Saltsea Chronicles is a story-driven adventure game from indie studio Die Gute Fabrik, known for their other titles Mutazione and Sportsfriends. With a distinct visual style, detailed writing and a varied cast of characters, the game puts its spin on adventure and crafts an interesting take on community and what that means to different people.
After a warm introduction of storytelling around a campfire, the cast of characters is shocked to find their leader, Captain Maja, is missing. The band of misfits have to steal their impounded ship and go on a rescue mission across islands of a post-flood world, Saltsea. With various oddball communities that have popped up and a major mystery to solve, the story threads are all dangling in just the right places to set up for an intriguing adventure of twists and turns.
What instantly sets Saltsea Chronicles apart from other narrative adventure games is that you’re not controlling just one character, but instead a whole crew. You’ll still encounter weighty decisions where you’ll need to figure out which direction you’d like the conversation to go, but you’ll need to consider the perspectives of multiple characters at once, which is an interesting riff on the genre. At certain points, when venturing off the ship, you can only take one or two characters with you, and their background, education and beliefs will impact the way they interact with your objectives, so you must choose wisely.
In a practical sense, you’ll be choosing points of interest on the screen, whether it’s an object with some more information or some dialogue with a character. Saltsea Chronicles is presented episodically, complete with a cute title sequence that plays out between chapters, as if watching a TV show about these misfits and their adventures, each community a new procedural ‘case of the week’. You’ll spend time on your boat, the crew will meet, and then you’ll explore an island on your quest to find Maja.
The game opens with a note to let you know that there are no wrong answers and that each story will be personal to you. This could certainly inspire multiple playthroughs, as each character you choose to take with you to the island will react to their surroundings differently, giving you more or less information. They’ll also be passionate about certain subjects, and there will be conflicts and challenges that you’ll need to resolve as new potential crew members join the fray. As a narrative experience, it’s not afraid to tackle political and social questions and raises some thought-provoking ideas that go deeper than the surface level presented in other story-heavy titles.
This doesn’t always work as intended; while I like the idea of bringing characters with certain strengths with me on my island tours, some of them quite simply don’t have the same investment or valuable thought process when it comes to every scenario. I also found the concept of speaking for the whole crew to be great in theory, but in practice there were times that I didn’t know which character I was deciding for. This didn’t cause too much trouble, as I just tried to keep in mind what I thought my crew would broadly respond with as if I was Captain Maja overseeing things, but it did take some getting used to.
Visually, Saltsea Chronicles shares its style with the developer’s previous games, with bold coloured cardboard-esque environments and Picasso-style character designs that leap off the screen and give everything a real storybook quality that is striking and easy on the eyes; smartly, text during dialogue scenes takes up a large chunk of screen real estate, so it’s easy to take in on smaller screens or handhelds, too.
With its unique riff on storytelling, the choices you make and the reactions you have all feeling personal, Saltsea Chronicles makes for an interesting and palatable narrative adventure. Its episodic nature is also perfect for shorter play sessions as you navigate the various islands. If you want to cozy up to a well-written choose-your-own-adventure story with interesting themes and a unique visual style, Saltsea Chronicles should be a serious consideration.
Saltsea Chronicles is available now for PC, PS5 and Switch.