Avast, matey! Ye 'ave stumbled upon our review o' a game that there be set amongst the 'igh seas. It be a tale o' naval combat, exploration an' shiny treasure booty. Ok, that's enough. With the recent House of Indies event held by Nintendo in leadup to Christmas, Sail Forth was one of a few games that suddenly launched on the eShop the very same day. Being initially launched in an Indie World presentation back in 2021, Sail Forth has been a long time coming, so let's set sail together!
Sail Forth delivers on all that it promises: a cozy free-roaming seafarer adventure where you can take to the seas and make it your own. As you continue to undertake quests, you'll unlock new boats, upgrades and technologies to turn your small starter boat akin to The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker's King of Red Lions to a fleet akin to what we're likely to see in the upcoming Skull and Bones (well, perhaps not that large a fleet, but it feels like that when you consider what you start off with). The gameplay loop becomes awfully addictive, leading you to always wanting to go just one more island before putting the Nintendo Switch down at bedtime.
One thing that's guaranteed for all sea-faring games is that there are sure to be a few eccentric characters. While some character models may be recycled a tad too often, the dialogue is swashbucklingly gleeful with odd quips about marine life below the waves and endearing character quirks. It's charming, well implemented and sure to bring smiles to many players' faces.
Between the two games I recently compared Sail Forth to, in terms of its visual aesthetics, it certainly leans heavily towards the GameCube classic's art direction. It's use of brightly bold colours not only helps to keep faraway islands and points of interests easy to distinguish but also, like The Wind Waker, it's visually pleasing and will be sure to age just as well.
- Addictive exploration and shipbuilding
- Swashbucklingly good humour
- Gorgeous cartoon sea-faring art style
While Sail Forth's gameplay is relatively simple, the tutorials (or sometimes lack thereof) seem to cause confusion where there does not need to be. But what I mostly seemed to struggle with was wrapping my head around how to progress. You'll start in one area and will find a new area north to move onward, and yet from here, finding where to go next isn't so simple. After random trial and error, I've deduced that you can be pointed towards new areas by one of three ways: with the help of NPCs for the sake of side quests, reeling in a message in a bottle while fishing or when all hope seems lost, sale outside of the map where it will then zoom out and you might be able to see some islands in any given direction. It all feels a little obtuse and in regards to the third method, while I could commend the game on encouraging that feeling of blindly sailing into the horizon in the hopes of finding land, it doesn't quite translate well here and may discourage players early on in the game's runtime before they get to see some of its highlights.
Recently, there has been a lot of buzzing conversation around the future possibilities of AI in video games, but Sail Forth makes me think that standard AI tools in game engines perhaps aren't as straightforward as one would hope. In Sail Forth, you can purchase new boats and use your old boats as additional boats within your fleet. And while these boats can sometimes be the difference between life and death, boy they can be a little dumb sometimes! I've lost count of the amount of times one of the boats would simply make a right turn and bee-line directly into the side of my ship, damaging not only my ship but their ship as well. I'm not a developer but I can assume this could be fixed in a future update, however as the game stands at the time of this review, it's quite an unnecessary frustration that seems to happen time and time again.
When all is said and done, the one thing to love about sea-faring adventures set in the age of pirates is the world and lore that's built around it; and sadly, Sail Forth feels like it's set in a world with little thought put into it. Of course, one does have to remember that indie games are made with much smaller teams (and budgets) than what we players may have grown accustomed to from big AAA developers, but a game such as this just feels a bit lifeless without what we all know it could (and perhaps should) have featured.
- Poor tutorials and strange progression
- Questionable fleet AI
- Limited world-building and lore
Final Score: 6/10
I did enjoy my time with Sail Forth, don't get me wrong, but when all was said and done, I just felt it to be overall lucklustre compared to what could have perhaps been my unfair expectations leading up to launch. When I stop to think about all that I enjoyed about the game, I'll certainly crack a cheeky grin, but that grin will slowly begin to fade as my memories of progression confusion and my ship being suddenly T-boned by an ally ship begin to creep back in.
Thank you for checking out our Sail Forth Switch review, thank you to The Quantum Astrophysicists Guild for providing the review code and thank you to our Patreon Backers for their ongoing support: