Aargh! Pirates of Black Cove it is! Landlubbers beware! Evil marks these grounds. If these words don’t send terrifying chills down your spine, this game surely will. How does this bad boy stack up, long after the most successful pirate game made its mark?
Article Written for FirstDropShow.com
Developer: Nitro Games
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Release Date: 8/21/2011
Aargh! What beastly visage bestows its presence! Pirates of Black Cove it is! Landlubbers beware! Evil marks these grounds. If these words don’t send terrifying chills down your spine, this game surely will.
Long have we waited for a sequel to ‘Sid Meier’s Pirates!’. Days go by waiting for a mention. Even a Kickstarter would have been suffice, but no dice. Lo and behold ‘Pirates of Black Cove’ makes an unduly appearance. Mind you, I’ve given this game the benefit of the doubt. I went in knowing nothing, no expectations whatsoever. Though one couldn’t help but think of ‘Pirates!’ when taking a gander at this game. You’re not wrong to think it. The game does indeed share similar aesthetics and at some times, felt like you’re were playing it. Nevertheless, they share very little in terms of gameplay, nor is it a game we deserve. So how does this bad boy stack up, long after the most successful pirate game made its mark? Let us hope the barrels of Grog haven’t ran dry.
Pirates of Black Cove is developed by Nitro Games, creators of popular Strategy games ‘Commander: Conquest of the Americas’ and ‘East India Company’. Both are considerably in-depth for real time strategy games with an excellent platform for open seas adventure. It was only logical to think that Pirates of Black Cove will offer the same level of depth as previous games. Even if its developed for a more casual audience. What could go wrong with a pirate game without micromanaging?
Pirates of Black Cove is a Single-Player Only Casual RPG/RTS hybrid, grounding its themes to stereotypical pirate culture and lore. The game gives players the opportunity to sail across the open seas picking up missions, broad siding innocent/enemy ships, raiding towns for coin, and unravelling the ultimate pirate treasure mystery. All lighthearted and in good fun.
Before you start the game, you must choose one of the three playable characters, each with their own unique backstory, stats, and special ability. Sadly, once chosen, their nicely written backstory becomes dust in the wind, never making an appearance ever again. Right out of the box you get to choose character specific stats, a unique ability and a different voice actor.
The story is pretty straight forward. A mutiny on a ship, finding freedom in piracy, seeking out the greatest of pirate treasure while ultimately fighting to become the Pirate King. As simple as it is, it does work pretty well for the game. The story is told both through beautifully painted animated cutscenes and static dialog. During the quest, colorful characters are met, each in charge of one of the three factions around the game world. These characters are accompanied by their own backstory, needs/wants, and overall purpose, all considerably entertaining…until you meet Colonel Quickdraw. Isn’t it obvious that gamers want to start their game with a squealing twit telling them what to do in the most annoying way possible? Aside from this mother, the Story and Characters are integrated pretty well. Nothing special or outstanding, but does a decent job at setting the stage for the pirate adventure ahead.
Graphically, Black Cove is par at best. Nothing special, though don’t let mediocrity steer you away from the gorgeous cyan Caribbean seas and “Sid Meier’s Pirates!” style aesthetics. There are some small details that add quite a bit to the overworld feel such as whales piercing the ocean surface expressing their majestic nature or even the ship sails wavering through the brisk wind. Don’t expect a cinematic experience. These elements add up to a comical, silly theme instead of something like Pirates of the Caribbean.
One of the better aspects lies in the Audio department. The game offers fully voiced characters, booming weapons of war, and a more than decent soundtrack. Although the repetitive nature of the same ‘Battle’ music over and over got a tad annoying. Hey, at least it was the perfect aural queue when your butt is getting handed to you.
The controls are pretty straight forward. WASD keys are used to control the camera on Land and to steer your ship at sea. Additionally the Q & E keys are used when sailing to fire broadside in their respective directions. Alternatively, the mouse could be used to navigate and fire sea side, but doesn’t capture the pirate feel all that much. Land gameplay generally is controlled exclusively by mouse, but as stated early, the WASD controls generally make camera movement a bit more bearable as mousing over the edges tend to get a bit tricky.
