Published on February 26th, 2016 | by Joseph Saulnier0
Developed by the small team over at Quadro Delta, Pixel Piracy (“PP”) slips you into the boots of a pirate captain who must rise from the depths, as it were, to become the most feared swashbuckling pirate since the likes of Davy Jones. In this 2D sidescrolling, RPG-Adventure you’ll be tasked with hiring a crew and building a ship, as well as micro-managing their happiness and development in the time between plundering and exploring rival ships and random islands. They tried combining various trends into one game, but the unfortunate outcome is not so original.
The game sets out to be an open-ended sandbox type experience by allowing you to plot your own course and develop crew as you see fit. However, while you may be inclined to ignore it, the main goal is to defeat the four legendary pirates. PP tries to initially bury you in the role by giving you plenty to do and aspire for, but the clunkiness of the controls and lacking (even for 8-bit) graphics do not help contribute. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful looking game, but sometimes (more often than not) these 8-bit games are not supposed to be about beauty.
At this point, retrospective looking games have almost enveloped their own intentions of creating charm factor and invoking wide-eyed nostalgia by their sheer quantity. In fact, the game-type is so common now, you might argue if they’re actually retrospective anymore. With that said, PP’s blend of old-timey graphics, with modern graphics just didn’t work for me. While the colors are wonderfully vibrant, whether on ocean or land, and the water reflections and cut-out character models look good for a modern game. But I, as with many, play these games not for the beauty in the surrounding, but for that sense of nostalgia. The beauty, in this case, was simply a distraction. They trick you into a false perception of the quality of the game.
It’s not just the visuals that might trick you, either. The music and audio are the game’s greatest, and possibly only, assets. The decision to include modern sound design instead of just solely bleeping chiptune tracks takes you out of that nostalgia, but can be seen as good for the setting. Catchy jigs and joyful sea shanties manage to create a fun soundscape to play in, and I often found myself humming along to the tunes, both while playing and not playing.
The game world is built from decisions you make at the start of the game. You’ll answer questions that dictate your own, and the land’s, history. This consequently shapes some content, the game difficulty and you gender. From there, you’ll be able to create your character from a number of pixelly outfits, hairstyles, and colors before being given a tutorial on basic commands and gameplay mechanics. This is brief and to the point, as you are meant to discover things on your own. The problem is that the controls consistently unresponsive, or delayed, and so when I encountered more than one enemy, it was practically instant death.
Taverns act as your home away from home, allowing you to hire new crew members, for a fee of course, and generally stock up in between your perilous adventures. Keeping your crew happy is important and stopping at these taverns lets you do things to keep them so: feed them, boost morale, and patching wounds. You’ll definitely want to look after them considering you’ll spend time molding them into real pirates, each one full of abilities and skills to upgrade. All of this is done through fighting and using skill books you find or purchase in your travels.
You’ll be able to plot courses from one randomized island to another, and each one might have some treasure to find. In the course of your travels, you’ll want to build your ship up. You can do this block-by-block, adding ladders and bigger hulls until it’s towering enough to hold all your crew and combat higher level pirates you’ll come across on the open sea. The ship battles allow you to board the opposing ship, where you can either commandeer the ship, or plunder the resources once you have cleared it of its crew. The resources you gain from these battles can be used to expand your own ship.
Whilst all this can be entertaining, despite my issues with the controls, it is only so for a few hours. PP does being to wane on fresh content after a short time. You’ll firstly narrow enemy types down to about two or three, then discover the same animals to kill on most islands, reaping very similar rewards each time. The taverns, shops and scenery become wildly familiar from one location to the next, and because combat is automatic after selecting an enemy, there’s little joy in repeatedly fighting.
As I mentioned, the combat mechanics are hit and miss right off the bat. Attacking a target can be as simple as selecting it and watching your character engage, this wasn’t very apparent when beginning the game. The same goes for the crew, which can be divided up into four different groups and ordered around accordingly. The main issue here is that there is very little feedback on what’s actually happening in the battle, and when there is it can be lost behind a flood of characters and on screen movement. Some of the time, your crew will even simply refuse to follow basic commands, or start to follow them and change their mind about halfway through.
That’s only the half of it when it comes to issues and bugs. Nearly all of the game’s quirks seem to manifest frustration, such as horrible frame rates with busier screens, characters getting stuck in the scenery, menus not showing fully, janky ship building, and ladders that don’t want to be climbed. This is just a few of the problems I had during my time with the game. Additionally, there was an option at the beginning of the game which presented harder enemies at night. I selected this option, but after nearly 12 hours of play, I have yet to see night.
It’s really too bad. I started playing Pixel Piracy thinking I would love this game. It slowly turned into me thinking, “How fast is this downhill tumble going to be?” Many of the gameplay issues and a number of the bugs are game breaking. Hopefully we may see patches that remedy some of the more pressing issues. Until then, I’d hold out for a while.
2 out 5 stars