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In an RPG, the time will eventually come when you've done all you can on the continent you start out on. Since you know that you're eventually going to have to visit every location on your Fantasy World Map, there's nothing to be done for it except to head to the nearest Port Town and find someone to ferry you to the next continent so that you can continue with the adventure.
The game will usually require you to perform some sort of Fetch Quest before it will let you Get on the Boat, and that's not all — there's a high probability that the boat either doesn't get there or eventually gets sunk after the first successful attempt. The ocean is one of the most natural Broken Bridges around, so game designers like to use it as one of the first Points of No Return in the game.
This is also sometimes a major mode of transport around the World Map, allowing you to travel across the world map much faster (possibly free of Random Encounters!). In this case, it will inevitably become obsolete once you acquire your Global Airship later on (unless you can still navigate and dock the boat in areas too dense for the Airship to make a landing — but these are few and far between). There are even a few cases where the boat is the Global Airship, but the player doesn't get the latter functionality until someone gives the boat a major upgrade near the end of the game.
- The Legend of Zelda the Wind Waker, which is set in a Hyrule that has long since been flooded and has turned into the Great Sea. Played straight at the beginning of the game, where the King of Red Lions won't let you board until circumstances are met (getting a sail, getting the pearls), but after that, you're free to go where ever you want.
- The Monkey Island series uses this trope often, unsurprisingly as it is a pirate series set in the Caribbean. In each game the player has to look for a ship at some point in order to leave the first island.
- The Longest Journey has a boat that the player character has to take over the sea. Naturally, it sinks before you reach your destination, but this time it's all because of you (and it turns out to be a good thing eventually, for you anyway).
- The first sequel in the Leisure Suit Larry series, Leisure Suit Larry goes Looking For Love (In Several Wrong Places), involves Larry winning an oodle of cash and a luxury cruise for two in the first ten minutes of gameplay, and the story proper continues as soon as Larry gets on the boat. Of course, getting on the boat serves as one of the first bottlenecks in the game, seeing as you need the Grotesque Gulp, the sunscreen and the swimsuit to progress later on, and you can't go back and get them after you get on the boat.
- Subverted in King's Quest VI: Due to the Evil Chancellor's machinations, the ferry has ceased to operate. The reason for Alexander to board it anyway is to hear the unemployed ferryman tell him of a magic map that can take him between the islands.
First Person Shooter
- Every major mission in Deus Ex required to you take a boat or a helicopter to get to the next one. There is a point where if you don't do an event, your helicopter blows up. However, it's a moot point by that time, as you're already at the final area. It really just depends on how much you like the pilot, and how much you wanna hear some hilariously poorly acted dialog. Saying "A bomb." in a monotone voice was one of the Deus Ex fan favourites.
- The way the boat/helicopter worked required to have a player finish saying a line of dialog before the trigger happened. However, pirate copies released had unimportant audio (and sometimes, all audio) removed from the game due to connection speeds at the time, causing pirates to be in an Unwinnable situation. Obviously, dialog that never started can never finish. With cheating, the game could be finishable, but not very enjoyable, as this affected all the Infolink conversations, making it very hard to know what you're supposed to be doing.
- Despite being an FPS and not an RPG, the elevators in F.E.A.R. bear a striking resemblance to this trope. When any elevator is both powered up and not chock full of hostiles, it will inevitably be the only way to progress. In at least one instance the player must advance past and then backtrack to the elevators after accomplishing a poor excuse for a Fetch Quest. The elevators never take you where you need to go, how you need to get there. Most of them shut down partway through, much like a ship that sinks with the player on it. Another stops at each floor to let Replicants shoot at you, reminiscent of the Golden Sun example. The only elevator ride with no complications drops you off about 0.2 seconds too late to stop a very important civilian NPC from driving away without you.
- Civilization is a 4X example. On the standard maps, you'll meet some of the other civilizations on your continent; you'll need to learn how to build ocean crossing units to meet the rest (and take their land).
- The Europa Universalis also doe this, as you'll need transport ships to ferry your armies to islands and other continents, as well as faraway countries (it's a lot faster and more convenient than having to slog it on foot through a bunch of foreign provinces).
