My 2¢ is that I rather like the game as it is - I’ve certainly played enough of it! - but I don’t think the review is entirely off.
I agree that it would be more interesting for my character to develop as a result of my choices. Certainly, nothing should happen that would permanently screw me, but making me struggle to acquire a cool permanent benefit or get rid of a detrimental "permanent" detriment would be interesting. Imagine, for example, if a reputation for cowardice existed, and it was the negative consequence of making a certain choice, but it could be bought off with a decent amount of echoes by paying people to spread nice rumors about you, or by pulling off an impressive enough stunt. Similarly for a reputation for kindness/cruelty, recklessness/caution, etc. If you look at most "Age of Sail" literature, the character of the captain is very important. Moby Dick is defined by Captain Ahab’s madness. It would be interesting to see a little of that character added to the captain we are creating here in this game.
I also think that the trade/resource management should be tweaked a little. Basically, I think that running trading routes should be a valid way to farm echoes. I know that Failbetter wants this to be a game of exploration, not a game of trade, but sometimes it’s just too hard to get enough echoes to buy what you need to complete the plots, and there’s no clear way to acquire more that isn’t a grind. As it stands, I am playing a game where I am a merchant captain, and I’ve got a ship, with slots in my hold… and all I ever do is use it as a glorified inventory tab from any old RPG. All that it would take, I think, is increasing the profit margin on a few reliable products at a few ports. It would take you a while to discover which ports had the profitable goods, of course. And by all means, make those ports perilous and fill the routes between London and those ports with baddies - if being a zee captain was easy everyone would do it - but I think it would be worth it.
And finally, I agree that the world is a little static. It would be interesting to see the character able to make more permanent changes to the world around him, similarly to how I want to see the character change and develop. This seems like the kind of thing that will come in time, however.
edited by ElectricPaladin on 2/18/2015