Games I Own: The Ship

Written by Joe Martin

April 28, 2010 // 2:26 p.m.

Tags: #games-i-own #indie #multiplayer #the-ship

The Ship is, I think, one of the greatest examples of how a great idea doesn’t always make a good game. Of all the games I’ve ever bought (and this is a game I spent a long, long time umming and erring over before I purchased), The Ship is possibly the game I’ve played the least.

The problem, I think, isn’t the game itself though – it’s the players. In all of the few matches I’ve played of The Ship it’s been the players that have broken it, not the game itself.

The Ship is a multiplayer murder simulator based on a cruise liner run by a mad man, who has involved all passengers in a game of death. Everyone onboard has been given a target that they have to assassinate and matches involve you trying to hunt down that one single person and take them out, at the same time avoiding your own would-be assassin. You’ve also got to contend with the security systems on the ship too – you have to dodge guards, scavenge weapons where you can and commit your crimes away from the prying glass eyes of the CCTV cameras.

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Games I Own: The Ship

The problem is that, while the concept makes it sound like The Ship is a slow, tense game that could breed some gloriously intricate behaviours (alliance and betrayals, anyone?), the reality is that most people don’t like to play like that. People like something a bit more immediate, so what should feel like a multi-murder mystery feels more like a deathmatch where you can only kill people in certain corridors.

It doesn’t help that the game has a touch too much depth layered into it either. Money is great when you have it because you can bribe guards and buy guns, but accumulating that wealth is tiresome when you really just want to be killing.

Disguises are perhaps the most game-breaking mechanic though, as changing your appearance regularly is an important tool in staying alive. The ship is supposedly filled with strangers and all players are only given a name, not a photo, so you have to discover the names of other players by getting close to them. What inevitably happens then is that you wander up to a player you don’t know and you find out each other’s names. Then, if he’s your target then you kill him. If you are his, he kills you. If neither of you are targets then maybe he kills you anyway. Combat is brief as it is, but it also becomes predictable.

Games I Own: The Ship

In a way, The Ship reminds me of Kane and Lynch’s multiplayer mode, Fragile Alliance – where one team of convicts squared off against guards and each other to grab the largest amount of loot. It sounded brilliant and promised much, but in reality most games boiled down to the same tactics.

Really though, it isn’t the player’s fault for acting like that – the developers should have predicted as much. Players always try to break every system they come across. It’s just something we do and, if you don’t believe me, I suggest you think back to the last time you played something like Half-Life 2. If you managed to sit through the opening scenes in Kliener’s lab without playing with the hula girl, making Gordon jump around on the spot or climb on desks then I’d be massively surprised.

Number of Times Completed: Never.

Random Trivia: The Ship was developed by Outerlight Studios, who I once talked into doing some writing for the site. Nice of them, wasn’t it?

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