Preview: Ship Ahoy – Pirates of the Caribbean meets the Muppets

Stepping into virtual reality (VR) development is no easy task, especially when a studio wants to create a multiplayer focused title in an industry still considered very niche when compared to PC or consoles. Yet there are many that have, with some multiplayer experiences like Rec Room or EVE: Valkyrie finding a community while others have not. Trying its hand for the first time in this field is indie developer OKAM Studio with a light-hearted, ocean-based PvP experience called Ship Ahoy.

Ship Ahoy’s main gameplay focus is on pure deathmatch carnage. You find yourself in control of a small plucky ship with three items to operate. Up front there are the ship controls, pressing the grip buttons on the HTC Vive grabs the stick for left and right movement, while pressing the trigger will give the ship a boost at the expense of manoeuvrability. Then at either side are your weapons two cannons that fire cats – there’s no explanation why, just go with it – in a grenade style arc. Both cannons are fixed in position, so for maximum aiming effectiveness you need to control the cannon and ship at the same time.

Ship Ahoy

OKAM Studio has certainly created a title for those with good hand-to-eye coordination, especially the ambidextrous, where the sea-based firefights can become quite intense when trying to dodge incoming projectiles as well as fire your own. And that’s just when you stick to your preferred control method. Use the right cannon more because you’re right handed? Well you’ll quickly find it’ll run out of ammo so you’ll have to switch hands (and sides), possibly putting yourself at a disadvantage. There are floating ammo and health barrels about if you can get to them.

Currently gameplay options are quite limited. The PvP battles VRFocus played all took place on one map, with no others available for selection. The same goes for the boats and weapons, there are no customisation features to create your own flashy pirate ship, or ways of improving or just altering the two cannons available – at certain points some sort of mine would’ve been good. This type of system does keep things fair, putting winning down to your own skill rather than being able to afford an upgrade but it can reduce variety in strategic combat.

Ship Ahoy

As VRFocus has previously mentioned, multiplayer only titles can suffer if players don’t get behind them. So to ensure there’s always something to play OKAM Studio has included some single-player elements should no one be online. There are three minigames where you can sail around shooting targets, try and pick up floating treasure, or – the personal favourite – manning a tower with four cannons whilst you get attacked by a bunch of ships. All enjoyable in their own little way yet not as much fun as the PvP mode.

Ship Ahoy has the makings of great, family friendly shooter. Where you can engage in some nautical combat that isn’t going to make you unwell. The videogame is somewhat sparse of certain elements and features but that’s not to say these won’t come in time. For its first VR videogame OKAM Studio is already doing a lot better than others, so hopefully the final title will stay afloat rather than meeting a watery end.