Nantucket

Game review by
David Wolinsky, Common Sense Media
Nantucket Game Poster Image
Slow-paced strategy requires patience, luck for success.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Open-ended story focuses on whaling industry, with emphasis on strategy in managing your resources, recruiting men, exploring ocean. Choices, consequences come in quick succession, but there's little reflecting on morality of your actions.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Only characters are your crew: a disposable, interchangeable lot who create problems, opportunities for you.

Ease of Play

Despite a patient tutorial, you're in for a rocky start and will need a fair amount of patience to improve, endure, prosper.

Violence

Your crew, sea life can die, but battles take place in card, dice battles. Health bars get diminished, characters simply disappear.

Sex

Opportunities arise to earn money, increase morale by having sex with your own crew. No graphic depiction or description, just a passive observation that it happened.

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Your crew drink, will often protest if they don't get enough grog. No drunkenness shown; grog is another meter to monitor.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Nantucket is a seafaring strategy game loosely based on Moby Dick. Players hunt whales and explore the high seas, departing from America in the early 19th century and combing the globe to fight the elusive Moby Dick. Essentially a digital board game, this title doesn't have graphic violence but has some surprisingly suggestive content. Most notable would be the opportunities that arise for you to have sex with your own crew either for money or to raise morale. This being a game about pirates, there's also lots of grog being drunk, but it's shown merely as a meter on-screen that drains slowly alongside food, water, oil, and other resources. There are battles, but they are carried out via dice and cards, and when an enemy creature or someone in your crew is done in, they simply disappear. 

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What's it about?

In NANTUCKET, an adaptation taking place shortly after the events of Herman Melville's Moby Dick, you'll command a crew and explore the seven seas, fighting pirates and hunting whales while on the lookout for Moby Dick to exact revenge. You can become the sort of captain you want to be, developing your character by choosing how to handle various conflicts. From dysentery and paranoia to pirate attacks and poisoned supplies, you'll have to be cool under pressure as you endure tons and tons of hazards.

Is it any good?

One can make the case for this game being hugely absorbing or too hard for its own good. Either way, Nantucket is a slow-paced and frequently unforgiving game. Neither of these are "bad" qualities, but as a blend of Oregon Trail, Moby Dick, and board games, the formula here is at least somewhat familiar: You'll start off in a tiny rotten boat with a salty crew. You have to play your cards right and carry out a lot of missions before you can afford to cruise the seven seas in style with some sense that you'll survive. Sometimes the challenge is fun and rewarding, like when you've properly planned for the voyage ahead and are able to upgrade your ship. Other times, it's frustrating because the game doesn't seem to play by its own rules: On some expeditions with an understocked amount of grog, the crew decided they didn't need to drink anyway and stayed sober permanently -- until later when there was a mutiny due to a lack of grog. 

Random events are the lifeblood of any simulator-strategy game like this, and it's disappointing that the spectrum here ranges from boring and repetitive (you're worried if you start imitating a crew member's personality, everyone will look down on you) to more eyebrow-raising (when you interrupt your crew having sex, you can join them and then use these relationships to earn money and fund your journeys). In a game all about high adventure, it's the static imagery and how tiny (and slow-moving) your boat is that's really at odds with that idea. Everything takes place on a map unfurled on a wooden table. That, and another screen representing combat, is all you'll see. The harshest criticism you can levy against this lack of distraction is that at times it feels like you're managing a spreadsheet. The highest praise you can say about it is that it's all about the strategy. There are some strange tonal notes here (as mentioned, plus things like your suddenly becoming xenophobic just because someone on your crew is racist), but if you keep an open mind, there's a rewarding rhythm that sets in to the flow of going to all corners of the map, leveling up your ship and crew by the time logged in the deep blue. Only it's a little too bad that just as if you were to do this journey for real, there's a fair amount of monotony to work through.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the sexual content in the game. What do you think of the way this topic is broached in Nantucket, and do you think it's responsible to treat it as part of a larger game to win or a strategy to deploy? 

  • This video game is a board game based on a book. Does it extend the story that it was adapted from? If so, how? Either way, do you think this game might interest someone in reading the book? 

  • Why do revenge tales persist in our culture and media? 

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