Sailing Era Review – Lost Among the Great Seas

    Title: Sailing Era
    Developer: GY Games
    Release Date: January 11, 2023
    Reviewed On: PC
    Publisher: bilibili
    Genre: Adventure, RPG, Simulation, Strategy

Historical events have been represented mainly in gaming, from the Three Kingdoms of China history in Dynasty Warriors to Japanese historical wars in Touken Ranbu. But today, we’ll be going into a historical period that has a special meaning in my region, South America. And that is the Era of Discovery, something that you learn at a very young age in History class.

Sailing Era starts its presentation by introducing you to four different characters, all located in four countries: Portugal, China, Arab, and Japan. However, they all have one thing in common: They all desire to explore the world yonder, each with their own reasons, be it out of sheer curiosity or just the desire for revenge.

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The story follows an isometric format, which you might recognize from games such as Octopath Traveler. That was my initial impression when I first saw the in-game screenshots, and from the few hours I spent playing through each of them, the main characters never seem to meet one another, even if you end up visiting the exact locations.

Still, given that the historical period we’re talking about here spans two centuries, I suppose it makes sense. Though it would’ve been nice to know the exact year of when each of those stories took place because all you get at the beginning is a massive wall of text that feels like reading the textbook definition of the event, if I’m being honest.

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While Sailing Era relies on random chance to get more resources, I feel they’re a bit too unpredictable. You see, because the things you can sell change price, not the mention the sudden events such as your cargo suddenly going on fire, they all can happen at a literal drop of a hat. As a result, you can quickly get stuck, forcing you to restart your save earlier to redo your steps.

Furthermore, the longer you stay at sea, the more your supplies, not to mention your funds, can quickly take a nosedive if you’re not paying attention. Even though objectives are given to you, their directions are incredibly vague. The game doesn’t even mark where you need to go with an X or a circle for the most part, despite it having the programming to do so when you’re searching for a pirate’s bounty. It’s irritating because you have to trust your gut and go through sheer trial and error, reloading your save over and over until you know what you need to do.

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This also doesn’t help that the English translation feels extraordinarily stiff and, to my eye, machine-translated because speeches feel highly unnatural, and I had many instances of dialogue that was either mistranslated or poorly worded. It almost feels like the developers grabbed the entire game’s script, threw it into Google Translate, then copy-pasted whatever mess it spat out, and called it a day, not even bothering to edit it. I had more luck understanding the Japanese translation; even that one is not perfect.

However, I have to give credit where it’s due because, despite the atrocious translation, one thing that I give high praise for is the historical accuracy this game presents you with. Depending on your location, you’ll have NPCs at all the different shops, and they all have a voice acted line in the exact language that country speaks, and they all sound incredibly fluent, not just some forced accents. Furthermore, this applies to even the UI icons of the places you explore. Still, the main characters are only partially voiced with your typical sighs and grunts, which makes me question why they go the extra mile, but in the wrong direction in this case, but hey, kudos.

sailing era screenshot 1

Controlling the game can be done either with a controller or with a keyboard and mouse, though I will say you’re much better just getting used to the keyboard controls. Using the former method is fine, but not only is the UI clunky, but you cannot rebind any buttons while using that method. In contrast, with the keyboard, you can practically remap most buttons and create a custom layout that you can get comfy with.

Still, regardless of whichever method you prefer, the ship controls can be a bit stiff, and if you thought that battles were turn-based, well, they aren’t. They seem to trigger randomly the moment you are at sea, with some battles being mandatory for the story to progress, and it takes almost forever to conclude a battle, especially in the early game. Even though time slows down and doesn’t dwindle your resources too much, that doesn’t excuse how long it takes.

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Sailing Era is a beautiful game where the developers put a lot of thought into its presentation and historical enactment. Still, unfortunately, this title is constantly held back due to its frustrating gameplay loop, combined with a highly awkward machine translation. Unless you have a walkthrough on hand or have an immense amount of patience to fight your way through sheer trial and error, by the twelfth time you reset your save, you probably would’ve wanted to set aside time and play something else at that point.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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