Stranded Sails - Explorers of the Cursed Islands Review

Thanks to PR for the code

Life on the Ocean Wave

Stranded Sails: Explorers of the Cursed Islands is an action-adventure game, viewed from an isometric 3d perspective and full of charm and nice character design. You're cast in the role of the son or daughter of a famous ship captain.

After a brief and simple tutorial you're off to pastures new.

Only things don't go to plan and you find yourself shipwrecked, alone and lost on a small island. It doesn't take long to meet up with one of the crew and eventually find the wreck of your father's vessel.

I'm not going to talk much story beyond this point, suffice it to say that you're going to have your work cut out for you to bring your crew together and make a functioning base camp from which you can explore a group of diverse islands.

Day in/Day out Energy

One thing that might grate on your nerves a little with Stranded Sails is the energy management system of your character. Everything you do consumes a little bit of your daily oomph, that energy which keeps you going, allows you to explore the islands and do tasks like farming and fishing. Even just walking is going to drain that meter (don't think about sprinting unless you want to really see how fast you go from full to zero).

You can cook meals to help you go for longer, but at the start you're only able to carry around 3 meals with you so you've got to be careful until you can upgrade and carry more.

This particular aspect of the game might put a few of you off, but it's very reminiscent to things like Stardew Valley, My Time at Portia and so on. All of these farm/life-style simulations and adventure games share this common theme - only Stranded Sails is a tad more aggressive when it comes to eating your meter.

You can rest in your cabin and that will get your energy back, also advance time, and allow any crops to grow. If you do run out of energy then you'll be spirited back to your cabin and have to rest to get it back.

So always make sure you have enough food on you when out and about.

Camp Life

You're a bit of a hero right, a crafter and a bit of a farmer. As you follow the story missions, and rescue the crew you'll begin to unlock various bonuses for your camp and this helps you get further and further into the game's other islands.

You'll learn how to cook meals for yourself, and for the crew.

Stew for the Crew is the way you're going to get tool upgrades and camp upgrades, you need to concentrate on this early on. You'll need to throw ingredients into the big pot and hope that your crew likes what you gave them, if they love it, they'll give you a big boost and you can make a note of what ingredient they like the best. As you level the stew, more tool upgrades unlock and even short-cuts for your camp allowing you to get where you want to go quicker.

Of course these upgrades don't come for free, and you'll need to find the materials (or craft them from basics) to build the upgrade. This is a little grindy and I feel that the materials you get from the other islands aren't really enough to get decent upgrades without repeated trips.

You'll also want to work on your farm. By using your shovel you can often dig up ingredients around the islands, get the seeds and bring them back to the farm. Then you'll be able to slowly cultivate more and more ingredients for your own personal energy restoring/buff giving meals as well as the super-energy restoring Stew for the Crew.

Farming in the game is simple. Dig soil, plant seed, water regularly and harvest. Some things like tomatoes are crops you can leave to grow repeatedly; others must be dug back out and replanted from the seeds to get them to grow again.

Your crops will wither and die if you leave them parched for too long, so you will definitely want to balance exploration with basic camp duties like farming to get the best out of your experience. I can't verify if crops do grow offline by the way, but I did leave the game alone for a few days and came back to find that after a recent update some crops had withered and a few patches had actually vanished. I'm not sure what happened here by the way, so you may need to experiment yourself.

Exploring the Islands

Once you have some meals to take with you, cooked using the things you grow, you can venture out in your rowboat (rowing devours your energy, especially with big waves) and explore the other islands for materials, crew, secrets and other plants/food that you can bring back with you and use in camp. This gameplay loop is fun, marred a little by the quick drain on your energy. Exploration is going to take you a long time, many repeated trips across the ocean and in some cases you'll only get a handful of materials for your troubles.

The good news is that food only restores your meter, and you don't need it for any survival based mechanics - your character won't go hungry for example.

Each island is a hub of secrets and things to find, especially in terms of the story when it really gets going. I'm not going to say much more than that though.

3D Paradise

The isometric camera, art style and the graphical presentation of the game are solid, there's a nice feel to it and it runs smoothly on the Xbox One X. There's not much to tax the console in the game of course, but what's there is cartoon-like and fun with lots of bright vibrant colours. The animations are good too, and there's a lot of character to the game world.

Parrot Sound

Sound is minimal, there's no voice acting per-se and the game delivers some nice ambient audio as you wander around the islands.

Sea of Fable

The soundtrack is minimal and works nicely, in places it sounds to me like musical cues have been taken from the likes of Fable and it's pleasing enough.

Save Anywhere

In a society where people have less and less time, it's nice to see the developers embrace a regular auto-save and a solid save-anywhere system to the game.

Single Crew Adventure

There is no multiplayer here; this is a single crew adventure with no micro-transactions or anything else - just a game. A pretty good game at that, though before the previous update I did have a few crashes that brought the game to the console home screen. These seem to have been fixed now and apart from this, there are no other issues that I can report.

All in all this is a pretty neat game that I can recommend if you want a Stardew Valley style game, with a trimmed down feature list and some decent exploration presented as an action adventure title.

Solid stuff.