Stranded Sails aims to be one of the most charming and relaxing games of the year, with an infectious mix of crafting, combat, and farming simulation elements. The survival genre is certainly having a moment right now, with games like Minecraft and Boundless paving the way for more high concept titles like Ark: Survival Evolved and Conan Exiles. Stranded Sails, the new project from Lemonbomb Entertainment, combines these intense mechanics with the more laid back approach seen in classic adventures like Harvest Moon and Stardew Valley.
Developer Lemonbomb Entertainment cut their teeth with the low key multiplayer battler, Nova Nukers, and now they're back with a more ambitious adventure that combines survival gameplay with the more relaxing world of farming simulators. Armed with a colorful art style and a suite of survival mechanics, Stranded Sails looks to combine the sensibilities of all the aforementioned games to create a unique experience that appeals to hardcore crafting connoisseurs and casual players alike. One could even think of it as akin to something like Don't Starve, but minus the roguelike elements and with the claustrophobic pressure dialed down to a much more manageable level.
At a press event held by publisher Merge Games in New York City, Screen Rant sat down with Lemonbomb co-founder and Creative Director Roman Matuszczak to play a hands-on demo of Stranded Sails, and we came away impressed with the game's inviting style and surprisingly deep mechanics. In Stranded Sails, players take on the role of the captain's son or daughter; after wrecking on a deserted island, the captain is injured and it's up to the young upstart to keep their crew alive while discovering the secrets of the cursed islands. There's plenty to discover and explore in the islands, and players will have plenty of opportunities to survive and thrive in Stranded Sails, a uniquely relaxing take on the survival genre.
Our half-hour play session with Stranded Sails showed off how the game strives to cover all the bases of the survival genre, from crafting and cooking to exploring and even fighting off scary enemies. Our adventures in the cursed isles can be seen in its entirety in the exclusive gameplay footage embedded above. The menu system is simple and intuitive, and keeping with the game's core spirit of providing depth without sacrificing accessibility. Likewise, the combat is punchy and exciting, relying on a single attack button and real-time positioning, not unlike the classic top-down Legend of Zelda games. Dodging attacks and countering with a flurry of swings is simple, but responsive and effective. It's easy to learn, but still provides a decent challenge, as can be seen in the gameplay video.
Combat is given an extra layer of depth with the stamina system. Pretty much every action costs stamina, from running and climbing to every swing of the sword. The best way to recover stamina is to eat food, which connects to Stranded Sails' cooking and farming mechanics. Many of the crew set up a small settlement on the island, resulting in a central location for players to craft items, farm crops, cook food, and otherwise prepare for excursions to the more uncharted parts of the island. Farming produces food which can be combined to create powerful dishes that replenish more stamina. It's a simple loop, but if Breath of the Wild taught us anything, it's that cooking in video games is surprisingly fun, especially when it feeds into the core adventure gameplay mechanics.
Players can also fish for food, in an entertaining fishing minigame. Relying on a rhythm-based series of timed button presses, fishing is a bit more involved, without being overly complex to the point of distraction. From crafting to fishing, farming to cooking, every mechanic is tied to an NPC, adding precious context to the adventure, and making the player feel more like they're responsible for a community, not just powering themselves up in a self-motivated power fantasy. It all builds up to make Stranded Sails a cozy and warm experience, rather than merely a series of bars to be filled as the game progresses. The visuals add to this charm, with a minimalist style evocative of 1990s 3D graphics, but without any of the technical limitations that held back the PlayStation/Sega Saturn era.
In addition to fighting and cooking, exploration plays a large role in Stranded Sails. In real life, the prospect of being trapped on a deserted island is intimidating and scary, but it's also a harbinger of grand adventure, and Stranded Sails looks to tap into that wide-eyed optimism with secrets abound and side paths aplenty to uncover and explore. The camera is fixed to an isometric perspective, which keeps the open nature of the island from getting too intimidating, and many paths are blocked off by impassable boundaries that can only be bypassed through crafting, like building a bridge to pass a massive gap. The linear storyline takes players to much of the island, but we were told there are plenty of locations that will only reveal themselves to the boldest of explorers.
Unlike many survival games these days, Stranded Sails is designed with a linear storyline in mind, which Matuszczak assures us will last players around 15-20 hours. Despite the plethora of systemic opportunities inherent in a survival game like this, some players just can't get into a game that doesn't have the context of a proper storyline, and Stranded Sails aims to keep players around for at least the duration of the story, completing quests and building up their shipwrecked community. Some players may not be interested in pursuing the post-game adventures offered by most games of this genre, but the main story should still be enough to satisfy those players. With a little luck, Lemonbomb plans to get players engaged with an entertaining and momentum-driven story, and then keep them hooked with the prospect of building up their base, growing their farm, and crafting more and more items.
Players will have the chance to explore the cursed islands for themselves when Stranded Sails launches later this fall for PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch.