I think I was a pirate in a former life as I am fascinated by the subject. Whether it is the gruesome battles, the harsh but rewarding hunts, or the fear factor, I can’t get enough of it. As such, I have been hooked on pirate-themed games for as long as I can remember. Subsequently, I’ve sunk hours into Patrician, Port Royale, and Sid Meyers Pirates. Therefore, when Tortuga – A Pirate’s Tale was released, I couldn’t wait to walk the plank and use my hook to grab a copy.
Developed by Gaming Minds Studios and published by Kalypso Media Group GmbH, this is a pirate simulation title. What’s more, it has plenty of turn-based combat and resource management elements. On top of this, you must balance greed and morale as you keep your crew happy and enhance your badass reputation. Yet, can this newcomer outdo its peers, or will it leave you with a sour taste in your mouth?
Tortuga – A Pirate’s Tale bites off more than it can chew.
I love a story-rich and in-depth game. However, Tortuga – A Pirate’s Tale tries far too hard! Accordingly, its action feels forced and the learning curve is uncomfortably tough. Moreover, unlike its peers, the turn-based element slows the gameplay to an almost unbearable crawl. As such, the excitement and thrill of naval combat are reduced to a collection of text-based decisions.
This to one side, let’s look at the plot. You control a petty captain who wishes to make a name for themselves. They sail the Caribbean sea where they decide to trade, fight, or tackle infamous pirates. With 4 nations to appease and plenty of pirate lords to chase, there is plenty to see and do. However, Tortuga – A Pirate’s Tale has bitten off more than it can chew. Sadly, a lack of guidance and ill-explained mechanics make it tough to play. Furthermore, a poor UI, tiny writing, and tedious combat make it tough to swallow.
Fighting and morale.
Unsurprisingly, the life of a pirate revolves around fighting, gold, and the morale of your men. Thankfully, Tortuga – A Pirate’s Tale had got these elements spot on. Unfortunately, though, the execution and delivery hinder the performance, and this leaves you wanting. With naval and city combat at the centre of everything you do, you’d think the developers would have put on a show. However, instead, it is a lacklustre affair that involves slow turn-based events and a heck of a lot of text.
Accordingly, it isn’t as exciting as it should have been and that was a shame. Alongside this, the poorly explained mechanics ensure that there is an unnecessary level of trial and error. You’ll spend the opening fragments of the game making mistakes, learning the fundamentals, and making further errors. What’s more, you’ll try to build relationships, trade at ports, and make gold. Yet, this is much harder than it should be, as you have almost no idea of what you are doing.
Thankfully, though, one of the reasonably well-explained mechanics was the morale system. Here, you must concentrate on the happiness of your crew and captains, and the governors of each city. Furthermore, you’ll keep each nation happy while trying to avoid each pirate lord. However, this is easier said than done as side quests, provisions, and a lust for treasure monopolise your time.
Though the exploration is free-flowing and oddly sparse, the naval encounters focus on a basic turn-based affair. Here, you must be aware of wind direction and speed, the distance you travel, and the placement of your vessel. Furthermore, once multiple ships come into play, you will need to create a plan to maximise your potential.
In theory, this element of the game should be incredible. After all, you have all the time in the world to create the perfect seafaring encounter. Disappointingly, though, the rinse-and-repeat nature of each fight tarnishes a theoretically good idea. Subsequently, the action becomes tiresome extremely quickly, and this is unfortunate.
The sorrowful and underwhelming combat was only matched by the empty world you explore. Yes, the sea is vast, and each port is separated by miles of water, but the lack of ships is frustrating. Consequently, you could sail for days without seeing anyone else, and that isn’t my idea of fun.
Tortuga – A Pirate’s Tale misses a golden opportunity.
If you have played Port Royale or Patrician, you’ll be familiar with the art style. Yet, if you have missed these great games, let me fill you in. An isometric viewpoint is complemented by a free-flowing camera. On top of this, a simple-to-use map helps you to navigate the vast swathes of water. But unfortunately, a lack of first-person action makes each battle or raid feel voyeuristic. Instead of having a hands-on approach, you must sit back and observe the action unfolding. This was frustrating as the drama was drained away.
Other than this, the beautifully coloured ocean and the stunningly big world were great to look at and explore. The rich turquoise sea and occasional swells were well-considered and pleasant to the eye. Unfortunately, what wasn’t so good was the radial menus and the awful port from PC. Accordingly, trying to complete a task, visiting the tavern, or raising your skull and crossbones was much harder than it should have been. Therefore, players will experience an unnecessary amount of frustration that taints the end product.
Alongside this, the irritating “piratey” soundbites will grate on you. The many “yars, ahoys, and blow me-downs” are uncomfortably cliched and not entirely necessary. However, I liked the classic pirate-themed soundtrack and the hard-hitting sound effects. What’s more, the crashing of the waves, the booming cannons, and the scream of your crew were wonderfully constructed.
The controls will make you want to walk the plank.
Gaming Minds Studios hasn’t considered the impact of the PC to console port. Accordingly, the clunky use of radial menus and the soul-destroying pace undermine any fragment of potential. Moreover, the ill-explained control system and game mechanics make it unbelievably tough to master. As such, you’ll spend more time trying to work out what you are supposed to do rather than enjoying your newfound pirate life. The exception to this was the excellent open-world navigation. Controlling your ship and moving it freely across the ocean was a treat. However, this was tainted by the lack of ships and the vast levels of emptiness.
Where Tortuga – A Pirate’s Tale should excel is its replay value and longevity. If you can ignore the shortcomings, there are plenty of missions to undertake, loads of battles to win, and plenty of ship upgrades to install. On top of this, you can attack pirate lords, forge relationships with each nation and sack every port you encounter. Accordingly, it has the potential to be phenomenal, but sadly, it falls way short and will disappoint you.
Tortuga – A Pirate’s Tale disappointed me.
I’ve invested so much of my life into Port Royale and Patrician that I had high expectations of Tortuga – A Pirate’s Tale. Consequently, its lacklustre gameplay and slow action disappointed me. Furthermore, the simple tactics, basic combat, and empty seas will leave you wanting. On top of this, the developers have tried too hard with the pirate theme. As such, the soundbites are unnecessarily annoying. However, if you can overlook these issues, you’ll experience a game that is massive, full of missions and has some interesting political elements. Yet, this isn’t enough to overcome the shortcomings. Accordingly, I don’t recommend that you buy it, but more information can be found here! Will you become a pirate lord? Steal resources, sink ships, and forge strong relationships with each nation.