Set sail across the North Sea in the summer. Plan ahead for the winter. Fight in turn-based combat. Explore a digitally hand-drawn world with plenty of appropriate Viking based lore. The Great Whale Road is a story-driven RPG filled with tactics and strategy. A nice cross between the two genres.
Developer: Sunburned Games
Publisher: Sunburned Games
Release Date: March 30th, 2017
Platforms: PC (Windows, Mac OS, Linux)
Platform Reviewed on: PC (Windows)
The Great Whale Road has just left Early Access and entered full release and I’ve been able to spend the past week with a press copy of the game.
This game blends RPG with turn-based combat to create familiar gameplay in a unique setting. The game is set in the Early Middle Ages during the times of the Vikings where the player takes the role of someone who has been placed in control of the village and must lead them through the difficult times ahead.
Currently, the only campaign in the same is for the Danes but there will be a variety of playable factions in the full game. The main character in the Danes is the axe-wielding nephew or niece of the Jarl who must take the role of leader for their people. This comes after a ruthless ambush caused the former Jarl of the town to disappear and the player must hunt to discover the truth while also ensuring the survival of their people.
The game is split into different sections of gameplay with the main story unfolding as the player progresses through the game. It’s split into ‘episodes’ which are played across several years where the player must make decisions that change how the town grows. At the start of each year, the player is able to assign townspeople to different areas which affects how much food and trade items the town generates throughout the year. It’s split into Summer and Winter which dictates how much food is produced by the town.
In addition to this strategic resource management, the player is also given the option to make meaningful choices throughout the game. These mostly occur while the player is traveling to a new town or when the player is in a new location. Having multiple choice options such as these are a great addition to the game and add a new level of interactivity as it allows the player to decide how to approach certain situations. The choices in the game feel as though they’ve been taken from the visual novel genre and the different characters in the game will provide the player with their own opinion which could provide a hint to which decision is the right one.
Outside of the strategic resource management and choice making, the player will spend their time completing the missions that appear in their Journal. These missions push the story forward and also provide different side missions. When going on a mission, the player is first able to select which warriors to take with them in addition to filling up the cargo of the ship with food and trade items.
Travelling to a new location is done by ship which can carry a certain amount of cargo. This cargo room allows the player to take food, trade items and hounds with them to towns and new locations the ship travels past. Taking food is a necessity for keeping the warriors happy and healthy while taking a hound can be beneficial to the party once they’ve stopped at a town.
Once the party has arrived at a town there are several options available to the player. Each warrior can be assigned to different actions such as hunting where the player can send a warrior and a hound out to hunt for additional food for the group. There are also other options such as visiting a doctor or sleeping at an inn to recover some health and energy for the warriors. In addition to this, the player can sell or trade items at the market to either make some room in the cargo hold or earn some money which can be used to purchase new equipment or other trade items.
When in a town, the player can also complete missions if there are any available. This usually involves combat or making meaningful decisions which can help the party avoid a battle.
Combat in The Great Whale Road is turn-based on a hexagon board where the player can direct each of their warriors by giving them orders. Each battle has a set objective such as “kill the leader” or “kill them all” which the player needs to complete in order to win the battle. There’s quite a bit of strategy involved in the combat but thankfully, there’s an easy to accesses “Help” button at the top of the screen if the player ever forgets some of the combat mechanics.
The game uses card-based combat where the player has a deck comprised of their hero and the additional warriors who are in the party. The player is given three cards at the start of batle and can lay their units on the field at any time. It’s also possible to discard cards from the hand without using them and the player is given access to the special “War Cries” which are the special abilities each warrior has.
Each warrior is split into different classes which dictate their role on the battle and they can also be customized with different weapons. This allows the player to decide how each warrior deals with combat and also provides some control over the customization of each character.
The combat system is well-balanced and the turn restrictions of the card system means that that the battles are relatively short. This is great as it stops the battles from becoming too tedious and helps to avoid repetition.
The Great Whale Road looks and sounds phenomenal. There’s not a single fault in the graphics, art style or music in the game which all add to the experience. It matches the Viking setting perfectly which helps to create an amazing atmosphere for the game.
The Great Whale Road is a quality RPG with an engaging combat system. This game has plenty to offer players and after spending some time in Steam Early Access, the game has been released with more content for players to explore.
- Great combat system
- Easy to find ‘help’ systems
- Entertaining narrative and amazing storytelling
- Being able to make meaningful choices is nice
- Various campaigns
- The choices start repeating after a while