Pixel Privateers comes from Quadro Delta, the same developer behind Pixel Piracy, a game which, in many ways, inspired Privateers, and is published by Re-Logic, the lovely folks behind Terraria. The game describes itself as a squad based tactical RPG “loot ‘em up” and I think that pretty much nails it.
The game features a normal and a hardcore difficulty mode, as well as single player and online multiplayer. With that said, the only major difference between the two difficulty modes is that, in normal mode, you can revive dead crew members by cloning them, while on hardcore once you lose your crew you have to restart. By playing it solo and in the normal difficulty, it took me around eleven hours to beat the game, which I’d say it’s fine considering the current price and the fact that it allows you to keep your progress by proceeding to NG+ after finishing the main mission storyline, but still, the final boss was rather disappointing.
In any case, while the game exhibits a clear focus on combat and progressively acquiring better loot, it does try to present some form of narrative, albeit a simple one. You’re the leader of a ship of mercenaries who works for The Company, a powerful organization that’s sending others, just like you, through a wormhole leading to another galaxy in order to find new technology and alien artifacts that can be sold back home for a huge profit. Unfortunately, as always, things didn’t go as planned and as soon as you arrive at your destination something goes wrong and the wormhole is destabilized, leaving you stranded in this uncharted territory until you find the means to go back. From here forward, you embark on a journey to restore stability to the wormhole and find whatever is going on on this new galaxy. Along the way, you come across various factions such as, the Imperium, the Glorious who are a bunch of mutated living beings who seek to create the perfect organism, the Pacifiers who’re a bunch of robots created by the Imperium who seek to maximize happiness, Cyborgs, amongst many others.
While the game has no voice acting, the narrative is delivered through text dialogue between the characters and through missions. Missions will either be assigned to you automatically, once you reach specific points in the game’s plot, or when you request them through the galaxy map on your ship. While there are plenty of planets and missions, these tend to get repetitive fairly quickly, since they range from the usual bounty hunting to material gathering. That said, upon completion, you’ll receive a cash and experience reward and you’ll also be able to choose from a crate of items, fuel or matter as an extra reward. With that in mind, most of the missions are optional and, therefore, they seem to be in the game just to make it seem like there’s plenty of actual content, which there is, it’s just that it gets repetitive rather quickly.
From the galaxy map you can also fly to any given area and, when orbiting a planet, you can send down a team with up to eight crew members. Crew members don’t really have a specific class assigned to them, but instead, their class is based upon the tool they have equipped and this represents a special ability as well, which there are more than two per class. Each class has its role, from the vanguard who holds the frontline, to the medic who tries to keep everyone alive, to the marine and the scout who try to deal as much damage as possible. As far as controlling your crew members during missions, it couldn’t be any simpler, left clicking on a privateer selects them and pressing Q selects all your privateers, then you can issue orders with the right-click, such as attacking and moving. While trying to give orders during combat can be rather difficult, given the fact that the game can be somewhat fast-paced at times, the ability to pause the game at any time solves this issue in its entirety, by allowing you to use any of your squad members abilities and assign them targets without having to keep an eye out for any health bars. Still, one thing I really like is the fact that, when one of your crew members is low on health during battle, the most suitable ability you have for that scenario will pop up on top of that crew member’s head, thus allowing you to quickly fight whatever issue might arise without having to go through every ability and item available at your disposal.
One of the issues I have with the game is the fact that managing the inventory takes a lot of time and this issue is related to the fact that the game is focused on loot. There are two ways of getting rid of the loot you don’t want, and that’s either by selling it or by disintegrating it, which gives you matter. Besides matter, credits, fuel and research points are the resources in the game. With that said, research points can be used to identify unknown items as well as to research new abilities on the research lab, where you also produce research points by identifying alien artifacts. In the same sense, matter allows you to replicate items from your ship’s inventory by using matter.
It’s clear that the game is essentially a loot hoarding game, with you actively trying to get better loot through missions so that you are better well equipped to deal with ever more increasingly difficulty enemies. Still, while the planetary missions are pretty much the same, the game does have random events when you’re travelling through space, such as getting boarded by goons, which adds a new element that could’ve perhaps been better explored and that is ship customization. While you can acquire different ships and customize them to some extent, it would’ve been nice to see some actual ship to ship combat or something else that added a new layer of complexity to your ship.
In any case, it’s also worth pointing out that, despite the fact that enemies have different looks, they still feel pretty much the same and, other than the occasional special enemy or mini-boss, enemies are essentially divided into melee and ranged units which seem to only differ in appearance. Nevertheless, I’m very fond of the pixel art style and the various different environments that range from snowy planets to old ruins or imperial worlds devastated by war. Speaking of which, the soundtrack is also pretty great, featuring a nice combination of instrumental/orchestral tracks that really add quite a lot of charm to the game and overall the game sounds pretty good.
Overall, Pixel Privateers is clearly one of those games which you can pick up and play for a few minutes per day and keep coming back to it if this is your sort of thing. The game would’ve surely benefited from a stronger focus on the story because, while the game gives a few hints and little pieces of lore about this new galaxy, the story falls flat and at the end of the game where you’d think you’d get some closure end’s up being quite the opposite and the game just restarts on a new galaxy with the same objectives and missions in the form of NG+.
Considering the aforementioned Pixel Privateers doesn’t really bring anything particularly new to the table, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. On its own, it’s a pretty entertaining game and it has that one more mission feeling to it which should provide you a few good hours of mindless fun but nothing more than that.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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