4:41pm 
@janner, thanks, I do think it's a fun grind in general. I felt that the combat arenas were just a bit too slow paced and repetitive though, getting those achievements took a bit of time. Rowing across the ocean was always a nice relaxing time.

@Dohi, I don't know what it looked like before, but the version I played was after the foundations update. Their news/announcement about a month ago on August 18, 2020 seems to indicate that they used user feedback to work on different aspects of the game. I will see if eventually this gets better. As it stands, it is a fine game I think, but could be better still. I wouldn't have put in 30 hours if I were not having fun. It's just a casual grind.
Dohi64 Sep 19, 2020 @ 4:32pm 
only tried the demo, was really lacking, but they've been workin on it and had a bunch of improvements. they don't seem to care about beta feedback based on this and another game I helped test for them, so they have all this negativity around release, but it's their own doing.

anyway, been waiting for your review and it seems like it's still not worth half price, but another bigger update is coming soon, so it's gonna need some updating.
janner66 Sep 19, 2020 @ 4:24pm 
Nice review.
It's a fun grind though. I never felt it was too tedious. I never got tired of rowing across the sea. It was very well done.
It's a very easy and relaxing survival game with very cute characters.