Every year, a few games come along that can grab your attention with their visual style and art. “Saltsea Chronicles” by Die Gute Fabrik is without a doubt one of those games. This adventure game, full of rich narrative, is one of the most visually stunning games I’ve seen in a long time. But the question is, does the gameplay match the look of the game? And that’s a very difficult question that I can’t find a clear answer to. I’ve been struggling with it, trying to come up with a solution.
The idea behind Saltsea Chronicles is to lead a group of people through a flooded world in a quest to find and solve a mystery related to their kidnapped friend. The game’s plot is full of branching storylines and choices, meaning that the decisions you make directly affect the story, the places you visit, and the people you meet along the way. In this respect, you can be sure that your adventure in Saltsea Chronicles will likely be completely different from mine, even if the bulk of the gameplay affects us in similar ways.
- Developer: Die Gute Fabrik
- Publisher: Die Gute Fabrik
- Release Date: October 12, 2023
Like some other adventure games with an intense story, Saltsea Chronicles is a game that requires almost no player intervention. With the exception of clicking on the interacting characters that appear on the still image of the island you’re on, all you have to do as a player is look at the written dialog and choose the appropriate response from two options when the need arises. It’s a very passive game that requires hours of reading, so if these two design elements don’t appeal to you, then you’d better give up on playing Saltsea Chronicles, as it probably won’t be able to keep you interested and engrossed.
Against this backdrop, even as someone who appreciates and plays many games with a rich story, there’s a sense that Saltsea Chronicles loses a bit of its appeal. The dialog has its moments, and choices can seem important, but the gameplay too often lacks enticing qualities, and the rest of the game relies too heavily on getting lost and lost in the excitement of its stunning graphics and art style. Sometimes it feels like the game forgets that it’s supposed to keep you entertained throughout a story that can go on for over 10 hours. Reading text for hours on end without significant gameplay elements to diversify the experience quickly loses its fascination, and since the story is set in a strange and unusual world, there’s no level of connection to grasp in order to stay engrossed in the story Saltsea Chronicles is trying to tell.
What the developers have implemented in an attempt to revitalize the gameplay is a system of relationships between the members of the story that make up your group. As you travel through a world made up of islands, you’ll meet new people and invite them to join your team, but you’ll encounter problems that will undermine the friendships in the group. You’ll have to find ways to solve these problems to prevent discord between team members. This can be as simple as talking to your teammates to defuse tension and frustration, or involve finding items (such as food or parts for your ship-house) to fix problems that arise. At best, these are small side quests to complete, and while they give you something to do besides the main plot, they aren’t a saving grace.
Despite all of the above, that there is something in the gameplay to keep you engrossed for more than 10 hours of story. Its main mystery is a strong hook that dips in and out of magical realism. In the course of the walkthrough, you have to make several important choices that can have a major impact on the story’s progression. The various decisions will create constant “problems” with my team, which will need to be worked out in dialog. For example, inviting a new crew member onto my ship may create some tension with my shipmates. Choices always have consequences, even if they manifest themselves much later.
There’s no real walking in the game. You simply click on the place you want to interact with, and your pair of adventurers rushes there in half the time. This does a good job of keeping the pace of the game just right.
For example, upon arriving at a new destination, one character will naturally lead the day’s expedition in search of clues and information, but you can also choose a companion to take along for the ride. The resulting conversations between them, as well as their observations about the respective communities you’re visiting, will vary depending on which pair is out on the battlefield, and sometimes you can even pick up additional snippets of slang in different dialects if you happen to bring someone who can speak the different languages of the archipelago.
The main feature that the developer has implemented to add variety to the gameplay is a mini-game called “Plandra”. It’s a card game whose rules change depending on the island you visit in each chapter, as many locals play “Plandra” by their own rules. It’s a pretty fun break from the tense plot twists and turns, and along with the way you fill a scrapbook with stickers reflecting your path, it’s a great way to add some depth to the gameplay.
There’s no denying that Saltsea Chronicles is slow paced and leaves a lot to be desired at times, but this indie adventure game has its great moments. I wouldn’t call it a complete success, as it loses a bit of its addictiveness at times, but where it lacks thrills, it makes up for it with some truly stunning visuals and a great atmospheric soundtrack. At times it feels like an interactive work of art. It’s mesmerizing to look at, but it doesn’t quite have the same immersive qualities as many of the other narrative adventures we’ve had the opportunity to experience recently.
- Fantastic narrative featuring multiple characters
- Vividly imaginative world and stories
- Wonderful book-like style
- Since there’s more inspiration from visual novels, heavy reading, and light gameplay elements, this may make some players want more interactivity