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Review – Pirates of Black Cove (PC)

NOTE: This game was received free as a review copy)

Paradox Interactive | 08.02.2011

It’s not too often you see a Pirate themed game, despite the popularity of Pirates.  Ok, more accurately, you don’t too often see a Pirate themed game that includes many of the traditional aspects of pirating all rolled up into one game.  You will get pirate ships in combat or you’ll get control of a pirate battling piratey villains.  Pirates of Black Cove combines both of these and mixes in some RTS and RPG elements for an interesting pirate experience.

You play as one of three Pirates, chosen at the start of the game.  They each give you slightly different base stats for your character.  You command your own pirate ship as you travel around the islands and seas gaining more reputation among the various factions by completing various missions.  Your missions range from things like “chase down a ship carrying some important cargo” to “raid an enemy base to kidnap important characters” or just all out raids on enemy bases.  There are even some large boss type fights at sea such as fighting the mighty Kraken.

As you gain more fame, you also gain more allies.  This will give you the benefit of more troops to command during combat.  You also can gain more ships, though this is controlled by discovering and collecting blueprints.  The blueprints aren’t specific to any one ship or upgrade but act more as a specialized currency at the ship yard to unlock different things.  The main currency of the game used for actually buying upgrades and hiring troops are Pieces of Eight.

Combat is different depending on if you’re in your ship or if you’re controlling a landing party.  When you’re in your ship you navigate around using the WASD keys (player centric rotational controls not straight up down left right).  You fire your ship’s cannons by clicking in the direction you wish to fire.  Timing is critical and can be a little iffy as your cannons simply fire out one side or the other of your ship.  You’ll have to consider the movement of your enemy and your ship and the momentum of the cannonball’s trajectory.

Land based combat is more like a traditional RTS game.  You select and move your troops and attack enemy troops from an overhead perspective.  It’s a bit more limited than a traditional RTS though which makes it a bit frustrating to control all of your men at once.  Other RTS elements come up when using the towns.  You can buy and build and upgrade places in the towns you control in order to build more units for your crew.

Generally speaking, it’s pretty fun and pretty complex in a good but not too complicated way.

It’s not all completely kosher unfortunately.  The biggest flaw I found was that the game seems to just flat out run slow.  It’s possible this is simply a hardware issue except that the game ran about the same on my wimpy Netbook as it did on my much more powerful Desktop (more than minimum specs).  It seems to take forever to navigate around towns and the controls are a bit less responsive than they need to be.  I could see this issue popping up on my Netbook but I can generally blast through most games with pretty good speed and FPS etc on my desktop with no problems.  I could not find any sort of video quality settings in the menus in order to possibly try to correct the problem that way.  It’s the only real problem with this game but it is a fairly decent one.  fortunately it may be something that could eventually be fixed via a patch of some sort.  Heck it may already be fixed in the retail version and non-review version of the game.

One final bit I’d like to touch on.  I love the art in this game.  The cut scene full screen art pieces are fantastic and the graphics in general are pretty decent.  The character art is done nicely as well and everything features a full dialogue set for conversations.  The theme is somewhat cartoonish so the voices are sometimes a bit odd but they are still pretty decent.

So what you get is a decent Pirate simulation that is plagued slightly by what’s most likely poor code optimization making the game run a bit sluggish at times.  It’s still pretty fun to play at it’s core.

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