There’s nothing quite like living the pirate life. High seas, high stakes, and all that booty. However, I will probably never live that life in the real world, so of course, I will jump at the chance to live it virtually. In Resolution Games’ all-new strategy game, Narrows, I get to do just that.
For the Google Daydream platform, this roguelike strategy game is a little less scurvy and shoots for a family-friendly experience. While a cheery and well-versed crew is not the first thing you might imagine when you think of a pirate game, it works in Narrows. It’s feature packed and just wacky enough to keep you entertained. So, grab your cutlass and join me as we take a look at what Narrows has to offer.
They Stole Your Ship
This pirate adventure starts out with a slap to the face. Once a big player on the high seas, your ship, crew, and all your loot has been taken away from you by another pirate. Marooned with only three of your crew left, you need to rebuild and climb your way back to the top of the food chain. The only way to do that, is to grab a ship that floats and get to plundering.
Your three companions help fill you in on the finer points of captaining your new ship. You will learn how to navigate from one point to the next, which is done through a map table. Each point on the map has something going on which is displayed through the icons on the map. When you arrive at a new point, an encounter triggers. This could be a pirate attack, a trade deal, some loot found in the ocean, or even a shipwreck to explore.
Narrows actually packs a large variety of encounter types into this game and gives you a degree of choice in the matter. Some encounters you can avoid altogether, or you can set out with the intent to attack everything that moves. But, if you want to be a successful pirate, you might want to think about sailing towards the treasure icons and stranded crew members first. Sooner or later, you’re going to get into a fight, and you’re going to want to be prepared.
A Cannon Balls Gotta Fly
The combat in Narrows is pretty dynamic. You want to try and sink the enemy ship with cannon fire, while fighting off any suckers foolish enough to get on your ship. You control your crew by clicking on them and directing them around a cutaway view of your ship. Each section of your ship serves a purpose and can be outfitted with items for your crew to use. You will even get into some first-person sword fighting at times, with hilarious results.
Crew members come in different varieties. Some are skilled in repairing damage, some move faster, but your captain is the one you absolutely have to keep alive. Once he dies, its game over. Luckily, you have a medic room on your ship that heals crew members that stand inside it. While a good crew diversity is helpful to keep things running, surviving is really all about the tools you give them to use.
As you progress in the game, you will acquire new items for your ship through looting, or shopping at a port. Everything from upgraded cannons, a pet sea monster, and even voodoo spells that have some crazy effects, become available. Equipping the items on your ship is as simple as clicking on the gear icon attracted to each room. You will need to have a crew member in that room in order to use it though.
Between the variety of equipment and crew member types, Narrows gives you a large amount of freedom to strategize during each encounter. You do have to be mindful of your resources though. After all, a cannon without balls is not very effective.
Booty and Responsibility
In addition to keeping an eye on your ammo stocks, you have to manage your food supplies. As you navigate the map, food is consumed. You can buy more at a port or take a chance and loot some from a wrecked ship. Whatever you decide, don’t run out or you will risk the lives of your crew.
Your crew can also get sick or suffer injuries during your exploits. From what I can tell, this slows down their movement considerably and that is not pleasant during an attack. You will also need to care for your ship as some damage cannot be repaired by your crew. It might be a good idea to keep a little gold on hand for port-side repairs.
Eventually, you will want to upgrade to a bigger and better ship. This might sound odd, but to do this, you will have to die. Yeah, it’s interesting, but you gain all your currency to upgrade to a new ship once you have been marooned again. It is an interesting design decision, but it does keep the game going in a unique way. You suffer a loss, but then find yourself tempted by the prospect of captaining an even better ship on your next adventure. Pretty crafty.
You will have to complete some requirement to unlock access to new ships in addition to having the currency to pay for them. Luckily you can click on the various ships to see all the relevant info and find out if they have any special built-in abilities. The currency to buy the new ships is kind of like XP and the new ships are like leveling up.
The controller setup in Narrows is fairly straightforward. If you are moving your crew around, you just point and click on the unit, it becomes highlighted, then point and click on where you want them to go. Firing your cannons on the other hand, can be a little tricky at first.
When you select a room on your ship that has cannons equipped, and you have a crew member in that room, a timer will pop up showing that the cannon is being loaded. Once its solid green, its ready to fire. You lift your controller up slowly from the cannon room and a trajectory indicator shows up. You want to make sure that your balls will strike so move the indicator around until it turns green and then fire. The enemy ships come around in 3D so you will want to be mindful of your cannon placement on your ship. They do have limited fields of fire.
Everything else comes back to simple point and click commands and works as intended. It was super easy to pick up and made focusing on all the other elements at play, that much less difficult to enjoy.
The Beauty of the Open Sea
Narrows has a cartoonish vibe when it comes to graphics. Everything is bright and cheery, and often whimsical. It is a simple style of art that works great in mobile games, when the developers put the time and money into it. Resolution Games definitely put the time and money into it. The game looks fantastic and the theme is maintained through the game.
The characters, while not your typical crew of pirates, are well animated and voice acted. The item effects are not mind blowing but are enjoyable, and all your resource info is always available. It is on the wall in the map room and displayed around your controller. Everything is broken down into simple to understand pictures, so no squinting while you try to read the text.
The menus are simple and to the point and item information is accompanied by a video that displays what they do in the shops. It definitely helps you make a decision without any surprises when you go to actually use the items.
The audio in Narrows is also done well. They give you all the expected sound effects, cannon fire and traditional pirate dialog. The environment has a good amount of ocean sounds going on and the music fits the style of the game. I really can’t complain about anything in the art or sound quality of Narrows. It all felt very well thought out and well executed.
For a $9.99 Google Daydream game, Narrows feels like it ticks all the right boxes. You get a lot of content for the cost, the game looks and sounds great, and it’s fun to play. It plays like a casual game but has just enough variety to keep you engaged. The difficulty ramps up as you progress so you don’t feel overpowered, and that is key to a game like Narrows being fun.
It is good to see that quality content on the mobile platform is alive and well. If you are going to ask for $9.99 for a game, it had better have the gameplay value to back up that price point and I think Resolution Games gets that with this release. Narrows is available now, so if you are pining for the open seas and a little bit of strategy, go check it out.