Black Sails – The Ghost Ship is not a new title; in fact, it was released in Germany in 2010 to critical acclaim. Now, five years later, the game has gained English translation and has broken through the confines of the German border to be released worldwide. As part of a growing Adventure trend that has seen a recent revival in the point-and-click genre, is this translation a worthy addition to your collection or was it best left in the past?
Players assume the role of Anna, a survivor from a ship that sank amid high waves and stormy weather. Along with fellow survivor Lex, she clings to the wreckage until the pair spots another nearby vessel. They climb aboard but are unable to attract any attention from the ship’s crew and the condition of the ship suggests that they may not receive a friendly welcome anyway. Will they ever see Europe again?
Black Sails – The Ghost Ship: PC
Developer: Deck 13 Interactive
Publisher: Deck 13 Interactive
Release Date: September 17th 2015
Price: £6.99 [Disclosure: Game copy supplied by Publisher]
The game then leaves the characters to become acquainted and players get to choose the dialogue that affects their attitudes towards one another. You can choose to be friendly, neutral or hostile. Just two lines of chosen dialogue will affect the way that the characters interact for the rest of the game, so choose carefully. The problem is that the characters have very conflicting personalities and it is really hard to like Lex. As soon as the pair climbs onto the ship, resourceful Anna tries to unlock the door while Lex concentrates on looting the cabin and being rude. This isn’t helped by the lacklustre voice acting. While Anna’s commentary is passable, Lex is subjected to a typical gravelly voice and unenthusiastic delivery that does the character no favours.
It’s a good job, then, that characters spend the majority of the game in the company of Anna. For reasons that become clear as the 4-6 hour story unfolds, Anna is left to try and unravel the mystery of the mysterious ship and to find out what has happened to the crew. The story is told well as it unfolds, but the game does falter a little in trying to fill in the background on past events. During the introduction, the stills that tell this story do not have the voiceover that was present in the German version of the title meaning that some details are missing. Players will also encounter various documents during their search of the vessel that give brief insights into the ship’s crew. Unfortunately, the handwriting font is so terrible that they’re extremely difficult to read. The voiceovers that were present in the German version of the title are also missing here, meaning that players really must decipher the scrawl.
The game uses a typical point and click interface: left click to interact with objects and right click to cancel that interaction. The inventory at the top of the screen shows all of the objects that Anna has managed to fit into her bottomless pockets, some of which must be combined if players want to progress. Players need to solve relatively simple puzzles that shouldn’t challenge most point-and-click veterans. Those who do get stuck can always take advantage of the help function that highlights all of the interactable objects that can be seen in the current location.
Steam has classified the title as Horror, but it really is not. There are a few jump scares and a psychological undertone that suggests that something nasty may have happened, but the game plays more like a typical adventure title. Most horror titles rely on music to build the tension but this is noticeably missing from Black Sails. Apart from the moments where something unexpected happens and the player’s ears are assaulted by a cacophony of strings, all that players will hear are footsteps and the creaking of the ship. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When players are trying to think and solve puzzles, the last thing that they need is to be distracted by unnecessary music. In a way, the game’s atmosphere actually benefits from the silence.
The one thing from which it doesn’t benefit is the game crashes. Every now and again, players will notice a loss of sound, most noticeably character voices, and an inability to interact with certain objects. After this point, any attempts to reach the game’s main menu cause the game to crash. This is the only technical issue from which the game suffers, but players stand to lose a fair amount of progress if they forget to save regularly. Frequent saving is definitely recommended.
In summary, the game does not outstay its welcome. The short story is told well, even if the English character voices are not as good as their German counterparts. The game’s interface is easy to use and point-and-click veterans should be able to complete the story with ease. Although labelled a horror title, the game offers more of an adventure that hides an underlying tension rather than an experience that will give you nightmares. Unfortunately, the English port does suffer from issues in that some things were not translated and are now left to the player’s imagination. The game can also crash in places, so remember to save regularly if you don’t want to lose any progress.