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Drydocks (demo review) 
 PostTue Jan 08, 2019 7:59 am
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Glad that ferry guy didn't 'splode...
This is a review of Drydocks - A Merchant RPG.

Drydocks – A Merchant RPG is a game demo released in 2018 by Kyle Lynn; it is an update of a demo originally released in 2015.

The protagonist’s father, a successful merchant, was killed; and his assets were stolen. The protagonist has set out to gain their own wealth as a merchant, but was shipwrecked on an island with very little in the way of resources. The object is to buy and sell until this situation is rectified.

A handy sidebar displays the player’s current resources and a map can be toggled on and off. Sparkling map locations are supposed to be interactive, whereas non-sparkling ones do nothing. Stepping on certain sparkling locations doesn’t always have a result, and at least one sparkling location couldn’t be stepped on at all. NPCs roam the map and say things, but it’s not always clear what they want or what to do about it. Pressing number keys shows prices of goods in different areas, but it isn’t clear where these areas are supposed to be. The map shows numbered locations (the numbers don’t seem to correspond to the keys designated for city info) but it doesn’t display where the player is currently located so it’s hard to know exactly where you are. Sometimes entering a city notifies you of its name, but this doesn’t always trigger.

A few seconds into the game I pressed Enter to try and interact with something, and the player avatar disappeared and turned into a shadow that ignored boundaries. Somehow I got it to turn back into the hero sprite, but I got trapped in some rocks sticking out of the water and had to restart the game.

Restarting the game, I bought and sold wheat (the only resource for sale on the island) until there was no more wheat to buy. I talked to a guy with a ferry, who said something about exploding and automatically transported me to the mainland (oops? yay?). Here I immediately came upon some cheaper wheat, which I purchased reflexively; over an hour later, I’d still not found anyone who would buy this wheat (oops).

Some confusion stems from using terms like “goods” and “food” both as generic terms and as the proper names of specific items the player can acquire. When a text box refers to goods or food, it isn’t always clear what sense of the word it means. Sometimes a text box appears announcing “new goods have been produced;” but it isn’t clear whether it means “goods” or “Goods,” or where these new goods are located on the game’s expansive map.

I started getting a message that I was hungry and needed to buy food at a General Store or Tavern; failing to do so caused the hero to faint and re-spawn at the start of the mainland. Taverns didn’t actually offer any food, but instead offered me the opportunity to rest (the effect of which was unclear). General Stores displayed a list of edible items (bread, ham, etc.) but did not indicate prices or allow me to purchase them, and I couldn’t figure out why. Adding to the confusion, there is a trade resource called “Food;” but this is not the same food the hero needs to survive. I eventually found a General Store that allowed me to buy ham and bread, but buying it didn’t help me survive or add anything to the resources in my sidebar. I continued to get the “hungry” message and pass out. I eventually opened the game’s main menu, found a separate inventory, saw the edible items listed there, and pressed Enter a few times until a text box said the bread gave me supplies. This seemed to help me survive long enough to explore, though I’m not sure what exactly was going on with this system.

The sidebar doesn’t update until the next step you take after making a sale or purchase, so it was sometimes hard to tell the status of various resources. Inventory has a cap, but I think maybe the game was allowing me to purchase things I couldn’t carry because sometimes my money would deplete and I wouldn’t know where it had gone. I could be wrong about this. I ended up broke, just like in real life. Maybe it’s me. It’s me.

I like the idea of Drydocks very much, and I like the UI concept (if it updated instantly). However I had trouble intuiting how I was supposed to interact with the convoluted systems, and my instinctive response was choice paralysis. There are some bugs and typos, and it’s a bit overwhelming; however I think this could be a really super cool game if it were streamlined and clarified.
...spake The Lord Thy God.
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