Upon loading the game, the player is met with a very satisfying introduction. Scenes of ships and the ocean appear “painted” on your screen, and calming music accompanies the prologue. As the game loads up it looks promising, as it is aesthetically pleasing and sounds simply beautiful.
However, that is where the positivity stops. Once you’ve selected your difficulty settings, trade settings, and aggression settings (no, these aren’t explained to you), you can customise your character. Do you want to be male or female? Okay, that’s pretty much it for customisation. Now all you have to do is set your allegiance and start the game.
At this point, if you selected anything other than pirate you made the wrong decision. Only because playing as a pirate means you don’t have a conscience nagging at you when you inevitably get into a fight with some friendly ships. The gameplay is no different if you are pirate or otherwise, but pirates are just a bit cooler, aren’t they?
Your character starts at a port, and receives a message from their father, who was previously thought to be long-dead. And there you are left. At a port with very little instruction. Passerby NPCs offer you tiny cryptic hints at how to play the game, but honestly the lack of any sort of instruction or tutorial meant that, when trying to interact with one, I accidentally stabbed him with my cutlass and was subsequently mobbed and killed, meaning I had to start again.
Eventually I found the controls on the options menu, and after some significant remapping of the keys (the button to interact with people and/or things was set to F3 as default which is just odd and a strain on the old fingers), I managed to start on my journey.
I eventually bought some useless tips off a bartender, received a fetch-quest from some King or Lord, and found my way to my ship. After what felt like hours stranded at the port, I was excited to find my sea legs once more.
The ship sailing was smooth, quite enjoyable, and a lot easier to get the hang of than doing anything on land, so that was a pleasant surprise. Before I was even out of the harbour, however, I decided to fire a couple of warning cannon shots at a nearby trading ship. This inevitably evolved into a full-scale battle, and I was really enjoying tacking around the harbour to get the best angle for my cannons. Until they stopped firing, that is. I was pressing the reload key; nothing. I was pressing the fire key; nothing.
I had cannonballs aplenty, I had crew still alive to fire them, I had the opposition ship in my sights, they just did not want to fire. So I did what any respectable pirate captain would do, and I rammed them. Upon boarding their ship, I found my character surrounded by nearly 20 opponents, and I was duly stabbed utterly to death. Fair enough, I’ll reload my save file. Except for the fact that the game had last auto-saved as I boarded the enemy ship, and I found myself once more in a 1v20 position.
The save file before that was when I started the game, so that was where I started. I quickly completed as many of the rather tedious land-bound missions as I could remember, and boarded my ship again, set on the open sea.
Once out of the harbour, a fast travel option appears, and you can change from a third-person view of the ship to a much faster top-down view of the map, with a little icon marking your ship moving across the Caribbean at a much faster pace, avoiding pirates or other islands in order to reach your destination.
As my Lord had requested, I was off to collect a letter from San Juan, and so my course was set for North West. My voyage was without incident, but upon approaching the bay and switching back to third-person view in order to dock, my ship was fired upon from all angles. Maybe it was because I was a pirate? If so, that made all these fetch-quests considerably more difficult.
Nevertheless, I quickly about-turned, and, in the bravest way possible, ran away. However, my ship slowed to a snail’s pace and after ten minutes of sailing I still wasn’t out of the tiny harbour. I couldn’t tell if it was because I was damaged, or because I was still somehow “engaged” with the ships that were dots on the horizon behind me, but it would not allow me to sail away. It was at this point that I turned the game off and was done.
Overall, the game is really 50/50 for me. Half of it, the land-bound half, is tedious and under-explained, and honestly quite boring. I realise that later in the game these parts will probably make up the story, but for now, they seem far too long and really take away from the naval half. When on a ship, it is a lot of fun. I enjoyed sailing the oceans and challenging other ships to combat. A little more explanation of how the combat itself works would have been a bonus, but honestly with a little more play I think I’ll work that out.
I can see myself playing this again just to sail the seas and terror my opponents, but I have little to no interest in the story, or the mechanics on land. The problem with how the game auto saves will also hopefully be mitigated by me simply not caring where I’m going or what I’m doing, so long as I’m on the ocean waves. In that sense at least, I feel like the game has given me the true piratical experience.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.