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Sail Forth – Amazing Indie Sailing Adventure

Sail Forth is a single player indie sailing adventure game developed by Festive Vector and published by The Quantum Astrophysicists Guild. The game released on all platforms on December 22, 2022, and immediately caught my eye with its pleasing aesthetic and ship combat. It gave me memories of playing my most recent favourite pirate sailing game, King of Seas, and I was keen to see how this new game added to the genre. I’m pleased to say Sail Forth is as amazing and cozy as I had hoped and surprised me with what it has to offer players.

Starting in the middle of the ocean in a small wooden boat, you are given some simple tutorials to teach you how to row initially and raise your sail to catch the wind. You can see the wind direction on the compass, and you are able to adjust the trim of the sales in order to best catch the wind to gain top speeds. You’ll find yourself constantly adjusting the trim of the sails, but it’s not overcomplicated at all as you explore various islands looking for shipwrecks, fishing spots and quirky locals who will have tasks for you to complete. There is no quest journal, so you will have to remember tasks you have at present and also things you need to unlock later, like the harpoon gun.

For those hoping for a fully seamless open world akin to Sea of Thieves, you will need to temper expectations as each island location in Sail Forth is its own bordered instance. You can freely sail around the islands and anything you see on the horizon can be sailed to, but eventually you’ll sail to the edge of that area and a countdown will commence, taking you to the next area. The starting zones are simple, introducing you to using cannons to blow up crates which contain wood planks and map fragments. NPC’s you meet speak in their own quirky pirate language and while the game lacks any voice acting at all, the dialogue is fun to read and can be skipped through.

As you find map fragments, more locations will be discovered on the world map, and some NPC’s will give you tasks to deliver goods to far distance lands which you can’t immediately quick travel to. You will need to explore in that direction and eventually island locations will connect you to them. This slower reveal of locations to explore gives you plenty of time to learn the game’s mechanics. Some locations have targets you need to shoot within a time limit, and also races to compete in. There are also lighthouses that you can interact with at night to turn in ancient junk items for upgrade components. However, it’s not a true sailing game unless it has, a) fishing, and b) pirates!

Fishing is unlocked a few islands into the game, and you will look for small areas of disturbed water. Once you enter fishing mode, you have to wait to click to set the hook, and then keep the mouse pointer in the middle of a circle to reel the fish in. Sometimes you’ll get a chest, but most times you’ll get a fish. Collecting different types of fish, and also taking photos of special things/locations will give you item rewards and also unlock customisations for your ship. You can change the colour and markings of your sails and the ship’s hull which is great to change up your look from time to time.

As you explore the various island locations in Sail Forth, you will also discover ship blueprints. Taking these to a merchant will unlock new ships to buy and also upgrades for your ship. Not only can you purchase a new ship, but you can also purchase additional ships to create a fleet. If you can’t afford to buy a new ship for your fleet, sometimes you will come across a ship wreckage that you can repair and add to your fleet, and other times you will see friendly ships sailing that can join your fleet for a fee.

Each ship in your fleet will be autonomous and follow your main ship, and you can switch control to any ship in the fleet with ease. You will need to ensure each ship is kept up to date with weapons and crew, but otherwise they will follow and attack/defend when required. The AI pathing of your fleet is generally pretty good though sometimes they got stuck on a jetty or rocky outcrop. You can either sail back to them, but more often than not I had cleared the area anyway, so I just fast travelled to the next location.

Eventually you will come across pirates, turrets and bases. Initially easy to dispatch, you still need to be wary of your surroundings as running aground means you will be open to attacks and rowing backwards is super slow. Holding shift will show you your firing arcs forward, port and starboard. Also, each cannon type will have its own firing spread and range. You could have a long-distance cannon and a shorter distance but wider spread cannon on one side, and you are able to fire both in succession meaning a double broadside hit in some instances.

I loved the combat in Sail Forth a lot, especially once you start upgrading your ship and those in your fleet as the game’s difficulty ramps up with tougher ships, bases and sea monsters to take on. Sometimes I would be busy focussing on taking out land-based turrets and a base, while the other ships in my fleet are handling the pirates on the water. It was really cool to move the camera around so i could see how my fleet was doing, and adjust course if I needed to give them a hand. You can set your ships to automatically repair once they get to a certain percentage of HP, you just need to ensure you have enough wood planks available.

One of the cooler encounters I had was when I had just finished a fight with some pirates and I was looking through the loot I had found, when all of a sudden, a message came onto the screen saying, “Ahead Skipper! Hold steady for a rogue wave!” I looked up and sure enough, a huge wave was coming fast towards the fleet. Pointing the nose of the ship straight into the wave got us over it safely, but I loved that it wasn’t calm seas all the time. For those that enjoy the simplicity of sailing, there is a separate game mode under the extras menu item that allows you to enter free sail mode, and this allows you to experiment using any ships you have unlocked, fight pirates or just enjoy the serenity of sailing around.

There’s plenty of locations to explore in the first area which is collectively called the Sandy Shores. The second area, the Green Ruins, changes up the biomes enough to keep the gameplay fresh, and increases the difficulty with sea monsters, culminating in a big boss fight. The lighting and atmosphere of Sail Forth is fantastic as night turned to day, and calm seas turned to dark cloudy thunderstorms. I loved the game’s music too, however I wished the tracks were longer or played more often as there were long lulls of silent sailing, which ultimately isn’t really a bad thing as the sailing was so soothing.

Overall, I was blown away with what’s on offer in this gem of an indie game called Sail Forth. While islands are instanced and not completely open world, that doesn’t take away from the serenity of sailing around, exploring islands, finding treasure, catching fish and completing tasks. This is my new favourite pirate game and I hope more chapter locations are added in future.

This review utilised a Steam key provided by Stride PR and Sail Forth is available now on Steam, Xbox, PlayStation and Nintendo Switch.


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