Dread Nautical by Zen Studios is a tactical turn-based RPG that incorporates roguelike and survival elements into the mix to create an interesting horror-themed game. Find out more in our Dread Nautical review!
The game’s introduction shows you a ship, the Hope, sailing around while a deep, gritty voice speaks about you being one of the passengers of the ship, as it transports you into the realm of the dread. After that, once you take control of your character, who wakes up in a bit of a panic, you’ll meet with Jed, the man who rescued you. Completing the objectives of the first day will eventually have you sound a foghorn, only to collapse on the floor because of the sound. As you wake up on day two, back in the room you were in on the first day you’ll again speak with Jed about what happened the day before, only to be told that after so many days of doing the same thing over and over again, it’s the first time you actually remember, which sparks some hope in trying to find a way out of this.
The game plays from an isometric perspective, and you’ll navigate procedurally generated rooms on the ship. You can investigate different things like lockers or piles of rumbles to try and gather scraps, food, and weapons, which will all aid you on your journey. Once you find things you’d like to carry, you’ll have to select with the left and right arrows in which of your inventory spots you’d like to place it, as you have minimal space. Depending on the survivor you choose when you start the game, there’s a choice of four, you’ll be able to carry from three to five items. Considering you’ll probably want a weapon and healing items, it doesn’t leave much room for other stuff.
You’ll eventually, sooner than later, encounter some enemies, and the game will switch to the turn-based mode. Here, the formula is pretty well known for people who’ve played tactical games like this before. You have a certain number of Action Points, and every action you do consumes points. Whether it’s moving, attacking, or using an item, they all use those points, and once you have no more, it’s your enemies’ turn. To add up to the things to consider, using your items will deplete their durability, meaning you’ll have to repair them when you’re back with Jed.
At the end of your day, you’ll have an overview of the food and scraps you found, and you’ll be presented with a menu to manage your resources. A hunger bar will be displayed for you and other survivors you might have recruited, and you’ll be able to feed them if you have food. Beware, though, because hungry survivors will be slower in battles and might even lose some health. Back in the midship lobby, you’ll eventually be able to repair and upgrade what you’ve scavenged with the scraps you have, but here things will also have to be chosen wisely, as you don’t have unlimited scraps available.
Visually, the game has a great cartoonish look and feel with some colorful characters and rooms. But even with that kind of look, the game is still able to present a very tense atmosphere with the monsters you encounter as you find your way in the ship. It’s an unlikely combination that manages to find a way to work.
As I started the game, I got to choose from one of the three difficulties, with Normal being the easiest one as it lets you preserve your gear and stash if you die. Insane, on the other hand, has you lose everything and restart over if you die. Since I’m not an expert in tactical games, I selected Normal. After that, I chose my survivor out of the four available, which have different skills, health, action points, and inventory capacity. With that, I was all set to have some fun!
The first day started out pretty smoothly, but things got more interesting as I continued playing. I really liked how the game blends in the tactical part for the combat and the survival aspect of gathering resources and feeding your people. Once you get a bit deeper into it, you’ll realize that you sometimes have to choose between gathering some food or leaving someone to be hungry since you want to avoid fights. With limited item durability and scraps you find, you can’t just go at every enemy you see, so there’s a lot of fun to have just in managing how you choose to play your game.
I was a bit surprised to see this game had no Platinum trophy, but I quickly found myself happy with the idea, as tactical RPGs like this tend to have incredibly challenging trophy lists that are incredibly hard when you’re no expert. Instead, I set my mind on simply enjoying the atmosphere and the gameplay it had to offer.
Dread Nautical has been a pleasant surprise for me, as I found it did a really good job of mixing in the tactical and survival aspects together for a very interesting release on PlayStation 4. With the different characters to choose from and the choices to make to recruit, or not, other survivors, there’s also a good replay value for fans of the genre.
This Dread Nautical review is based on a PlayStation 4 copy provided by Zen Studios.