Despite the oddly ongoing “pirates vs. ninjas” debate, there’s still shockingly few good pirates games available for mass consumption. Based on its stellar reputation and super-addictive gameplay Sid Meier’s Pirates! may heretofore retain the crown of being the ultimate pirate experience.
But Pirates of Black Cove has stepped into the light. A few preview screenshots and trailers didn’t eek out much information, we weren’t really sure what to expect of it before we started playing. Happily, we were pleasantly surprised with our experience. Put on your tricorn hat, and strap on your eye patch and do whatever else pirate fans do. There may be some pirate puns ahead (but we’ll do our best to keep them at a minimum).
Pirates of Black Cove is the latest, Action / Real-Time Strategy / Adventure / Role-Playing game from Nitro Games. And yes… it really is a healthy combination of all those things. It’s as though Sid Meier’s Pirates!, Diablo, Baldur’s Gate, and Command and Conquer all got together to have a baby.
You start your piratey adventures by picking a captain, who acts as your main character throughout the tale. Each captain has their own traits and level up in typical RPG manner. The game is then split up into essentially three separate parts. Friendly towns allow you to take on new pirate faction missions, hire crew, upgrade your ship, or purchase a new one entirely by using your ill-gotten booty.
Entering unfriendly port towns and islands turns Pirates of Black Cove into an RTS-type game. Your hero leads the way as the crew is split into tanks, skirmish, and blaster classes. Fallen enemies leave behind money, tool kits which can be used to repair your ship while out at sea, or bottles of grog which will heal your entire squad. Be careful, however. Drinking too much grog in a short amount of time will cause your party to fall asleep.
While at sea, you can manually steer the ship as you explore the Caribbean. And it’s a beautiful and lazy tour of the islands as it should be. The land, sea, and its inhabitants are colorful. The music jovial and it makes makes Pirates feel like a pleasure cruise. That is… until you open fire on some unsuspecting trade ship.
Items and collectibles found in open water can be used to create new potions for your crew, or to unlock new ship types and upgrades. Combat is all performed manually as you fire from ship to ship to steal enemy cargo. Travel at first is on the slow side, but eventually as you get enough money you can upgrade your ship or use wind charms that act as a sort of one-way scroll of town portal back to the hideout of your choice.
Graphically, the game is very well stylized and it shouldn’t require a killer machine to render. The oceans and the lush, green islands never look bad. The character models are on the simpler side, but they are more than passable. Pirates of Black Cove is built on a sturdy foundation of great core gameplay concepts. The game itself runs very stably and we can’t say it really does anything WRONG.
But at the same time, it isn’t a masterpiece either. For starters, the pacing of the game may be too slow for some gamers. Progression of the story, your characters and your equipment may not happen fast enough for modern players. It’s a slow-paced game, but the difficulty is definitely high enough at times to avoid slapping the terrible title of “casual game” on its hull.
Control and usage of your land forces is simple enough, but there could be so much more done with it. Individual units don’t level up like the main characters. They’re 100% disposable. Considering how few of them there are at any given time, a leveling system might have added a type of affection for your crew.
The script and dialogue are OK, but again, they leave a lot to be desired. There is a heavy over-usage of pirate puns found in the game. And sadly some of the voiceover work falls short of the mark.
So in the end, Pirates of Black Cove is beautiful. It controls well. It has a great concept and fun gameplay mechanics. For anyone who wants a slower-paced, but well made game about pirates, then Black Cove is your answer. But at the same time, there are very small things that hold it back from being a true hit that will appeal to more gamers. We’re hoping this is the start to something fantastic or perhaps will spawn a sequel because there is a lot that can be done with this type of game. If your curious, there is a demo available on nitro games website. And that’s what we recommend everyone to do. Give it a try before you buy.
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Name: Pirates of Black Cove
Available on: PC
Developed by: Nitro Games
Published by: Paradox Interactive
Release date: August 2, 2011
EG Score: 4 out of 5 / “Worth Trying and Buying”