Developer: Sunburned Games
Publisher: Sunburned Games
Review On: PC
The Great Whale Road – Review
If you’ve ever fancied yourself as a viking warrior, lording over your own realm as Jarl and raiding and pillaging your neighbours, then you’re in luck. Manage your village, arm your warband and set out across the wild sea to find vengeance in The Great Whale Road.Story
The Game begins with the news that your Jarl is missing and presumed dead, seemingly having been murdered by Saxons, and that you have been crowned as the new leader in his place. The main story then revolves around discovering what happened to your Jarl, and tracking down those responsible.
Having taken up the mantle of new Jarl, it is entirely up to you to feed your people, develop your hold and lead your settlement to glory. Currently you can embark on several side quests, as well as the main storyline. The main Danish storyline is finished but the developers also plan on adding more storylines from the point of view of other civilizations in the futureThe story itself is engaging and well written, but very linear feeling. You don’t really get opportunities to make impactful choices, with all of the decisions seemingly made for you. Instead, the game tells you what your character chooses to do and why. You don’t want to butcher those helpless women and children? Tough, your character does it anyway. The result is undoubtedly a good story, but unfortunately it leaves no room for roleplaying or immersion for the player.
Graphically, The Great Whale Road is an incredibly beautiful title and if anything, it has only improved since early access. The gorgeous hand-drawn look, with painstakingly created buildings and backgrounds, does wonders for creating an immersive, captivating atmosphere for the game. The character design likewise seems to have been improved and plays a vital role in bringing the characters to life in your imagination. The art style really helps to create a unique and recognizable look, and lends itself extremely well to the period.Sound
The soundtrack is good, with some really atmospheric, era appropriate music to immerse you into the game, and quality sound effects help bring the world to life. Although the sound has been greatly improved, the sound effects can still feel like they are a little bit sparse at times. However, the sound really does a good job of helping to transition between the game’s events and plot points.
The Whale Road is a RPG adventure strategy game and is slightly unusual on how it approaches some aspects of the genre. There are two main parts to the game; winter, where you must manage your settlement and resources, and Summer where you sail out with your warband and embark upon quests.Winter is where you make your plans for the coming year by putting points into different areas of your settlement, such as farming, military, tradition or crafting. Focusing on animal husbandry and agriculture will increase your food production and encourage your people to grow, whilst training your military will increase the defense of your town and help protect it from raiders.
You can upgrade areas of your settlement to be more efficient, by using goods that your people have made, or trading for the items that you require. Upgrading your settlement feels very rewarding, but the fact that your town never changes visually, no matter how much you upgrade things, really puts a dampener on your feelings of progression.During this time you will also encounter different events such as accidents, disease or food going missing and you must make choices to protect your town. There seems to be some element of RNG involved, but you can usually easily spot the “correct” answer; such as choosing to treat the sick instead of making sacrifices to the gods.
With the arrival of summer, the game shifts dramatically in another direction as more of the traditional RPG elements come into play. You must select up to 3 companions to act as your warband before heading out to sea to follow your quests. You can buy new weapons and armour for yourself and your men on your travels, as well as buying various luxury trade goods, but each characters role has a large influence on which items they can use, and which they cannot.As you travel you will trigger various events, such as attacks from pirates or discovering an apparently unguarded merchant vessel, and must make choices on how to react. The number and variety of events has increased significantly since early access, but don’t be surprised if you still find that you are encountering the same three events over and over again.
You must bring enough food for your journey and manage health, morale and fatigue of your warband. Another new addition is that each character now also has an indicator of their loyalty to you, which can be increased by making choices that they approve of, or lowered by acting against their wishes. It is fairly easy to get a measure of each characters personality as when you encounter events, your men will yell advice to you on what they think that you should do.Eventually, you will find yourself in combat, which has been vastly improved from its original form. Combat in The Great Whale Road is interesting due to the turn-based, tabletop style battle system. You can move and then attack, tabletop style, and each character also comes equip with a battle-cry that you can spend points to activate. There are three classes; Assault, Heavy or Support, which affects the characters stats as well as their weapons and war-cries. There doesn’t seem to be a huge amount of balance however, as Assault is by far the best, and Support is all but useless until late in the game.
One of our major gripes is that for quite a lot of the game you are pretty much left to figure things out on your own. There are tutorials for everything, but they tend to be long-winded walls of text full of confusing terminology and unknown icons. And whilst the small dev team seem to be working hard to fix them promptly, the game seems to be plagued with bugs, both large and small.Conclusion
The Great Whale Road promises a lot, but lets itself down in the delivery. There is a huge amount of potential here and several aspects of the title have been done really well, but the sheer amount of bugs and unpolished mechanics gives the impression that the game may have left early access a little too quickly. Having said that, we are confident that this title will only continue to improve over time. Just don’t buy this game if you’re expecting a complete, fully polished product, you may just have to wait a while for that.