|Dev: Nitro Games|
|Pub: Paradox Interactive|
|Release: August 2, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Drug and Alcohol Reference, Mild Language, Mild Sexual Themes, Mild Violence|
by Joshua Wirtanen
Pirates seem like such an obvious fit for video games. They sail the seas in search of treasure and adventure, get into epic swordfights, battle mythological creatures, and rank in popularity somewhere between robots and ninjas. It's strange then, that, with the possible exception of LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean, there simply haven't been any good pirate games released lately. Nitro Games hopes to change this with their most recent title, Pirates of Black Cove.
Pirates of Black Cove can be separated into two sections: land and sea. Each section operates fairly differently than the other. While on land you will hire and command a band of pirates. You can select your troops and move them by right clicking, as is pretty standard in RTS games. Some villages you visit are friendly, allowing you to upgrade your troops and ship, craft items, and pick up quests. Other villages, on the other hand, don't care much for pirates and will shoot (or swing a sword) on sight. If your troops are running low on health, you can fix them up with a quick shot of pirate booze called grog. However, if you use too much grog in too short a time, your pirates will get drunk and stagger about. Sometimes they'll even pass out, which can be an enormous inconvenience in the heat of battle.
While at sea, you pilot a single ship. You can right click to move if you'd like, but it's far more effective to use the A and D keys to steer while speeding up with W and slowing down with S. You can fire your cannons by either clicking the direction you want to shoot or pushing Q or E, depending on which side you want to fire from. Spacebar fires your special weapon, which you will get to select and upgrade as the game goes on.
And this is where the game gets interesting. Sea battles are an absolute perfect fit for the RTS-style gameplay, since this type of combat requires a lot of strategy. Since all of your firepower is on the sides of your ship, your enemy must be beside you in order for you to do any damage. This becomes quite problematic when you have two ships trying to fire upon one another. You'll want to try to pull up alongside your opponent without your opponent pulling up alongside you. You'll need to anticipate your opponent's moves carefully or you'll end up being bombarded by cannonballs.
Sea battles are perhaps the most enjoyable part of the game, and there is certainly no shortage of these. Some missions will require you to chase down your enemies' ships and send them to Davy Jones' Locker. And since you're a pirate, you have no regard for the law. If you want to chase down a trade ship and steal its cargo, you can do that. In fact, if you see a ship in the game, you can attack it. Just prepare for retaliation. Not all the ships you find will be alone and helpless.
If you get tired of sinking enemy vessels and trade ships, there are several hidden items scattered across the Caribbean for you to scavenge. You'll find sunken ships, which contain blueprints. If you collect enough blueprints, you can upgrade your ship or even purchase better ships. Also, you'll find items like Duckweed and octopus eyeballs (I'm not making this up) that you can use to craft potions. There are even messages in bottles scattered about that contain incredibly bad pirate jokes. (For example: Where can you find a pirate who has lost both his peg legs? Right where you left him.) There are 1,000 joke bottles to find in the game, so completionists will be able to spend hours upon hours scouring the less-traveled portions of the map.
You will spend a gigantic portion of the game at sea, meaning you'll be looking at a lot of water. Thankfully, the water effects in the game are outstanding. The visuals on land aren't quite as impressive, but they still work. The game has sort of a cartoony vibe to it. The loading screens have a gorgeously hand-painted style, displaying humorous images of pirates doing piratical things, like firing upon enemy ships or staggering out of a pub.
However, this is something that is a little confusing. I'm not sure who the target demographic is for this game. It has a cartoony visual style and really bad elementary school pirate jokes, yet it definitely has earned its T rating. The game doesn't bat an eye when transitioning from juvenile humor to dirty jokes and drug references.
The voice acting is also confusing. It's hard to tell if it's intentionally campy or if it's just bad. If it's intentionally campy, the actors did brilliant work here making their characters sound like pirate stereotypes who are a bit self conscious about being pirate stereotypes so they dial it down a notch to the point where it's laughable. Other characters are so over-the-top you'll have trouble keeping a straight face. However, if these actors are giving their best shots at star-making performances, perhaps they should look for another line of work. But that's the thing; you can't tell if it's intentionally corny or not. You don't know whether you're supposed to laugh out loud or cringe.