While I agree with Worm, I’d say there is a problem in that it takes getting the BEST engine in the game combined with easily the best Aft item to make the travel times bearable.
Getting the Fulgent Impeller is a long, involved process of a great many difficult steps. You’re not getting it easily nor early, and is only a great late-game boon.
The bigger issue brought up by Portnoy in my mind isn’t the lack of Fast Travel - that’s a quick-fix solution that designers insert when they can’t balance out other travel aspects of their games - it’s that upgrading engines doesn’t feel worth it in a sense of speed or progression along the path to the Impeller. The complaint is one I’ve seen a lot - the player wants to move faster as they progress in the game, but investing in "better" engines doesn’t grant them the feel of moving faster, so it doesn’t feel worth their time, effort, or echoes to do so, which is highly frustrating. Hence, "why not fast travel as an option?" as a potential compromise.
Part of the issue is that the base rate of travel is so monumentally slow, that the progressive steps toward higher speeds don’t feel like much of a progression. Yeah, you are going faster, but it’s hardly noticeable to the player in-game unless you go out and actually perform speed tests using repeatable methods. On top of that, the rate of fuel consumption goes up so high on the engines that AREN’T the impeller (since it has that wonderful efficiency bonus) that the slight increase of speed hardly feels worth the massive increase in consumption.
The solution I’ve proposed elsewhere is radical, and pretty untenable for the game in its post-release state, but it would work:
Increase the speed of the engines as you upgrade them (the Serpentine should be moving as fast as the Impeller does now, and the Impeller should be moving at double the rate of the current standard), but in order to preserve game balance, increase the size of the sea itself to compensate.
The problem with merely increasing speed is that it would make the game feel too small too quickly. When you have the Impeller, you can jet around the map really fast, and you can basically stop worrying so much about food or terror, as your voyages complete before they can really build up too much as concerns. This is fine for the Impeller itself, as it’s a grand reward for pursuing a huge, difficult, and costly quest chain. But if an 1800 engine power engine were to move at a similar rate, the effect would be the same, only much earlier, and break the mid-game balance.
The only way to increase speed while preserving balance on food and terror and keep them as concerns for most of the game would be to increase the distance the player must actually travel.
This could be done in a number of ways. The size of the map could be enlarged relative to the size of the ships and monsters. However, this would throw off the scaling on the art in a number of instances (such as seeing the docked ships in most ports, which are generally to scale or near enough to the player’s ships), and make everything look wonky. More over, the size of most of the islands themselves just feels correct in the current game, so it would be aesthetically detrimental to simply increase the scale on everything.
The less obvious, but better solution would be to increase the size of the "sectors" the game’s tiles are made of, but not to increase the size of the landmasses and islands themselves - effectively increasing the size of the sea (the space between everything) only. This would require some additional art on the coastlines to make up for gaps that would then occur, but other than that, it would be low cost in terms of art requirements.
The other issue of course with this idea is risk of implementation versus reward of implementation - it would take a lot of work to do any of this, and the question is whether or not it would be worth it from a development perspective. After all, if the complaint is really that players don’t feel that buying engines gives enough benefit, wouldn’t it just be easier to either just ignore the complaint, or rebalance the engines to remove the complaint - such as by making them cost less?
I think it would be a worthy application of the developer’s time, for the long term viability of the game at least. A larger world to sail in would feel more epic and vast and scary, and convey more of the intended tone of the game. It would remove this complaint and improve the general flow of the game’s progression, as well as granting more room to maneuver in combat encounters. There are a number of benefits.
However, I’m not working on the game with such a small team, so I probably don’t have a full enough picture to realistically assess the cost of such a measure.