Reviews - Updated on April 15, 2022

Let’s swim wherever we want. That’s what a ship is, you know? Not just a keel, deck and sails, although it is impossible without them. Indeed, the ship, the Black Pearl, is freedom.

Captain Jack Sparrow, feature film “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” (2003)

More than once, Captain Jack Sparrow left the Black Pearl. The legendary pirate of the Spanish Maine and the Antilles for most of the epic is deprived of a team and a seat at the helm. And bad circumstances did not spoil the fantastic adventure. The young British studio Fireblade Software has given this fact exceptional significance, having prepared for PC players in 2017 an exotic naval odyssey with hardcore micromanagement in the spirit of FTL: Faster Than Light (including permanent death), features of the open world exploration from Sunless Sea, a tactical setting in style of Age of Sails and spectacular battles of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag.

The ships came together side by side, and the battle began.

“Abandon the ship!”

So the call of Abandon ship, dooming the navigator to troubles, is translated! The developers chose a gloomy name for a reason. Unlike domestic Corsairs, where a ship slain by enemies sinks to the bottom and cries for the last save, in Abandon Ship the captain can save himself and start from scratch. Just like in the scene of the first “Pirates of the Caribbean” with the familiar hero riding on the mast of a tiny tartan in the bay of Port Royal. No ship, no crew, no money – only the glory of the captain. Adventure begins!

So that no one casts a skeptical look at the next “indie from a young studio”, let’s get to know the developers better. Fireblade Software is led by Gary Burchall. For more than thirteen years he worked at the notorious company Climax Studios (including producing Assassin’s Creed Chronicles). Under his leadership, the same veterans: programmer, composer, sound engineer, artist and visualizer – only six people.

Gary has a passion for sailing and was once a fan of the acclaimed FTL: Faster Than Light with its detailed space cruiser controls. A year earlier, other enthusiasts tried to combine sea romance with roguelike in the crowdfunded two-dimensional Seaworthy. Pirate fishing in the most brutal detail – with bloody battles, severed limbs, sea monsters, dangerous shoals, diseases, hunger and other rubbish. Sounds good, agree. Only the developers failed to attract enough attention. The terrible visual style in 2D interfered. Funding failed.

Islands, ports and seas are randomly generated every new game.

And what about Captain Salazar?

The history of Abandon Ship was built taking into account the mistakes of a competitor and takes its countdown from December 2015. Then the first logistical documentation was formed with a detailed business model and related logistics. The most necessary and at the same time frustrating part of the development, as Gary notes, without going into particular the initial funding of the project. Last winter, they made several prototypes of naval battles and chose the only option they liked – with an isometric camera angle for easy deck control and a procedural global map generator.

In November, a trailer with a demonstration of the work done went to the masses. Subtly animated action with a delightful oil painting effect accompanied by an expressive dramatic melody. The sailor’s story is thoroughly saturated with the romance of pirate adventures: “Let my message become an proclamation. I owned the ship. Sailed in famous and unknown seas. He crushed and conquered his enemies. But the world is a cruel place. He sends ferocious storms and excites the horror of the deep sea. And there is always someone stronger than you. But the death of the ship did not solve my story. I am the captain. And I will be it as long as I am alive, as long as hope still burns!

The developers’ ambitions are indeed encouraging. After Black Flag and Rogue, how many sea-salted games about filibusters and sailboats have we seen? Clumsy Raven’s Cry, perhaps. It is hardly worth putting it in the same family as the large-scale Corsairs and the talented Sid Meier’s Pirates! Maybe then a pig in a poke – Sea of ​​Thieves? Yes, its concept changes almost every day (Rare is still not really decided, and the release is next year). Fireblade Software now has a wonderful opportunity to carve out a niche as Pirates of the Caribbean returns to theaters with an episode about the treacherous Captain Salazar.

Marine romance in oil painting

The appeal of Abandon Ship is hidden in its artistic design and expressiveness. The main bet is on the style of paintings by such marine painters as William Turner (that’s where you got caught when you imagined the wrong Turner!), Ivan Aivazovsky, Willem van de Velde, and so on. But the technology for rendering such an image turned out to be extremely complex. No one agreed to bring it to life. All familiar art specialists warned that the lack of examples with such graphics on the market indicates the impossibility of its implementation in the engine.

