Game: The Great Whale Road
Developer: Sunburned Games
Publisher: Sunburned Games
For a game that’s been in conceptual development since 2015, The Great Whale Road offers a surprisingly wholesome look at life in the Middle Ages. With my collected knowledge, the best way I can describe it to you is Game of Thrones meets Moon Hunters with a dollop of turn-based action, and if you’re going into this expecting a typical isometric strategy game where you play God with the fates of individual units, think again. While The Great Whale Road certainly incorporates strategic aspects, it is turn-based, and because of this and its bookish approach, it proceeds at a much slower pace; The good majority of gameplay is comprised of making choices of consequence, in true Telltale fashion, which should be an absolute treat if you enjoy narrative-dense RPG games.
An insane level of detail has been poured into the management side of the game, which covers parameters like food (hunting, husbandry, farming), war (warfare, diplomacy, craftsmanship) and overall happiness levels, which is not only impressive from a game design perspective, but also a delightful manner in which to keep players endlessly ensnared in this tribute to the Middle Ages. The detail is multi-layered, extending to adventure stats (health, endurance, morale), battle stats and personality traits, which all come with their own modifiers and are affected positively or negatively depending on your actions. Combat, in my experience, is a simple yet essential gear within the entire mechanism of The Great Whale Road, reinventing player immersion through its various hero classes, each of whom comes with different abilities of varying efficacy, such as slash, pierce, and blunt attacks. And whence thou dieth in thy campaign for justice, the friendly local tavern is always nearby, offering the endurance benefits of fresh ale. That’s not an endorsement for alcohol, mind you.
Aesthetically, The Great Whale Road’s character design and environment art are seemly; The muted colour scheme agrees with the Northern setting, and captures the bleakness of the impending winter. However, overall things could perhaps benefit from a bit more polish. Visuals certainly aren’t (always) the most important aspect of a game, and especially not when the focus of gameplay is already so diverse, but during my playthrough I found myself craving more lush map textures, and more detail invested into character portraits so I can really bask in the beauty of the artistry. What gathers those loose ends and catapults The Great Whale Road into awesome territory is its music – a light folk flavoured collection of tracks featuring violin, harpsichord, bespeckled by the cries of birds and howls of lone wolves – a truly immersive and authentic approach to sound design that shows Sunburned Games’ passion and care to ensure players have a sophisticated musical journey.
The Great Whale Road is currently on Steam (PC, Mac & Linux) for $19.99 USD. It’s due for a full release on March 30. Fans of turn-based RPG style combat, rich narrative and thoroughly detailed simulation, look no further than the lively shores of Ulfarrsted.
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A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this preview.