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Ship of Fools Review: Foolish Fun and Fiendish Fights

Manic madness ahoy!
ship of fools header
Image via Team17

Ship of Fools is a rogue-like nautical nightmare of madness, fun, and chaos. With unique systems and couch co-op, this game will have you wanting to throw yourself against the waves again and again as you beat back the enemies that assault your ship. Whether you are a fan of rogue-likes or not, Ship of Fools will have some allure for everyone, from the fun-factor to the difficulty and progression. But is it water-tight, or would some rather skuttle?

Embark on a voyage unlike any other

Ship of Fools remixes the rogue-like genre in many ways.

Firstly, when you go off to take part in the actual gameplay, you will be stuck on your ship, the Stromstrider, and the enemies will be popping up around the ship, for you to repel with your paddle or shoot with your cannons.

As you sail around, the tiles before you become inaccessible, and the tiles ahead will start to be consumed by a darkness, forcing you to charge full-speed towards the boss of that level. You can meander around to collect more items and rewards to help with your voyage, but the more traveling you do, the more enemies you’ll have to face.

Related: What is the Darkness on the Map in Ship of Fools?

tendrils on map in ship of fools
Image via Team17

Your journey in Ship of Fools is equal parts exciting and terrifying, which is a perfect summary to the game, actually. The pressure of constantly going forth with the excitement of traveling to tiles with great rewards is a balance that is perfectly struck.

Stress-striking and joy-jumping combat

Whenever you sail to a new tile on the map, a whole barrage of enemies will assault the ship, and you’ll have to balance shooting, whacking, repairing, repelling, running around, replenishing ammunition, harpooning and trying not to lose your head.

Each encounter is uniquely frustrating as you try to beat back the enemies trying to assault your ship. It is a mad dance that will enthral you from the start, and as soon as it’s over, you’ll be racing towards your next destination with zealotry.

swamp spider in ship of fools
Image via Team17

There is a certain balance and rhythm that you will sink into, but that does mean you will ever get complacent. There will always be some spanner in the works for you to deal with.

The boss fights are also extremely fun, but difficult. You will be throwing yourself at the waves again and again to gain as much as you can. There will come a moment where you have improved your skill and upgraded your ship, at which point taking down the boss will feel sweet and rewarding.

Stormstrider, strider of storms

The ship that you fools will be sailing in, the Stormstrider, provides some great mechanics. In the middle of the ship are, to begin with, three pedestals. On these pedestals, you will be keeping down everything you want to keep between sailing to other tiles, anything not on a pedestal is lost.

You will have to choose what exactly you want to bring to each encounter, in a harsh game of necessity and thinking ‘I hope I won’t need that later’.

rescuing rust in ship of fools
Image via Team17

The pedestals will hold ammunition dispensers, talismans, wood for repairing, and chests and loot that you may want to save for later. Not being able to hold onto everything will spur sickness in your stomach as you ditch important items due to limited room. Will you need that much wood to repair your ship for future encounters, or will you need that talisman that increases all damage? Should you hold onto that ammo type, or replace it with another one?

Those choices will meet you will wrack your mind as you make sacrifices, which is a constant battle, but an interesting one.

A wonderful world with crazy characters

One thing that really seals the deal with Ship of Fools is the world that you get dropped into. Charismatic and crazy characters make the intermissions between your voyages fun and interesting, that weave a plot that’ll keep your head above the water.

rust in ship of fools
Image via Team17

The aesthetic is enjoyable and the art is great, every time I play it feels as though I’m living through a maritime legend. Exotic locations and interesting creatures are simply waiting to jump out at you; the joy of discovery is ever present.

End-review turn-around

However, Ship of Fools may not be for those wanting a relaxing experience. Although, admittedly, it starts of pretty easy, you will soon have to put in some hard work if you want to advance without having to grind for ages for upgrade your equipment. Some encounters can be quite stressful, especially if you are determined to get to the next level.

For those wanting a relaxing experience, Ship of Fools will not provide one. Again, it is extremely fun, but only because it gets your blood pumping.

Additionally, if you prefer a more linear experience, Ship of Fools will not provide one. There is a story and plot, but you will have to do what you deem appropriate, and you will have to make choices that affect your rate of progression.

Helga's upgrades in ship of fools
Image via Team17

In Ship of Fools, you will never lose progress, or waste time, as everything contributes to the benefit of you and your ship. However, your choices may affect the pace of your progression, and if you make poor choices, then you may be stuck at a level for a while, grinding away to progress onwards.

Ship of Fools is unique, fun, and strikes a near-perfect balance in every matter. I would strongly recommend this game to anyone wanting more of a puntual action game.

Keep an eye on Gamer Journalist for more gaming and Ship of Fools content, such as combat tips and tricks.

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