But it’s true, even the expensive Pirates of the Caribbean: Armada of the Damned (now frozen) turned out to be beyond the power of oil paints – they were used only to demonstrate the sea surface and landscapes. The dream of Gary and his associates was made possible by winning the second UK Games Fund grant from the UK government. With the funds they received, they were lucky to find impeccable performers.

If you imagine the revived masterpieces of marine painters, then you will get the picture from Abandon Ship. Smooth flow of reflections and colors, a unique play of light and shadows, contrasting glare disappearing in the depths of the sea… The authors built a massive matrix of mixing weather conditions and the state of the water surface with a direct impact on the gameplay (fire from lightning, people overboard after a big wave). Of course, art will be the strongest side of the project. But the authors are not going to lag behind on other fronts either.

One of the scenes in the trailer is an attack by a pirate three-deck frigate out of the fog. Fireblade Software is very familiar with Patrick O’Brian’s series of books about Captain Jack Aubrey and Dr. Stephen Maturin and, of course, with Peter Weir’s movie Master and Commander: At the End of the Earth based on these works. From his prologue, an intense battle in the dark was borrowed. Gary himself even says that Abandon Ship is more “Master and Commander” than “Pirates of the Caribbean”. No fantasy or ghosts. Although the presence of monsters in the ocean he considers plausible. After all, once upon a time giant lizards trampled on our planet.

Sea monsters are a completely plausible legend, the developers say.

Captain on the brink of permanent death

The admiration of landscapes and the romance of traveling through uncharted seas intersect with the need to survive. Any careless step – and you’re dead. Once and for all, the accumulated skills, the explored world, treasures, safe paths, quests, and so on are lost. Every new game generates everything from scratch. You’ll recognize the North Atlantic only by its rocks, icebergs, and crappy weather, while the Caribbean by its white beaches and rainforest. No existing map from the real world will help.

Abandon Ship inspires fear at the sight of any sail on the horizon. For every battle here is on the verge of defeat. Skillful sailors, full ammunition, the impeccable condition of the ship and superstructure, of course, lure victory. There are simply no guarantees that at the peak of his fame, the captain will not be struck down by a stray cannonball or an explosion in a powder magazine. But there are chances to deceive death. Having lost everything, the daring sea wolf in the middle of the ocean or on the shallows will trust chance – game events will not pass by. This moment was perfectly captured by Captain Red at the beginning of the 1986 film Pirates by director Roman Polanski.

Having overcome all the difficulties and having reached the port, the players will look after themselves a new ship and people in the ship’s crew. These are the worst conditions against the background of the previous ones, but with a “pumped” captain. Abandoned quests, old friends and hardened enemies will point the next course. The developers tried to make any local activities useful. If you are puzzled by the search for a good navigator, then if successful, sea crossings will be forced, and the risk of running aground will decrease. A recruited well-aimed gunner in the next battle will send a scattering of shells without a single miss. Pistols and sabers will allow you to perform enchanting boardings in the future and catch more prey from merchants. Do you get the gist?

The team itself is a bunch of crooked-handed fools. If a cabin boy is put on carpentry work, then the very first hole will drag the ship to the bottom. In the course of the adventure, the player is free to bring down all this rabble into a deadly fist and train in battles. Abandon Ship does not limit you to the story and quests – everyone is free to drop everything and become an ocean legend that hangs out with the devil himself and drinks a barrel of rum for breakfast. Or, on the contrary, become famous as a moral filibuster and fight for righteous causes, saving the suffering.

Sudden attack from the fog in the best traditions of the feature film “Master and Commander: At the End of the Earth”.

***

Fireblade Software has every chance of success. Players are hungry for a pirate adventure. The success of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag in 2013 showed this. Loved by millions, the concept of FTL: Faster Than Light will clearly benefit the genre. Exploring the far corners of the universe and piloting a spaceship is in many ways similar to conquering uncharted seas on a creaky sailboat. In both cases, we assemble a team, surf the endless expanses in search of our treasure, fear the elements and overcome enemies. Only overboard are other landscapes. And in the sea they are much more penetrating than the cold blackness of space.

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