Saltsea Chronicles is a beautifully written narrative adventure that captured my heart and refused to let go

Saltsea Chronicles Indie Spotlight
(Image credit: Die Gute Fabrik)

During my time with Saltsea Chronicles, I lost count of the number of times I paused to soak in the words of a particular line. The writing of Die Gute Fabrik's story-driven adventure beautifully captures the emotions and personalities of its characters. So much so, in fact, that I came to care for them a great deal and many snippets of dialogue or descriptions of their feelings cut right to the heart of me. But it also effectively drives forward a mystery you can't help but get invested in. Instead of focusing on just one main character, Saltsea Chronicles sees you follow and shape the journey of a whole ragtag crew who are all brought together aboard the De Kelphie ship to set off in search of their missing captain. 

Along the way, you'll visit a variety of communities across the colorful archipelago as you try to get closer to the truth. With a rich branching narrative, choices are at the heart of the experience: You decide on who ventures off the ship, how they respond or react, and where you go. There are plenty of surprises in store, and I entirely lost myself to the story as it progressed. What spoke to me the most though, was its exploration of connection, and how the group dynamics brought something different to the adventure. 

Connection and community 

Saltsea Chronicles

(Image credit: Die Gute Fabrik)

In many ways, Saltsea Chronicles is all about connection. Whether it be the common goal the crew shares that brings them together, their links to different places and people, or the bonds and relationships they develop with one another, everything comes together to make it easy for you as the player to connect with each character. While the core story revolves around the mystery of Maja, the captain who has clearly touched the lives of each crew member in some way, I love how so many conversations give you insight into the individual stories of the cast. So you're not only unraveling the case of the captain, but you're also learning more and more about the crew as you go. 

The crew are a diverse bunch – with the likes of Maja's partner Molphe and her six-month-old baby Ade, the historian and academic Murl, the misfit and radio fanatic Iris (who's my personal favorite), and Stew, a 70-something-year-old diver who loves to cook –, they each have their own distinct personalities and flaws that make them feel real and relatable, but they also have their own set of skills and motivations that come into play, too. You can also be joined by other people along the way who will bring their own views and ideas to the collective table as you venture from place to place. 

The choices also feel impactful, since they not only shape the direction of the ship's journey, but they also factor into the dynamics of the group. Characters will often express how they're feeling in any given situation, and depending on your choices, issues and tensions can arise between the characters that you can keep track of in a log book. Each time you reach a new destination, for example, there will be an already assigned member of the crew leading the expedition to find out more about Maja's whereabouts in that area. You can then decide who goes with them depending on their skills. On one occasion, I decided to leave Murl on the ship, even though he was clearly eager to go because of his penchant for history, which caused an issue to pop up that told me he was left feeling disappointed. 

While there are ways to resolve certain issues and conflicts between the party, sometimes they will be "scuppered", meaning that a character now feels a certain way thanks to your actions. It's an effective system, and makes you consider what may be the best course to take to keep the tensions of the crew in check and make sure everyone feels seen and heard. It also adds an additional layer of relatability to the experience, since disagreements are only natural when you have a group of people together who hold different values and perspectives.  

When you step off the ship with two crew members, you're then free to explore the location you're docked at to learn more about the community and progress the story. Eye icons and speech bubbles indicate points of interest and conversations that can be had around the area, as well as points that are marked to tell you that time will pass, or that you're about to have a pivotal conversation that moves the story on. As a big fan of the developers previous adventure, Mutazione, I once again appreciate the gorgeously vibrant print-inspired art style of Saltsea Chroncicles. Each location I visit is a sight to behold, with colorful backdrops that bring the unique world and its communities to life.  

There's so much to see and discover, with different branching pathways that you won't see everything in one go. But you revisit any unlocked chapters to make different choices to being a new thread you've yet to explore. It's a game that begs to be replayed by design, and I can't wait to revisit certain points to see what may happen differently. I've always been fond of visual novels and narrative-driven adventures, which makes Saltsea Chronicles just my cup of tea. But if you love great storytelling this is one adventure you should absolutely check out. 

Saltsea Chronicles is out now on PC, PS5, and Switch. For more exciting future releases, check out our roundup of upcoming indie games

Heather Wald
Senior staff writer

I started out writing for the games section of a student-run website as an undergrad, and continued to write about games in my free time during retail and temp jobs for a number of years. Eventually, I earned an MA in magazine journalism at Cardiff University, and soon after got my first official role in the industry as a content editor for Stuff magazine. After writing about all things tech and games-related, I then did a brief stint as a freelancer before I landed my role as a staff writer here at GamesRadar+. Now I get to write features, previews, and reviews, and when I'm not doing that, you can usually find me lost in any one of the Dragon Age or Mass Effect games, tucking into another delightful indie, or drinking far too much tea for my own good.