Explore the Alien planets of the 24th century, with their sinister worlds and cities inhabited by strange sometimes violent people. Learn to tell friend from foe, as you try to outwit traders with your merchandise, the competition can be intense, but the rewards great, as you strive to financially secure your race.
Select your genetically created crew members and take of in your "Rustbucket" of a spaceship to the other solar planets, whilst battling against marauding pirate ships that will try to hinder your trading progress.
Whale's Voyage basically is an RPG that features space trading elements. Your crew visits several planets where they can barter a range of goods and accomplish certain missions in order to increase their budget and obtain better equipment for their ship and themselves.
You command the crew of the Whale, a space freighter which once might have been an impressive ship. But soon, your men realize that their second-hand bought vehicle was such a cheap deal, not because of their superb bargaining skills but simply because it's a piece of scrap. So, you've got an almost wrecked ship orbiting a planet which is faaar away from beloved earth and you've got no money - to sum up: you've got a big problem! Your task will be, as you have certainly already guessed, to find a way to boost your finances and get back home! Sounds easy? Rest assured, it ain't...
At the very beginning you need to create your crew. The character system is very similar to what we know from many RPGs, even though in Whale's Voyage you can apparently choose only from two different races. Other specifications such as professions and attributes are rather familiar. Professions are defined by a range of educational institutions your character have been to in earlier life. These include different facilities, either for mental, scientifical or military training. First you choose a basic course, then you select a specific development, which finally results in the respective profession, such as soldier, psionic, headhunter or scientist. Another interesting feature is the mutation rate. You have the option to distribute a certain amount of points on your characters' attributes in order to increase them. The more points you spend, the higher the mutation rate will be, thus weakening a character's genes, meaning that this crewmember will be somewhat more vulnerable to environmental hazards such as diseases.
After you've completed the creation of your crew, you're in the ship menu. There you can buy/sell goods, equip your ship, select a planet to travel to, visit a planet you're orbiting and last but not least contact a special person via phone. By pressing the escape key, you will also get into the options menu, where you can save and load a game (please note, that you can only access this menu while you're aboard the Whale).
According to which option you select, you will enter one of the modes the game's divided into. Basically, there's a trading/equipment mode, which lets you deal with certain items and power up your ship, a planetary mode, where you can explore a planet's settlement and interact with its inhabitants and an interstellar mode, that occasionally shows objects that may be interfering your travels to another planet. In this case, you can control the movement of your ship on a map and engage attacking opposition, all of which is being handled turn-based.
The most interesting mode however is planetary exploration. After your crew arrives on the respective planet, you will find yourself being situated in sort of a colony. You walk through the streets and buildings and meet merchants who offer goods to you (or buy these from you), thugs who try to kill you and characters, who are in need of assistance for special missions (for instance, helping somebody to escape a planet or taking a precious item to another location) - all of this is played in real-time. You can enter simple dialogues with many inhabitants, set each member's specific task within the crew and manage their inventories and skills as well as observe your surroundings. To support your orientation, there's an overview map available, displaying the areas you've already explored.
As you accomplish objectives for people in need of help, you will receive payments or special items and level up, by and by. This will increase the efficiency of your fellows, since you can pick new skills according to their professions.
Now we get to the only distinctive downside of this game. Your controls are limited to the keyboard, there's no mouse support! The procedure you're accessing the menus and moving your crew with is quite annoying, as you can either walk or operate the menus. You've got to hit return and arrow down simultaneously to get into the menus, then you browse them one by one using the arrow keys. You will come to see, this is especially hindering while being in a fight, because you've got to go through the menu structure quite quickly and that might turn out very uncomfortable since it's arranged in a non-linear way. I found this kind of control to be very cumbersome, but I guess for most players it'll be just a matter of practice!
Graphics & Sound:
The graphics are very nicely done, regarding how old the game is. All visual elements are well-drawn (except for the interstellar map, in which some objects are quite hard to identify at first) and rather diversified. There are only a few animations and these are slightly rough, but this should not really be a problem.
The music is touchy with each location having its own score, but still it can get a little repetitive at times. Unfortunately, there don't seem to be any sound effects, which would otherwise have intensified the atmosphere.
All in all, Whale's Voyage is a very solid science fiction RPG. Not only does it contain RPG/adventure elements but also demands a certain strategic management when it comes to trading and space fights - so it's a very interesting mix of genres. Although its story is not the most original one, the game manages to develop a good amount of entertainment and challenge. Despite the awful controls, which might be got used to if you show good will and patience, Whale's Voyage delivers some nice gameplay along really enjoyable graphics and cool music, so it's without doubt worth a try!
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