Pirates of Black Cove is the newest game from Paradox Interactive, a studio known for game like Majesty and Magicka. Pirates of Black Cove tries hard to be a fun pirate RTS/simulation, but it ends up being a trip through tediousness more than anything else.
Like the name might suggest, you do indeed take control of Pirates or rather one pirate in particular. From the start of the game you are tasked between choosing between three starting main characters. Two male pirates and one female one. Basically the only difference between each of these characters is the way they look and the weapon they attack with, although each one does have an interesting back-story and each one does see the story a bit differently.
Speaking of story, it’s really not a concentration for Pirates of Black Cove. Although it does have some interesting moments most of the story just falls flat as uninteresting filler. Your character is tasked with uniting the three different pirate factions; those of Pirates, Corsairs, and Buccaneers. Your whole purpose in doing this is to combat the evil Pirates of Black Cove. Regardless of the uninteresting story though, the dialogue in traditional Paradox fashion does remain to be funny and intelligent. Pirates of Black Cove may not be as witty as other Paradox games but it still managed to make me chuckle at more than one moment. The game certainly isn’t of the highest humor, but it has a charm of its own for sure.
Pirates of Black Cove is actually an open world game. You take control of your ship on the high seas, as well as being able to land and set out on foot on the various islands and landmasses of the world. You start out at your pirate stronghold with your captain and from there you can undertake various missions as well as construct building and hire units to aid you in battle. The whole open world shtick works pretty well for Pirates of Black Cove, but the biggest problem I found in the game was the lack of variety in the missions, aside from a few of the story based missions. Most of what you have to do in the world consists of sailing a sizeable distance and destroying some enemy ship or landing and killing some enemies. While this isn’t too much of a problem, the core game play isn’t enough fun to hold your attention for that long.
On the sea you can control the speed of your ship as well as what direction it goes and when to fire. You also have access to a few special abilities such as launching a sailor onto an enemy ship in an effort to capture it. Unfortunately, your ship controls like a giant floating tank. It’s truly an effort to get your ship to do anything you want, even just what direction you want. The terrible ship controls really distracts from the fun on the ship focused parts. This ultimately was the biggest problem I found with game play, since a major focus of the game is on the sea. Luckily the land based parts can somewhat make up for this.
Land based sequences control like your basic real time strategy game. You have your various units (including your captain), that you take control of on a small map. It’s from a top down perspective and you tell your units where to go as well as what to attack. If you have played any real time strategy game at all you will feel right at home with these parts. In addition to the core game play, there are a ton of collectables for you to gather across the world. Some have uses within the game while others are just there for you to collect, like the cringe worthy pirate jokes you can find.
At the three different pirate strongholds you have the ability to purchase different upgrades, and items, as well as new units. This is one of the stronger areas of Pirates of Black Cove, because of the amount of depth you have in choosing what you want to do. Especially on your ship, there is a good amount of upgrades, new weapons, and even new ships that you can buy. In this regard, upgrading and purchasing new things can actually be a decent amount of fun.
Onto the other areas, both graphics and sound in Pirates of Black Cove end up being merely mediocre. On the graphics front, Pirates of Black Cove is a pretty decent looking game. Environments and water especially have a good pop to them, and are quite nice to look at. On the other hand, character models turn out to be pretty darn ugly. In addition, in my time with the game I encountered a fair amount of frame rate stutters and minor glitches. It wasn’t enough to ruin the game, but it definitely was noticeable.
Sound design is okay at best in Pirates of Black Cove. Most of the songs are completely forgettable, although they do have a fitting pirate kind of feel. Voice acting is tremendously cheesy and certainly not going to win any awards, but this may be on purpose for the kind of game it is, so it’s not a big complaint.
In all Pirates of Black Cove is a somewhat enjoyable experience marred by some graphical and game play issues. It’s not an awful game but it’s also not a great one. There are better strategy experiences to be found elsewhere, but if you’re itching for a pirate game you still can find a good amount of fun with Pirates of Black Cove.
*Paradox Interactive provided Slimgamer.com with a review copy.