Pirates of Black Cove Review

By Colin Tan on August 11, 2011

It's not often gamers get a chance to live the life of a pirate at sea. Monkey Island and Pirates of the Caribbean are a lovely scratch on the surface, but we've yet to see a proper experience based on the popular, historical pop culture icon. Cue Paradox and Nitro Games' Pirates of Black Cove, an open-world "“ or, rather, open-sea "“ adventure that is a nice blend of role-playing and real-time strategy mechanics.

Playing as one of three characters, you'll sail the Caribbean in search of work while climbing the piracy rank. The game has a balanced mix of mechanics from an assortment of genres, including adventure, role-playing and real-time strategy. It never really gets too deep in any one aspect, which is a slight disappointment, but it leaves the game quite accessible to anyone with a PC. Exploration is a huge aspect of the game, in both sea and land operations. Whilst sailing, you'll explore a huge open-world ocean with various locations and ports. On land, it's more of an RTS game where you can select units, issue commands and clear quest objectives.

The sea is a big place, unfortunately there isn't a whole lot to it. Most of it is really big ocean, that or some pockets of land surrounding the bigger isles. However, with ships bearing various flags and little details like flocks of gulls, schools of fish, dolphin and even the occasional whale, it's still a rather interesting place to explore. Quests are taken at Faction Mansions throughout the world.

There are three factions: Pirates, Cosairs and Buccaneers. Each have their own unique characteristics; the Buccaneers for example have really durable ships. Each Faction will have their own various units that you can hire. From swashbucklers to snipers and even a heavy weapons guy. Each Hero character can hire up to three various units. They can also be replenished at their respective Faction Halls should they fall in battle.

Quests are set up so that they're really easy and predictable. They usually range from sailing from Point A to Point B, then switch to land operations where you can control your units. Land maps are rather big, which isn't the problem. Units move at a snails pace and the controls can be unresponsive, sometimes units will stand around absorbing damage instead of following your commands. This is where the game falls into the whirlpool of repetitiveness. Thankfully, the script and voice acting do an excellent job of keeping the game fun and comical.

Character progression is done entirely through quests. The experience you gain, new badges earned and even vessel blueprints have to be discovered throughout the world. In other words, you have to go out and get what you want. Pieces of Eight can be obtained by defeating enemies. Speaking of which, combat is extremely fun. Sailing the seas and attacking random ships passing by has never felt so good. Attacking is as easy is left-clicking on either side of the ship to fire the port or starboard side cannons. Or you can use the Q and E buttons respectively. Hitting W will increase speed while S decreases speed. The A and D buttons changes directions. Items like the Tool Box will aid in repairing any damages while a Wind Charm will teleport you to a Faction port.

With that said, considering how big the world is, it's a little frustrating that there aren't any quick travel options outside of the Wind Charm, even that has its limitations. It's not a big problem, but when you want to quickly replenish your units and you're on the other side of the world without a single Wind Charm, the only thing you can do is sail back to port and maybe attack some innocent merchant ship on the way.

As mentioned before, the script and voice acting is absolutely entertaining. There's plenty of slapstick comedy for a good chuckle whenever an event takes place. Taking out Blue Pete isn't quite what you think and who would've thought of tone-deaf Sirens? It's all in good fun and you can discover over a thousand Pirate Jokes scattered throughout the world. Most of them are ridiculously corny. Visually, the game looks great on the open sea, if only a little bland when it comes to variation at land locations. Not to mention, you can zoom in and out to get a closer look at the action like any real-time strategy game.

Final Thoughts

All in all, Pirates of Black Cove is a rather fun endeavour. The role-playing aspects could use more depth, but the exploration and combat is extremely fun. The voice acting is great and the script is hilarious. Save for a few issues like slow moving units and the lack of a quick travel option, this is a game worth recommending for any would-be swashbuckler.

Absolutely fun script and voice acting.
Combat is really exciting.
A nice blend of genres.
Units move really slowly.
No quick travel option.
Gameplay can become repetitive.
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