I’m not typically a fan of games where I spend much time on the open sea. I have a fear of whatever lies beneath the water. This fear manifests in video games too. But Sail Forth clicks with me. It’s a chill experience that allows you to explore at your own pace. The story is intriguing, but the player creates the true narrative based on how you approach the game.
The game opens up with the protagonist stranded in the open sea on their small vessel. The short tutorial teaches you the ropes of how to sail. And for a game that looks simple, the sailing mechanic is well done and much deeper than what appears on the surface. Depending on the direction of the wind, you shift the sails left or right using the top bumpers on the controller. There is also a meter that helps; if the indicator on the meter is in the green, you are catching the wind currents correctly.
You’ll come across missions as you start your adventure. One of the strengths of Sail Forth is how it introduces new mechanics. As a result, some of the early tasks act as mini-tutorials. And there’s plenty to do in this game. You can fish, take photographs, make deliveries, or search for wooden crates or stranded sailors. There’s even a crafting mechanic. Most of these examples will earn you wood, the currency used in Sail Forth. And while some of these feel repetitive, it’s an easy way to make money in the game.
You’ll use the wood to buy upgrades and new ships for your fleet. Most times, though, you’ll be using the resource to repair your ships. For the most part, Sail Forth is a chill experience. However, pirates roam the waters looking to send you swimming with the fish. What makes Sail Forth a unique experience is a mix of being a laid-back game and the intense sea battles.
As you explore, you’ll discover map fragments that will open new islands on your map. Each play-through can be slightly different, as the map is procedurally generated. You may even find new events in areas you have already previously explored. However, some events will occur in a particular order to drive the story forward.
Under all this is a compelling narrative and a mystery to be solved. What makes Sail Forth so good is how you are a big part of how that narration plays out. It feels epic when you take down a pirate fort or sink the ship in a boss battle. I found myself retelling my kids about some of the conflicts that occurred, building into the mythos around the armada I created. And the fact that you can name your ships adds to this experience. I even felt upset when I lost my first ship in a battle; thank goodness you can pay to resurrect your fallen ships.
The game is beautiful and reminds me a lot of the art-style of Wind Waker. Even more impressive is how well it performs on the Nintendo Switch. There were a few moments when there was a hiccup, but it was brief and didn’t impact my overall experience with the game. Sound is also an essential feature in the game, and hearing the sounds of the ocean or the intense music that plays when you are in a fight adds to the game's depth.
Final Grade: A-
A few hours into Sail Forth, I knew I was in for something special. The fact that this game combines chill mechanics like fishing and taking pictures with intense pirate battles makes for a unique experience. The story is compelling but what makes this game fun is how you’ll find yourself retelling your family and friends the adventure you just went on.
Review code provided by Stride PR