As a fan of anything Viking or Norse related I entered The Great Whale Road with a fair amount of excitement. Of course, as an early access game that excitement was checked by the reality that it would probably have some issues and not be at the same standard as the final product. With that in mind I went to sea to see what I could see see see.
The Great Whale Road is a story-driven RPG with turn-based tactics in which you take charge of a clan, prepare for winter and battle other clans in the North Sea. Developed and Published by indie group Sunburned Games the early access version lets you take control of the Danes and journey out to complete quests and battle others on the high seas and ashore in foreign lands. Before you start your journey you will be introduced to the four resources comprising Population, Food Stocks, Silver and Supplies. The first three are pretty self-explanatory and the fourth is used to repair your ship in the event it becomes damaged. Before winter sets in you are told how much food you will require to survive the cold season and you’re given the opportunity to allocate Focus Points over seven areas. Each of the areas of focus will benefit your clan in a particular way but for the winter you will only have 10 points to allocate in total. If you decide to allocate your points to farming, animal husbandry or hunting you will see your food stocks increase but to the detriment of your defences, trading goods and clan happiness. For these areas one should allocate points to Warfare, Diplomacy, Traditions or Craftsmanship. If you assign enough Focus Points to a particular area you will gain a worker in that field. Once you’ve finished assigning points you will be ready for winter and the trials and tribulations that follow. As the season rapidly progresses you will face scenarios and have to choose one of three options to advance. The choice you make could grant or take away food and supplies or it could increase or reduce morale for the upcoming raiding season. The winter season will quickly blossom into spring, then it’s time to set sail to lands over yonder to rape and pillage while achieving quests. Whilst this game claims to be a story-driven RPG, the story elements are relatively weak and it has a heavy focus on resource management. The effectiveness of the resource management system lacks a little in that I never had to focus on the choices I made, I always just seemed to have enough to get me to where I was headed.
When faced with a situation the choices you have to make do tend to make a difference to your stocks but I did find the choices were very similar with each changing situation. I like what they have tried to do in this regard but after an hour of playing the choices start to repeat themselves and most of the challenge is taken away. Before you embark on your journey you will have to decide what warriors you want to take with you and what resources you will store and that’s where the RPG elements start to take shape. Each character is represented on a card and they each have their own weapons and equipment to take into battle with them. As you progress through the story you will get the opportunity to buy better gear and start to trade commodities with other clans. There’s nothing revolutionary here, content to simply conform to standard RPG elements. Each character has an assigned class from support to heavy and stats to go along with that class (HP, attack, defence, movement, range and accuracy) that aid on the battlefield. In terms of battle dynamics, everything is pretty stock standard, but that’s not to say it isn’t enjoyable. There’s enough of a challenge to keep you interested and the different scenarios you can battle over are sufficient at this early stage; I’m sure there will be more released in the full game. The one element of the battle process I did quite enjoy was the card system. You will start a battle with your leader on the field and subsequent warriors will need to have their character card drawn from a deck of 16 before they can join the fight. Amongst those character cards are buff cards that will grant you attack, defence or a support advantage for your turn. Another neat function is the ability to shuffle those cards back into the deck to return three new ones to your hand instantly. This can be done once a turn and there’s no negative consequences for doing so. The aim of battles is to take out the enemy leader and once complete, the fight is over.
How you manage your troops and supplies on the journey is largely up to you but you will only be able to replenish people and stores when you arrive ashore in another camp. From what I discovered the experiences don’t vary too much from camp to camp; you can visit the blacksmith for sweeter gear, head to the tavern to hear rumours about sweeter loot and to raise morale, wander over to the hall for a decent kip for the night, pay a visit to the trader to barter your goods or go hunting to replenish your food stocks organically. Once you have achieved everything you set out to do in a locale you will set sail and repeat basically everything again.
Welcome home warrior!
Overall, The Great Whale Road managed to entertain me for a few hours with its somewhat interesting story-line and random battles on the high seas, but fatigue did start to set in after not too long. It’s hard to say how different the full game will be from this early access look but it’s evident it will need a little more to keep us fickle gamers engaged for more than a day. There’s nothing overly wrong with this offering it’s just that’s there’s nothing quite new about it either. If you’re looking for a reasonably priced RPG The Great Whale Road isn’t a bad bet, just be aware that it’s a little repetitious at times.