- A lone boat can be found on a riverbank in the text-based The Hobbit game. As soon as Bilbo gets into it, it'll start moving, even if Thorin or Gandalf has used that turn to climb back out.
- RuneScape takes this literally
- World of Warcraft has many boats for cross continental travel — woe the traveller with low RAM or a shaky internet connection, though, because the loading screens that result often leave the player stuck on the boat, unable to get off at their destination.
- Another amusing bug would cause the character to spawn into the zone after the boat had moved on, either dumping into the ocean thousands of yards offshore or, with the Horde airships, dropping you from a perilous height.
- During a period in 2005 when bugs were causing the boats to spawn improperly, Blizzard removed them from the game and replaced them with "Captain Placeholder", an NPC who teleported players between continents on request.
- Right around launch time in 2004, there was yet another boat/zeppelin bug in which the transfer of player characters to the other world server (usually accomplished via boat or zeppelin) would fail due to overpopulation. When this happened, the boat or zep would just...disappear out from under your character, plopping you down in some very hospitable fatigue-inducing waters.
- Although the expansion world of Outland goes by completely without ships. In fact, one can avoid the ships on the old world entirely with access to the capital city, which has teleporters to every of the eight capitals (you can't go to the capitals of the opposite faction, of course).
- Burning Crusade did see the addition of one new boat, which travels from the Draenei starting islands to the mainland of Kalimdor so Draenei players can get out into the rest of the world and off their conspicuously-separate world server.
- The second expansion, Wrath of the Lich King, adds new boats and zeppelins to transport players to the new continent of Northrend. An entire new harbor area was even added to Stormwind to facilitate this (the Horde just got new zeppelin towers). In addition, former boat routes were changed so Night Elf players could travel straight from Auberdine to Stormwind without having to trek through the Wetlands (finally).
- Ragnarok Online has airships that leave at specific times and travel around the world in a loop.
- Maple Story has airships as well. One of them is occasionally attacked by a high level boss (that low level characters can avoid by simply staying inside the ship). The addition of the Aqua Road allows the especially cheap players to swim across the ocean rather than take a specific airship.
- The main way to get around the Rogue Isles in City of Villains is by ferry. A few zones in City of Heroes are accessed mainly by boat as well.
- Spyro the Dragon games had transports that took you between worlds (and involved Loads and Loads of Loading) but you often couldn't get on them unless you'd done something (rescued a certain amount of Dragons/Dragon Eggs, had a certain amount of Gems, defeated a boss, etc.)
Real Time Strategy
- The demo campaign in Warcraft III involves Thrall taking some orcs and getting on a boat, promptly crashing it on an island and recruiting a tribe of trolls there before being chased off the sinking island.
- Of course, Thrall fixes his boats, and sails to the continent of Kalimdor, which he... crashes into. Orcs don't seem to be big on sailing.
Role Playing Game
- Arguably overused in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II, where four space ships with the player onboard end up being gunned down and crashing. One of them is the Global Airship, which actually crashes twice throughout the game.
- Some Final Fantasy games give you control of the boat, and some don't. They all have one at one point or another, though.
- Final Fantasy IV gives us an example of the "boat-that-never-gets-there" version of the trope.
- Final Fantasy VII's boat is an example of a boat that always gets there, doesn't represent a Point of No Return because you can literally get back on it the second you get off it, and becomes entirely worthless but still present by the halfway point of the game.
- And actually getting back on the boat is necessary to get Aerith's last limit break, at least while she's still alive.
- Final Fantasy VIII has you get on a boat early on...to do one dungeon, and then you get right back on it to go home. You actually travel internationally regularly via train.
- Every Final Fantasy game, in fact, has a boat that, for some reason, doesn't do what it's supposed to do, or does it in the most roundabout way possible. The only exception is the original Final Fantasy I, where when you get the boat, you have the boat, and there are no special surprises.
- You still get random encounters though, involving everything up to and including Pirates, Flying Sharks, and random horrors of the deep.
- Final Fantasy VI has ferries that serve as boats. In the Updated Rerelease for the GBA, you fight a Bonus Boss on the ferry route in the World of Ruin if certain conditions are met.
