It seems that ocean-based adventure games have exploded in popularity over the last few years, becoming a genre of its own and featuring many unique defining aspects. From Subnautica to Sea of Thieves, sea and ship-based games give players the chance to explore the life of a pirate, merchant or deep-sea explorer from the comfort of their computer or console.
The latest title to release in the sea-fantasy genre is Sail Forth, where the goal is exactly as the title says. An ocean full of islands and miscreants awaits players as they push toward the procedurally generated horizon, gathering supplies and meeting new characters as they grow their fleet.
That’s right, fleet. Sail Forth is a game where you command not one, but a fleet of crafted and upgradable ships and their sailors. This is a feature I’ve not yet seen in any sea-faring crafting game. Even titles like Sea of Thieves, which are built around ships and sailing, have yet to introduce a mechanic to allow you to not captain, but admiral a fleet of ships across the ocean blue. The feeling of progression you get going from a small dingy to a flotilla of custom-made warships is one you won’t find in another game.
Since sailing is the core of Sail Forth, it takes the mechanics of doing so very seriously. Unlike some games, where sailing is controlled by pressing the forward move button in a certain direction, in Sail Forth you need to account for wind speed and direction and trim your sails in order to navigate the great ocean generated before you. This can create some seriously interesting mechanical obstacles, especially when you find yourself in a battle and you can’t turn on a dime to aim your canons. This feature might not be loved by everyone, but should be a blessing for fans of realistic true-to-life sailing.
You’ll notice I mentioned battles. Some players may be surprised to find out that, despite the cute cartoony art style of Sail Forth, you are not building a flotilla of warships purely for the sake of exploration. Pirates run rampant across the seas, and while you can play the game without focusing on combat, you will find yourself engaging in ship-to-ship battles more than once on your adventure, especially if you choose to seek it out.
Your ship (and eventually, fleet) make use of numerous types of canons and sea guns to defend itself from or hunt down pirates. Something I was surprised and awed by quickly was the beautiful, bright trails behind my cannonballs as they fired toward the enemy, making each battle an exciting light show.
The pirates you encounter on the seas play a role in the minor story you will find in Sail Forth. As the story goes, you are Captain Toot, tasked with the lofty goal of “saving the deep blue” which basically translates to beating up said pirates. After finishing some tutorials and saving your first mate, the game opens up and gives you the freedom to do what you want, with the only real goal to finishing the “story” being that you eventually take on the Skull Clan pirates in a few locations.
The story might be brief, but that plays to Sail Forth’s strengths, as the game’s focus is on the freedom you’re offered. You can fight, explore, trade, craft, and loot islands. Doing any or all of these things is your choice, and the game doesn’t really push you in any specific direction.
And yes, you can fish in the game, which I would be incredibly disappointed if you couldn’t.
While the game lacks a big story, it certainly does not lack interesting characters. As you explore the ocean, you’ll meet and interact with many of these wacky characters, and your favorites will join your crew and eventually command ships in your fleet. Every dialogue option in the game is written with some ridiculous sea slang, and you’ll quickly find yourself confused by a lot of it, but don’t worry because that is kind of the point.
The experience Sail Forth sets out to sell to you is solid, with a carefree yet exciting atmosphere that really makes you feel like an island-hopping, pirate-hunting ship captain on a mission to see all the deep blue has to offer. The colorful characters and art style only serve to enrich this feeling, and separate it from many other games on the market by making it a visually and emotionally distinct experience.
A fair warning to PC players, however, you will quickly find that the keyboard control mapping in this game is atrocious. I recommend playing with a controller when possible, as I personally could not get through it without one.
The Final Word
Sail Forth gives you exactly what it promises from its title and more, truly immersing you in a swashbuckling, sea-exploring adventure you won’t soon forget. There truly is nothing quite like it on the market, easily challenging many other sailing and pirate games with its unique mechanics, fleet progression and memorable writing.
Our Sail Forth review was written based on the PC version of the game. Find more detailed looks at popular and upcoming titles in the Game Reviews section of our website!