Review: <em>Ship of Fools</em> Is a Chaotic Co-Op Roguelike

While some co-op video games test the boundaries of friendship, playing on the couch with a buddy or significant other is one of my favorite types of video game playing. Ship of Fools is a rare game that’s all about two player cooperation, but also mixes in some rogue-ish elements in to create a game where communication is vital, but chaos reigns.

Ship of Fools is a roguelike action game where you and a friend brave the monster filled seas in a ship called The Stormstrider.  Your goal is to fend off threats using the two on board cannons as you pass into each new hex on the shrinking map. A darkness is overtaking each sea, and you only have so many moves before it overwhelms everything, leading to a boss battle. Find upgrades like artifacts that can give you buffs, like increased damage output—or find entirely different projectiles to load into your cannons to even the odds.

Screenshot: Ship of Fools

While you spend most of your time on The Stormstrider in Ship of Fools, you don’t really control it. Rather, you decide where to travel on a hex map, and then you have to react to whatever encounter pops up—and that’s more often than not a fight. The Stormstrider comes equipped with two cannons, each can be picked up and replaced, but only on the four designated cannon stations—two at starboard and two at port. Similarly, there are three cargo locations on the ship to store your loot. Anything not secured to a cargo location is lost when you change hexes. Strangely, your default ammo source takes up one of these hexes.

Combat in Ship of Fools is your main activity, unfortunately. I would have loved to see some co-op style challenges, like some sort of puzzle solving, but most of the time you and your buddy will have to man the cannons. You can attempt battles with a dedicated cannoneer, but it’s best if both of you fire and reload your cannon  yourselves while fending off the waves of enemies.  You start with a default, single shot cannon, but eventually discover different types of guns as you progress. You can mix and match these cannons as you like, so if you prefer grapeshot while your buddy prefers the OG cannon, you don’t have to compromise.

Screenshot: Ship of Fools

While Ship of Fools is a roguelike, it doesn’t rock the boat much in terms of what to expect. You can choose where to go on a hex map, with each tile potentially representing items or enemy encounters.  During your explorations you will unlock new NPCs that will help you back at the base camp in preparation for each run—like the blacksmith who upgrades your weapons, or the person who gives you new buffs for each run. There are also different player characters you can unlock through exploration, each of which carries a trinket that bestows a unique ability—like faster firing when that character reloads a cannon.

While Ship of Fools is definitely fun to play with friends, it didn’t keep me hooked like some roguelikes. It feels like it’s a little light on content, and that we saw most everything there was to see after a couple of hours of gameplay.  It possesses an art style and charm that vaguely reminds me of Don’t Starve, but it wasn’t enough to keep going.

Ship of Fools is available today for PC via Steam and on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series S|X and Nintendo Switch.

A Steam key was provided to us for this review.

Antal Bokor
Antal Bokor

Antal is video game advocate, retro game collector, and video game historian.
He is also a small streamer, occasional podcast guest, and writer.

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