Preview: The Great Whale Road
The Great Whale Road is a tactical-RPG with a simulation-management side to it. Players will be controlling the master of a ship with its crew and sail up along the coasts of the Nordic countries, to gather enough materials, ressources and produce to help his village to survive the harsh winter. Yes, Winter is coming and like all ancient Nord history, trade (and raids) were the only way to survive.
By base players will play the game in two stages: the first one is the village management and second one is the exploration side (which has its own combat). In the village, in preparation for the winter, you are tasked with the harsh decisions that every chef needs to deal with such as assigning your people to farming the lands, or maybe just focus on hunting. That’s the thing, with a limited amount of villager you can assign, your preparations for the winter can change to better fit your exploration stage; are you going to explore lands filled with merchants? Then focus on produce so you can trade and collect silver. But let’s not forget that your village still needs meat and food to survive through the winter as well.
Once your setup is done, winter comes and you are faced by 4-5 critical choices throughout the winter, which are usually based a bit on the job assigned to your villagers, and remind me a lot of Oregon Trail. You see, these choices will ask of you to be logical, such as after hearing rumors of a plague hitting animals, you can either pray to the gods, offer sacrifices to another deity or just get rid of your whole herd. Nothing groundbreaking to be honest, and most of the choices happened again the year after.
Now once Winter passed, you are now free to explore the Great Whale Road (thus the logical name of the game), which is a sea path between villages. Like with the village sequence, some choices to take such as helping drifters or not, scared of their diseases, or even decide which island or coast to anchor your ship. Visits to these numerous villages are mostly peaceful, with simple mechanics to the trade of your goods depending on the needs of each region, but some other areas are more hostile than others, and that’s where the combat part of the game comes in.
A bit influenced by the Banner Saga, the combat is done via a tactical-RPG turn based format, on hexagonal maps with a card system that provides various bonus as well as unleashing your own troops on the field. The title is meant to be relatively faithful to the historic perspective in terms of equipment and propose to fight up to 8 people in the map. The concept is you can attack with one of your characters when you are in range, and each hit has chance to hit than differs from each character. To finish and complete these battles, you’ll have to either defeat all enemies or just their leader. Watch out though, as a loss will force you to retreat, and have your team waste couple of days worth of exploration recuperating and fixing their wounds instead.
On the point of view of the art direction, I believe it’s what The Great Whale Road should be mostly proud of. Everything feels like it was hand-painted by hand with watercolors, and although very beautiful to look at, it is also quite simplistic in all the good ways. Instead of wasting time adding extra “graphical oomph”, the developers put all their love into making these regions and animations look as if they came out of a Dennis Calero’s Vikings comics.
If anything The Great Whale Road is a good “survival” strategy game, and I look forward to try the full version as it slowly and gradully gets build via Steam Early Access, and allow me to try the two other factions in the game, and the planned multiplayer elements.
The Great Whale Road was previewed using a PC downloadable copy of the game provided by Sunburned Games, and is currently available to preorder or back up via Steam Early Access. The game was tested on a PC running Windows 10 Pro, with a 4GB NVIDIA Geforce GTX 960 fitted on a 5th Generation Intel i7 4720HQ 3.2Ghz CPU and topped with 16GB of RAM, as well as on a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 for Touch Screen controls. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published