The game is split between naval and ground mechanics. The former being the better aspect of the game. Sailing across the open waters, heading into random towns, raiding their banks and reaping bountiful treasures. Towns sadly become repetitive in layout and offer nothing more than a chore for players in need of some coin. If raiding towns is out of the question, players can fire upon random ships, sending them to Davy Jones’ Locker and once again reaping the bounties of war. Encounters range from measly corsairs to fleets of Black Cove Pirates. The battles become tireless and enjoyable with every grapeshot launched.
Ground gameplay on the other hand is a completely different story. The worst aspects of the game stem from some major flaws here. Let’s start off with the basics. There are two types of places to visit. The first being Strongholds. These are safe havens the player can visit to purchase consumables, hire units for their army, erect buildings for new unit types, and obtain missions from the town’s faction. Simple and to the point. Don’t expect much in terms of customization though.
Missions are obtained by visiting the Stronghold’s own faction. They are a mix of Storyline quests and random fetch/”do what I say” quests. Really, some quests sound like side-quests, but they really aren’t and pose as insulting fluff to extend the length of the game. There are no side-quests at all in the game. Every mission needs to be completed before progressing through the story. I admit, I would have preferred a few lengthy story missions and a crap load of side-quests than this linear mess. Completing all the quests at a faction gains the respect and title of Champion. Once done, you’ll get an additional hero character. Each hero has their own unique ability and increases the amount of units you can have.
On the flip side are the land battles. You control the battle just like any RTS. Selecting units, clicking to move and clicking to attack. Simple as that, until we face two major flaws. The first issue comes from the large empty levels/maps. Some of these maps are HUGE, offering emptiness and repetition. Artificial extension of a quest one could say. One quest asked you to go to a literal X marked on the ground. The thing is, it’s all the way on the other side of the map, with nothing in-between. You have to walk the whole way, fight off units at the destination then head all the way back to the beginning to leave. Land battles felt like an exercise in wasting time. You would think the developers would have made an effort to make the game more streamlined, especially a game that could only work well as a decent casual game.
So with these huge maps, come slow moving units. Units move at various speeds depending on the type of character. Like a lot of RTS games, you would expect your units to move at the speed of the slowest unit, sticking to a formation. No, not this game. This means your hero will find himself miles ahead, unexpectedly getting beaten to crap while the rest of the crew comes trotting in minutes later. It’s a confusing scenario where you are forced to move incrementally across the large empty map, trying to keep your army together…and alive.
If that wasn’t bad, there is only one tactic you need to follow to beat these missions. Mobbing. No strategy, just swarm the enemy, kill whoever gets in your way and move on. If that wasn’t enough, clicking on enemies can be a pain too. Because of the mobbing tactic, you’ll find yourself unable to click on an enemy because the ally units are getting in the way. Someone thought it was a good idea to make selecting your units a priority over being able to click and attack the enemy. You are forced to move your units out of the way to get a chance to attack. If you click on an enemy but miss, your units will just reposition themselves, stop their attacking their target, then sit like ducks until the user makes a successful click on an enemy. It’s that bad and becomes extremely frustrating. Even worse, units may or may not auto attack. Most of the time they will just sit their staring into the void, tasting the impact of an enemy’s rusty blade.
– Palatable Graphics
– Excellent Naval Battles
– Colorful Characters
– Full Voice Acting
– Horrendous Land Battles
– Coin Farming for Little Reward
– Terrible Land AI
– Way too much downtime
– No auto-sail
– No worthwhile customization
– A weak action game in disguise
Pirates of Black Cove can be a fickle piece of work. What little things worked for the game, major flaws overwhelmed them. Even for a casual game, many features could have been done differently at no additional cost. They could have offered additional ways to earn money without resulting to farming for coin with towns or innocent ships, or even put some effort into making the land battles playable. In the end, the game just couldn’t cut it for me. Did I judge to harshly? No, the game sold itself as an expansive casual open seas pirate adventure. What we got was a linear coin farming game with terrible ground warfare, horrendous AI, and lackluster content. Not even some basic customization every Pirate game should never live without. Maybe they focused way too much time on the 1001 pirate jokes strewn across the open seas…did I fail to mention that earlier? “What did Mr. Spock find in the toilet? The Captain’s Log”……..Forgive me….I know I have sinned. Maybe one day, we’ll see ourselves playing Pirates! 2 or even a unique Pirate WRPG and forget this mess.