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"The Captain" Review

Victor has been playing video games for a long time, and enjoys sharing his knowledge and experiences to help other players.

As I was going through an abandoned lab, I had just been ambushed by an alien. After rescuing two survivors, I planned an escape, but we were trapped by the alien.

Both survivors offered to distract the alien to let the plan succeed. But it was quickly becoming obvious that the distraction would cost the survivor their life. I had to make a choice.

Knowing I must sacrifice one of my new friends is a tough decision to make.

Knowing I must sacrifice one of my new friends is a tough decision to make.

The Captain is about a man named Thomas Welmu, a Spacefleet captain who is on a mission to bring precious fuel cells to Earth to defeat a powerful ship known as the Sunblaster, which threatens humanity's survival.

The mission is initially successful, but an error throws Thomas off course and leaves him stranded in a far-away part of the galaxy. Thomas must now find his way back to Earth in less than two years before the Sunblaster gets there first.

The Captain is a point-and-click adventure game that has you explore different planets looking for missing fuel cells/resources needed to make the trip back home. While the mission feels dire and urgent, you have a fantastic group of characters that brings some much-needed levity to the situation with some comedy.

From the sarcastic Ship computer who never stops trying to insult Thomas to the naive and optimistic JEFF robot, you won't have a shortage of characters who make the game interesting.

But it isn't just the funny moments that are done well. Serious and emotional moments, such as deciding whether or not you are going to abandon a family in need, are one of the game's greatest strengths.

Tough Decisions Are Everywhere

Your mission is to return to Earth with at least one fuel cell, but also to have enough resources to allow you to make the trip in the first place.

You will quickly hear about how outposts are under attack, and how one outpost may not survive if you don't help them in time. Are you going to fight your way through? You will need to upgrade your ship with money and resources.

But getting those resources may also mean compromising the situation of others on the planets that you visit. You might doom an entire civilization because you need 300 credits to buy a new engine.

You might also find a planet where a struggling single mother is being blackmailed into marrying a man she doesn't like just to care for her daughter. You want to stay and help the mother, but the man is willing to bribe you to get out ASAP. Do you stay or take the bribe?

There isn't always an obvious answer depending on your needs at the time. The constant focus of the mission being the first priority never leaves your head, and it does make morally questionable decisions more appealing when your options are limited.

Was a new engine worth the sacrifices I made?

Was a new engine worth the sacrifices I made?

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This tough decision making really makes you think about how you spend your time, what is valuable and what you need to care about. It also makes you think or search for better solutions or optimal answers to problems, even if that means avoiding the problem entirely.

These problems, while minor in the face of the overarching mission, will still present themselves to you in a natural way that doesn't feel forced or overbearing.

Puzzles Don't Feel Unnecessary or Forced

The problems and puzzles in The Captain may be standard for the point-and-click adventure genre, but none of them feel like they are there just to extend the game's length or because the developers wanted to see people struggle.

Instead, you actually encounter problems that would be normal under those situations. An abandoned laboratory will have some shady things going on, or a criminal boss will need you to complete 3 tasks because they can't trust someone who they don't know.

You really feel like you're helping characters out, especially when you manage to find a happy ending for everyone involved. Even some of the harder puzzle solutions aren't ridiculous or out-of-place, which keeps you immersed in the game.

Most of the game's narrative strength isn't in the main mission, which is ordinary and doesn't get that much attention. It's in the planets that you visit, making the immersion more important to get the most out of your adventures.

Unfortunately, that immersion can be broken because each planet's problems can have multiple resolutions, some of which are obvious but others are obscure.

The Captain has a nice game mechanic known as Ending Cards, which remember the results of your previous adventure on a planet. On a future playthrough, you can select an Ending Card to "auto-complete" an adventure without having to play through the adventure again.

Getting at least 1 or 2 Ending Cards on a planet isn't that hard, but some of the endings can be frustrating and difficult to find. This extends to some of the solutions required to get these endings as well.

Obscure Solutions & Endings Hurt the Immersion

The Captain works best when you are fully involved in the game. You relate to the characters, you are on a mission but are stopping at planets to help out and gain resources to help you succeed.

That immersion boosts an otherwise ordinary story about a man traveling back to Earth to save everyone, which isn't otherwise touched on very much other than the constant reminder that getting to Earth is the #1 priority.

But sometimes, you can get stuck on getting all of a planet's Ending Cards, wanting to find out how a story can end or getting a particular resource that might help you in your mission. Other times, the lack of an optimal solution might not be obvious and can break the immersion.

Going back to the story of the lab and the two survivors, when the alien blocks your path, both survivors volunteer because they believe they can succeed in doing what they need to do before the alien catches them.

The way the options are presented, you obviously feel like you're sacrificing one or the other. But there's a third option that implies you might be able to save everyone.

The third option makes me believe I can save everyone, even if I can't.

The third option makes me believe I can save everyone, even if I can't.

Unfortunately, there is no way to save everyone, which can be frustrating because that possibility is dangled in front of you. You might have spent lots of time trying to save everyone only to learn that it is ultimately futile.

There is also a puzzle involving meditating at a particular planet. The action seems obvious (continue meditating) but it is in fact a puzzle that you need to solve. You don't have any hints on what to look for or what your inputs actually mean; you just have to guess or look online rather than "be at peace".

Other times, the way to get to a particular ending can be unclear. All you might know of a particular ending is that you don't have it yet, but not have any clues on how to reach it. This can lead to trying a bunch of different ideas, but then realizing you have nothing else and have to search online for hints.

The Captain is a good game when you can remain in the world as long as possible. If you have to break the immersion just to learn how to proceed, the difficulty of some puzzles and the obscurity of the solutions might catch up to you and ruin your experience.

The tough decision making starts to feel less interesting when you had to scour the Internet just to learn how you could get there in the first place.

While it isn't very common, there are enough immersion-breaking moments in the game that can detract from a good gaming experience.

Conclusion

The Captain has a simple mission and a simple story. Most of the interesting narrative comes from the varied cast that you meet, as well as the interesting stories that you encounter on the planets that you visit.

Prioritizing your journey back to Earth over making a morally beneficial choice can be difficult, especially if you're doing your best to be a great person but you really need money. Coupled with puzzles and obstacles that feel natural to overcome, you really feel like a space captain making difficult calls.

Unfortunately, the game does have moments where obscure endings or solutions can break that feeling, bringing you back to reality as you have no idea how to proceed. You can't enjoy the story if you can't complete it.

That being said, The Captain does what it sets out to do and does a great job in making you feel like a space captain who needs to get home no matter what the cost. If traveling through space making difficult decisions is a new experience, The Captain is a great first impression.

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