- Final Fantasy IX had a boat where nothing extraordinary happened. It acted just like an airship, only confined to water. In fact it was retrofitted into the party's first Global Airship because of how reliable it was (well, technically it's the third airship, but it's the first one you can control freely). From there it survives all the way to the end of the game (even after your party replaces it with another Cool Ship).
- The trope is initially subverted when the party leaves the first continent originally using underground tunnels. They don't Get on the Boat itself until the 3rd disc.
- Final Fantasy XI features boats that travel between the game's continents. These boats are sometimes attacked by powerful sea monsters. Hilarity Ensues for low-level players who are just trying to get from point A to point B.
- One exception is Final Fantasy XII, which doesn't have the party boarding any sea-faring vessels at all because the game is contained entirely to a single body of land. There are a couple air-ships which fill a similar role plot-wise, but not exactly.
- You had control of the boat in Breath of Fire III as well.
- Vandal Hearts
- Vandal Hearts 2 has this... but without the boat. The hero, in fact, flings himself through a closed window into the water.
- Romancing SaGa Plays with this during Albert's opening quest, you have to take the boat to go to Rosalia from the Bafal Empire but during the trip a storm hits the boat and throws Albert into Valhalland (Southern Frigid end of Mardias).
- Also later on If you completed the First mummy quest, when you leave the port on the same boat with the merchant selling the corpse on to Melvir, the Mummy will come back to life that night and wreck havoc on the passengers of that boat, failing to inform them makes the fight with the mummy harder since every victim it attacks turns them into the undead, said merchant is the first to die though so you have to fight one other zombie regardless
- Lunar: The Silver Star: Alex and his friends Get on the Boat to Meribia after acquiring a sea chart for a captain who lost it to a reclusive witch. In the original game, Luna doesn't join Alex on the boat, but she does in the remake Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete.
- Done in every game in the Dragon Quest series, starting with Dragon Quest II. In the first game, the kingdom of Alefgard was completely surrounded by water. This subversion is transparently justified in that the DragonLord's castle is within seeing distance of your own. You just have to do a lot of traveling on foot to get there.
- Tales of Symphonia had several boats, including normal sailboats, small tubs whose unreliability was a Running Gag, and a land vehicle that was converted to a ship via Magitek. The party's aquaphobic member was none too happy with any of these.
- In Grandia II, the party is required to get on the good ship 50/50. As the world is split by huge crevasses, the sea has a massive waterfall in the middle of it (don't ask how this didn't get filled in the 10,000 years since its creation) and the boat must fly over it. When stating that 50/50 is an odd name for a ship, the owner replies that "that's the odds, sink or swim".
- The original Wild Arms had a lengthy Fetch Quest required to convince the merchant ship Sweet Candy to carry you to where you needed to go. This included the female lead pretending to marry the ship's captain to appease the gods of the sea and fighting off the Goldfish Poop Gang.
- In the original Baten Kaitos, Kalas and Xehla used commercial ferries to cross between continents until they saved Diadem, after which the King lent them the use of his personal cruiser as thanks. In the Prequel, Verus gives you the high-tech Sfida ship after you begin working for him.
- The main characters of Fire Emblem: Blazing Sword enlist the help of good-hearted pirates to carry them to the Dread Isle of Valor.
- The original Golden Sun had a lengthy arc which consisted of you defending a ship as it crossed a monster-infested sea. Sailors were knocked out during the voyage, and the characters had to make various NPCs take up the oars. A certain combination of NPCs would send you off-course, to Crossbone Isle. The sequel had two Get on the Boat arcs — the first required you to save Piers, who'd been Wrongly Accused of thievery, so you could use his boat. The second involved upgrading the boat into the Global Airship.
- The first game actually closed with Isaac's party Getting On The Boat to set off to find the other two lighthouses. They later meet up with Felix's party in the second game. What exactly happened to Isaac&company, and their boat, following the first game's end is never explained.
- Of course, in the second one, a good part of the plot is centered around your boat. Meet at the boat, why won't the boat work, who has a boat, fix the boat, take the boat, the boat is stolen, the boat is that guy's, we need the thing to make the boat go, our boat can't go that way right now (twice), your boat needs wings, your boat needs a cannon...
- It's a pretty cool boat all in all.
