For the lot o' ye landlubbers readin' this post, I first be tellin' ye today be International Talk Like a Pirate Day. All ye squiffies not knowin' this a'fore ought be keelhauled off me vessle! For the rest of ye buccaneers, enjoy the sweet trade 'till the sun be settin'! One lot o' scallywags that would ne'er be missin' this great, grand day be the scurvy dogs o'er at Cyan Worlds, thar in the far nor' west. And how timely it be for 'em to bestow such booty upon yer bold and mighty scriber (that be me) as a pre-release build of their latest 'ware, Stoneship: Curse of a Thousand Islands! (And I be not talkin' about the dressin', yer can be sure!) </piratespeak>
Indeed, never quite able to find enough ways to properly celebrate this fine holiday, I must thank Cyan Worlds for providing us with an exclusive preview build of their upcoming title, Stoneship. It has made my day of festivities that much richer.
As Cyan indicated to us earlier, Stoneship: The Curse of a Thousand Islands represents "a lighthearted new direction" for the studio. Cyan describes the game as a casual, top-down, turn-based, strategy puzzle game. That's quite a string of adjectives. After spending a bit of time with the game in its current form, I can say that each of those descriptors indeed apply. And, as such, it's something of a difficult title to nutshell for the uninitiated -- but I'll try, and in two different ways.
I will first give a rather general characterization of the game "on paper," is it were. Stoneship sets you and your first mate on the high seas, charged with exploring, controlling, and protecting vast oceans and islands, under continual threat of pirate sieges and tangles with ghastly monsters from the deep. The game is played by moving about any given level, uncovering obscured blocks of both land and sea in an attempt to discover ports, and temples (and, as a result, weaponry) as well as rafts of men lost at sea who will join your forces, as well as the location of any pirate ships that make your forces necessary in the first place.
Once you find a port, it becomes your own...as well as a target for pirates in the area. Each level has a set number of moves you're permitted to execute before the inevitable pirate onslaught ensues. Multiple ports can be linked together to allow resource (battle-ready men) sharing, which is all about shifting men from port to port in the 10 second count-down before the pirate attack comes. Of course, you can only set things up to your advantage here if you've uncovered the location of the lurking pirates in your set number of turns. If not, the pirates come from one of the remaining hidden blocks on the map (which is pretty much a bad thing).
The core play mode is Campaign, which is a round-to-round push through the eighty three included levels (with additional levels to come later via update). A Challenge mode is also offered, which is a sort-of pick and choose affair.
Stoneship is not a complicated game -- really, it's not. But it sounds like it might be, described thus. And so, in a move not typical for our demo videos, I've recorded nearly the entire tutorial session, which explains the gameplay by example, far better than I can with words alone. The action in the video steps up towards the end, after the tutorial, but forgive what must necessarily be somewhat of a slow-paced, if highly informative, overall glimpse of the game in action.
It does take a little while to get the hang of, but after a few rounds, it ends up feeling quite natural.
The pre-release build we were given feels quite close to complete, with the minor issue here and there that should be addressed prior to launch. Stoneship is expected to soon make it's App Store appearance, and an update will shortly follow, bringing with it various enhancements including Game Center support.
Stoneship: The Curse of a Thousand Islands is a casual and interesting mix of ingredients from a number of different formulas that come together to make up a rather unique title. We hope Stoneship marks the beginning of a series of new iOS releases from MYST-maker Cyan.