Developer: Zen Studios
Publisher: Zen Studios
Download size: 2.47GB
Genre: A tactical turn-based RPG with roguelike elements
Reviewed on PS4 Pro
Also available on Steam, Xbox One, P.C., and Nintendo Switch
Dread Nautical Review
“A simple and interesting tactical turn-based RPG with simple flaws.”
From the Hungarian video game developer Zen Studios, known for titles like Pinball F.X., Zen Pinball, Marvel Pinball, or CastleStorm, comes a tactical turn-based RPG out of their comfort zone called Dread Nautical.
Dread Nautical starts as an exciting story about a stranded cruiser with zombie-like creatures inspired from Lovecraft, that come from another dimension through portals, with this concept, you’ll have to look, and befriend other survivors to join your trip around the cruiser to survive, and find a way out.
As exciting as it sounds, most of the time all that the story has to offer is a setting with characters, that feel like empty archetypes rather than survivors, to earn their trust you have to fill a bar of reputation through talking and choosing dialogues which feel random and are too simple to make the storytelling any engaging, it does feel trivial, and contributes nothing to the overall storytelling which is as simple as it comes.
With a simplistic, yet charming, art approach Dread Nautical is a nice-looking game with colorful scenarios, and well-differentiated characters, but this came with a problem, this kind of attitude doesn’t add to the survival thematic the game is aiming to achieve, instead of surrounding the game with a lack of illumination. Other visual elements that would make the atmosphere of the game more horror-like its bright colors don’t allow the atmosphere to be any close to being terrifying and its repetitive rooms make it boring after a couple of hours.
Dread Nautical was initially developed for Apple Arcade, iOS devices, so it’s gameplay with a controller feels uncomfortable since it was intended that the player was going to be touching the screen to do all actions, but here it costs to get used to, and you’ll inevitably make some unintended moves around resulting in your dead and making the game frustrating.
Despite that, the combat system itself is simple yet effective, having to move around your character and partners individually, equipping weapons, health, and protecting yourself with a great variety and variations of the equipment mentioned before, it becomes engaging and rewarding. The game manages to keep adding new enemies with different stats and move sets, so you are seeing new content all the time, and yet, the level design, while charming as stated before, makes it all as a whole feel repetitive since no matter how far you go, each level feels like an extension of the previous scenario rather than another floor, especially the elevator and “horn” room which are the same each time.
Difficulty and replayability:
As a proper tactical turn-based game, each time something new shows up you have a small tutorial on how to use certain things, at the very beginning the game has a well-marked difficulty curve, where you keep learning new things for a while but sadly reaches a point where it becomes frustrating.
As much as the game doesn’t feel like it lacks content, you are eventually going to run out of resources, and equipment so you will end up being forced to revisit previous areas to keep progressing, making the game frustrating in the process.
If you manage to finish it and feel like replaying it, having four different main characters with different abilities to choose, and scenarios that are randomly spread, and even the addition of difficulty related trophies are some great reasons to revisit it.
P.D.: Played on normal difficulty
In conclusion, Dread Nautical is an entertaining game with engaging tactical turn-based combat with a lot of content, which sadly feels limited as a whole due to the repetitive level design and grinding mechanics that end up making it a frustrating experience.