- Occurs late in Fallout 2, where you run a series of quests to get a decommissioned oil tanker, the PMV Valdez, operational again so you can take it to the final area.
- Another example could be the Highwayman car: takes a lot of effort and cash to get it, but once you get it, you basically have a Global Airship...with the exception of the final area.
- Ultima IV is one of the strongest aversions to this trope. Not only can you reach many of the important places in the game without ships, but once the ships appear, acquiring one is a matter of letting one come to shore and winning an easy battle against its crew. Since the pirates spawn continuously, you can keep stealing their ships and build your own private navy, and it is common to jack a ship just to cross a short distance with less hassle. The game essentially treats ocean-going vessels as quick, disposable transportation, the way Grand Theft Auto treats cars. The only requirement to get a ship is to reach level 4, which does not take much time.
- In Ultima IX, you will travel between islands in a ship piloted by the story's love interest. Near the end of the game you also learn to sail the ship yourself.
- This is a staple of the Ys games, though they tend to start with Adol getting on the boat rather than making it a mid-game rite of passage.
- In the first two Paper Mario games. In first this is somewhat subverted as you travel on a
tunawhale rather than a boat, played more straight in the second where the ship gets wrecked... but you get to come back on another one.
- Baldur's Gate 2 has the player take a ship to the magical asylum of Spellhold. On the way back, the player has a choice between taking a portal to the Underdark or taking a ship back to the mainland; the ship, however, will be captured by Githyanki and sunk.
- In Chrono Trigger, there's a ferry service between the first two continents...except you can travel between them by foot anyway. There are no Random Encounters, either, so travel by foot is not nearly as time-consuming as it is in many other games of its time.
- In Earthbound, you can take a ferry...which gets ambushed by the Kraken.
- In the Sonic Chronicles RPG, you're frequently hustled onto the (space) ship and on to the next zone upon beating a boss, with the ship usually disabled immediately when you arrive.
- The first three islands in Albion are left this way. Before you can do that you must solve a Murder Mystery, Fetch Quest and Racial Conflict fueled by a Government Conspiracy. The fourth island has a teleporter and a Barrier Maiden who can use it.
- Inverted in The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. The game starts as the player is a prisoner on a boat headed to the titular province, once there you get off the boat and it goes away. Smaller boats offer some local transportation as well, but they're more of a Warp Whistle.
- While the boat in Pokémon Gold and Silver does get to its destination eventually, you have to fight several trainers and find a gentleman's missing daughter before it will arrive.
- And Mr. Briney's boat serves as Ye Boat for the Hoenn region games (requiring first one Fetch Quest to access the boat at all, and another to get to what should ostensibly be the first destination you could reach had it not railroaded you to the plot).
- Actually subverted in the original games. You board the S.S. Anne to obtain HM01 (Cut), however the boat doesn't go anywhere until you get off.
- Common in the Phantasy Star series, although given the sci-fi fantasy setting the "boat" is as likely to be a hovercraft, ground-based tank or sandcrawler that serves effectively the same purpose, although you still get Random Encounters.
- Shining Force 2 uses a boat fairly early as a point of no return, but the whole town goes with you and resettles on the new continent. After that, you'll have to acquire a raft, a "caravan", and a fancy precursor airship to access the more advanced areas.
Non-video game examples:
Anime and Manga
- Being based on an RPG, Pokémon uses boats for inter-region transport quite a bit, though there's only been one sinking (the episode "Pokémon Shipwreck", naturally).
- Sinbad the Sailor was famous for having a shipwreck almost every time he sailed, but each wreck led to a huge adventure before he could return home.
- The entire plot of Shakespeare's Pericles, Prince of Tyre revolves around an improbable number of shipwrecks as characters travel from place to place. While not directly related to Get on the Boat as a Videogame Trope, it shows that the device is still Older Than Steam.
- PDQ Bach's The Abduction of Figaro: At the end of first act of the opera, the protagonists set sail, and immediately their ship is seen sinking in the mother-loving sea.
- RPG World parodied this, as with every other RPG trope.
- Played straight in Our Little Adventure. The first Magicant piece is not on the island Julie and her friends were on, so they went back to Huckleton and jumped on a ship to one of the main continents.
- Yes, you read that right. Across the frikkin ocean