Saturday, 28 January 2017

WHALE'S VOYAGE 2


The first Whale's Voyage was something of a surprise. I was not aware of it before a recent search for something interesting for this site and it turned out to be a good time despite some major flaws. Whale's Voyage 2 released in 1995 can be summed up in one sentence: it's the exact same game.

Well, that's not entirely fair of me to say. The graphics are better with a Wolfenstein 3D-style engine used to explore planets and the ability to use the mouse but beyond that I struggle to find much that's significantly different. With that in mind, I'll try and do the opposite and not repeat myself.

You still need to create four randomly generated crew members before boarding the Whale, but gone are the interesting love-nests you can create. No attention is paid to the mother or father with a random character generator button in its stead. There's also a shift to higher-education only when selecting a school. On the plus side the type of character you can get varies a lot more than before. There are more types of aliens to be found beyond Cthulhu-crab. You now have a grey Jabba the Hut and an ET-octopus crossbreed. Very rarely did I get a human child.

The one thing that is new here is the addition of drawbacks. These are negative character traits that effect game-play in minor way. For example, the 'spending mad' character could easily empty your wallet when in shops all while making sure the 'epileptic' is OK before you any brawls start. A 'pompous' man can also lower morale while anyone 'sensitive to cold' will be weaker on frozen landscapes. Couple these with the carry over of various 'duties' you can assign on the fly during the game and you have quite the foursome. Failing that you can always import your characters from the first game. I've not tried it, but I imagine it would require copying and merging the two HDD folders.

Fighting on the surface is again a rather confusing affair. Unlike dedicated first-person shooters that utilise a similar engine, it's not always clear if you've hit an enemy. And when you have nothing but your mitts, you won't know if you've even thrown a punch. Depending on your stats, some of your characters might not even be able to hold a gun, and even if they can it takes an age to kill anyone. I swear the game is entirely populated by Terminators. Nevertheless, unless you go around punching everyone, there are not that many actual foes to make carrying guns and ammo worthwhile. I suggest recruiting at least two Psi-Mages. Their Brainblast attack is devastating, even if it does drain their slowly-rejuvenating mental energy.

The space pirate battles are back too, and they're far more frequent than before. These turn-based strategy segments didn't quite click with me as before. For starters there are more enemies surrounding you meaning escape is very tricky. At the beginning when you're striving to figure out the best trade routes these battles can be devastating. One solution: save often. t's more than likely you'll have a safe route when you restore.

The one thing I liked most in the first game is the trade, and it works in much the same way here. The number of different items to buy and sell has been drastically reduced though. I kinda miss figuring out which planets favour condoms more than others. I suggest you focus on trade before you get into the story, if only to upgrade the Whale and your crew. It makes the game a lot easier.

At some point, when you've scrounged enough money to afford it, you can upgrade your 'glide' to scan planets for resources. This leads to a cool-looking pseudo 3D viewpoint to explore the landscape in. I've been left empty handed more often than not so it was almost useless for me. Unless I'm using it wrong, and there's a good reason as to why I'm not. You see, there's very little information about this game online. It never received an official English release either on DOS or the original Amiga. Even though this unofficial translation exists - and I'm very thankful for it - no such attention has been made to the documentation (and this was before in-game tutorials became the norm). The manual for the first included useful info on everything in the game from combat and controls to menu navigation and strategic hints. Here I felt like I was fumbling my way through, even after a few hours of play. Tactics that were once successful are longer here and because everything is so similar if felt like I was re-learning old lessons. And so, I became bored far too easily.

There's no decent story to keep you going either. This wasn't the first game's strongest suit either, but even the bizarre idiosyncrasies that made me smile are missing here. There's some guffins about delivering nuclear goo only to be double-crossed which results in you getting caught up in some kind of trade war. I think. Plot, and how it's presented, isn't a priority here. The small amount of text and conversations are not enough to get a true idea of what's going on. It could be a result of the fan translation but judging by the first game, I think not. In truth I had more fun getting the game to actually run (it was a bit of a bugger).

Perhaps I reviewed Whale's Voyage 2 too close to the first game and I'm just all traded out, but I couldn't get into this sequel. At all. It looks better with a few minor differences - the best being the glide upgrade - but it's ultimately the same game. Only worse.


To download the game, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses the DOSBox Daum build of DOSBox 0.74 to bring the game to modern systems. Tested on Windows 10.

Download


Whale's Voyage II is © neo Software Produktions
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me

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