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A ship without cargo, April 19, 2021
This is a very basic pirate game where the objective is to steal treasures and bring them back home. I played it to practice reading French, but there's not much "fiction" in this interactive fiction: the story is lightly sketched out in single sentences, and gameplay revolves largely around learning and mastering the mechanical gameplay loop.
La Nageuse Écarlate revolves around randomly generated ship encounters, which hail from one of a variety of nations and have ship classes indicating their combat strength. If you attack and defeat a ship -- a random chance depending on its strength -- you have a chance to loot resources and, potentially, its flag. Once you have a false flag, you can use it to meet peacefully with other ships and expend resources to gather information on the treasures you're stealing.
Once you've discovered a treasure and its location, the actual heist gameplay is remarkably simple: binary success if you learned all the requisite information, and slap-on-the-wrist failure if you didn't. The game thus becomes an exercise in grinding random ships for resources and information until you inevitably accumulate what you need to win. In the late game, La Nageuse Écarlate becomes a chore of clicking through identical prompts until you finally see a ship with the correct flag, or you finally get the right random drop from combat.
It's a shame that the core gameplay is so unsatisfying, because La Nageuse Écarlate's polished visuals are a breath of fresh air in the sometimes staid world of interactive fiction. At its best, it evokes Superluminal Vagrant Twin in its breezy prose and resource-juggling gameplay. Remove the randomness and add some narrative threads and questlines, and I could see it becoming an addictive pirate simulator in the vein of Sunless Sea.
Overall rating: a decent attempt at a game, but nothing special in its current state. There's treasure here, if the author is willing to put in the hard work to uncover it. Until then, you aren't missing much by passing this ship by.