Yarrrrrr! There haven’t been many really good Pirate games in the last few years. Arguably the best examples of swashbuckling adventures have been Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag and the classic Monkey Island Series. However, a new contender has entered to grab your precious doubloons; under the title of “Pixel Piracy,” an early-access 2D real time strategy/sandbox/simulation Rogue-Lite hopes to persuade you to sail the seas conquering ships and plundering islands!
But before I talk too much about Pixel Piracy, a disclaimer. For the majority of my time on the seas I chose to play in the aptly named “Princess Mode”, which saves your progress and allows you to reload from a previous point in time in the likely event that you die horribly.
So what does PP entail? Well, it’s all about progressing upwards. Building a ship, a crew, and slowing gaining power until you can take on even the strongest of enemies. At current it’s a Pirate sandbox with procedurally generated elements, but could perhaps have some sort of set plot in the future.
You start by deciding a few choice details about your Captain and the world you will exploring. It’s interesting that they give you options which actually affect gameplay; increasing the amount of ship encounters, changing the feel of the eventual plot or modifying your character’s starting situation for example. You also choose a randomised character, though I would argue that the option to customise it personally should be implemented.
However, the strength of the gameplay itself is enough to make this forgiveable. Potentially my favourite aspect is the ship building system. You acquire new parts through plundering enemy ships and buying them from shops, and use them to make your ship bigger and more badass. As the game progresses it becomes more and more important to plan ahead and optimise part placement to get the best result from battles, especially when cannons become an issue, but it’s hard to not want to just make it look awesome.
Whilst you control your Captain primarily, you can command your crew (as long as they have enough morale) into battle against your foes. This is where the strategy element really comes to the fore, through at some points it could be argued that battles are a war of attrition. Your crew can be upgraded using TP points, earnt in combat, to both increase their stats and give them unique skills like fishing, swimming, dodging and cleaning. This customisation, along with the randomised nature of each character makes your crew incredibly personal, which makes the hard nature of the combat so devastating when battles go wrong.
As described in the title, Pixel Piracy is a pixel-art styled game, though I wouldn’t say it’s simplistic. The general aesthetic combined with the well-implemented use of bloom combines for a really nice experience. The same can be said for the audio, which combines retro stylings with a modern feel to make something special, with the brightly recorded voices of the characters fitting in nicely; though hearing “Shiver me timbers!” in a high pitched squeak can get a little annoying when it plays every time you click.
Being an early access release, it’s obvious still in Beta, which means it’s host to plenty of bugs, including one which shifts the entire left side of your ship down one block. Its not a big issue though. The one thing that I think needs a lot of improvement is the cannon system, as not only is it buggy, but it just doesn’t feel that fun right now, especially when it’s the enemy using them. The fact that cannonballs explode when dropped is just plain problematic, and definitely could be considered an issue.
Regardless, Pixel Piracy is shaping up to be a really interesting look at Piracy with a lot of longevity, and definitely deserves to be watched as it nears release.