Touted as a seafaring Stardew Valley, Stranded Sails combines farming, exploration, and survival in a neat yet flawed package. It’s fun and rewarding in parts but doesn’t hold a light to Stardew or Harvest Moon in terms of charm or depth. There’s also an uglier side of this game we’ll get into later.
Stranded Sails begins with a shipwreck, scattering you and your crewmates across the handful of islands that make up the game world. Starting out with nothing more than a few basic tools, it’s your job to reunite them and establish a sustainable base camp.
It’s a straightforward premise and one that’s much more lighthearted than your typical island survival story. The visuals here are definitely reminiscent of early 3D games such as Harvest Moon and myriad JRPGs.
The minute to minute gameplay largely consists of navigating each island while gathering from a growing list of resources. Farming, fishing, and foraging will supply the ingredients needed to cook meals while debris and logs can be fashioned into construction materials.
You’ll quickly build your basecamp up in those first few hours, each survivor having their own specialty whether that be smithing, tailoring, or woodmanship. A quest log will gently nudge you along a linear path from one objective to the next though there’s plenty of room to go and explore the islands as you see fit.
The only limiting factors are your stamina and the frequent need to craft items in order to access new areas. On one hand they stop you from blazing a path from start to finish though the grind can weigh down heavily at times. Waiting for resource nodes to reappear is a pain and farming can be a proper chore until several hours in when you start to unlock various upgrades.
Overall, Stranded Sails gives off more of a Castaway vibe than being overly pirate themed. At least to begin with. Although there’s plenty of busywork to be getting on with, you’ll occasionally come across ancient ruins as well as collectibles that help flesh out some of the game’s hidden lore.
Sadly, during our playthrough we encountered a number of frustrating bugs, some of which severely hampered our progress, others breaking the game entirely.
A few bugs we encountered stemmed from the same issues with menus unable to close, even with the game still running in the background. With no way of exiting to the title screen, we were forced to close the application and dive back in. Thankfully Stranded Sails auto-saves often, but for us this turned out to be a poisoned chalice.
Having run into the aforementioned menu bug, we booted the game up again and everything seemed fine. However, several minutes in we found that items were missing from our inventory. These were key items needed to complete story quests which therefore made it impossible to proceed. With the constant auto-saving, we were unable to retrace our steps, leaving us poetically stranded.
We have been assured that an upcoming patch will fix the game in time for launch and made the decision not to issue a review score until then.