Ship of Fools

Ship of Fools

Don't be taken for one.

ship of fools

I don’t think there’s a shortage of Roguelike games out there – procedurally generated adventures that have you run through loops and loops of action, more than likely seeing yourself die over and over again – and in sails another one with Ship of Fools.  You might think it’s a bad thing in a saturated market, but at least to its credit, the genre tends to serve up interesting and polished titles and there’s no exception here.  What should bring you in hook, line and sinker with this game is the nautical premise with the sea serving as the backdrop to the challenge of staying alive and unharmed in a stormy world.  Is it worth seeing if you can survive the perils of the deep?

Finding yourself washed up on the shore of a mysterious lighthouse (there’s ALWAYS a lighthouse), you’re engaged by a local inventor/weirdo/know-it-all who’s needing your help to steer his vessel through treacherous waters to find lost citizens and defeat the big bad lurking in a massive storm.  Navigating through The Forgotten Waters and fending off all manner of saltwater-borne beasties is a gentle paddle leading up to the furious rowing of taking on a giant kraken; and that’s the crux of Ship of Fools.  There’s little in the way of preamble, and it’s not a massive map to make your way across, yet it’s tough and you’ll need many attempts to clear a region of a monster as you learn the ropes to build up the ship, staff and weaponry required to sail to success.

In single player you head out into the world with a couple of cannons and an ammo dispensing pedestal attached to the boat, as well as a hefty oar to whack away invaders, and pick a hexagon from the grid to sail to.  Whether it’s creatures or secrets you’ll only find out when you get there, though 90% of the time it’s going to be a fight.  In the beginning you’ll have two cannons to work with, one being an automatic one, and the aim is always to clear the area of enemies before being able to move on to the next destination.  Shoot them before they start holing the ship and it’s a win, let them overwhelm you and it’s back to the lighthouse for a nap and another try.  Get all the way to the stormy area and you’ll take on a boss who’s big, nasty and likely to be a sizeable challenge to your hand/eye coordination.

It’s a simple set of controls with no actual vessel piloting needed, leaving you to focus on moving your character from A to B and firing the cannons at anything menacing looking.  Successfully clearing areas can net rewards in the form of planks to fix things up, talismans to add buffs and boosts, or plain old lovely gold.  There are harpoons on hand that deal extra damage to the terrors of the deep, and are also used to snag floating items from the choppy surface.  Every now and then you’ll drift across a bonus area that gives out rewards for opening boxes, and these typically add to the temporary buffs.  Whatever you collect though is lost on death, with only tentacles collected carrying forward to the next run.  These are used to buy permanent upgrades from the various vendors on the lighthouse island, though Ship of Fools makes you rescue them before they set up stall.  Other characters are available too, and each comes with a unique skill that benefits your voyages in different ways.

There’s nothing overly complicated about Ship of Fools graphically, it’s style and presentation keeps it all simple which makes for a smooth and manageable experience.  You’re spending your time running around on deck, manning cannons and putting oar to face in fending off creatures, so staying as stable as possible is key (especially in co-op).  It isn’t always the most responsive with the interaction points on pedestals, like filling ammo, being quite small.  Accurate character placement is key to minimising the time spent reloading, and maximising the initially meagre amount of shots.  Audio works as it should providing atmosphere, and doesn’t have to worry about voice acting or reams of dialogue – it’s all about getting sailing again with as little preamble as possible.

What’s probably most surprising about Ship of Fools is the size of the game.  The map isn’t big, and providing you don’t do anything too horrendous you’ll meet the first boss quite quickly.  Defeating it is a different matter entirely, and then you’ll start to unravel the layers that it has to offer, and figure out how to upgrade and max out the various pieces of kit available.  This depth means there’s a fair amount to get stuck into though doesn’t get overwhelming, and the randomly generated seas ensure that there’s enough variety to keep if fresh.  Pressgang a friend into co-op and you’ll be blasting away the briny monstrosities for a fair while too.  It’s got charm, humour and a good pacing that will appeal to Roguelike fans and neutrals alike.

A PS5 review copy of Ship of Fools was provided by Team 17’s PR team, and the game is available now on PlayStation, Xbox, PC and Switch for around £15.

The Verdict


The Good: Manic combat | No run is the same twice

The Bad: Slightly fiddly controls | Better with a friend

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Co-founder & Editor at Codec Moments

Gamer, F1 fanatic, one half of the Muddyfunkrs DJ duo (find us over on Hive Radio UK), MGS obsessed, tech geek.

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