HomeReviews2/5 ReviewTortuga - A Pirate’s Tale Review

Tortuga – A Pirate’s Tale Review

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While the gaming world waits even longer for Skull & Bones, another pirate adventure game arrives to try and fill the void. From the creators of the Port Royale series comes Tortuga – A Pirate’s Tale. Does this pirating sim game help calm the seas until Skull & Bones appears on the horizon?

After creating your pirate alias by choosing a headshot, name, ship name and flag, you are thrust out onto the seas. Your pirate dreams are lofty: commanding an entire fleet and ruling the seas. But everyone has to start somewhere and where better to be placed than at the bottom. With just the one ship and a small crew of deckhands, your pirate empire doesn’t look like much. Yet.

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You are then shown the ropes of pirate combat when out at sea. This is turn-based, with a lot more going on than would first appear. Your speed and wind direction are taken into account. You cannot just storm in on your ship and then expect to be able to turn on a sixpence to get in place for a bombardment. These ships can take an age to turn around and get into position, but your cannons can fire far enough that you have enough room for leeway.

Get in close to your opponent’s ship and you can try and board it. This rewards you with more loot if you are successful, but even this depends on the speed and direction of both ships.

This will be one of the best ways to earn loot and plunder, so expect a lot of naval battles. Unfortunately, they become tiresome quickly. More ships can ratchet up the tension but, tactically, these do not change throughout the game. Aside from the occasional rock popping out of the sea, the areas you fight on will be identical every time.

Once your coffers are full, head to port to divvy up your loot amongst the crewmembers. This is essential behaviour, and you need to be fair, because they can turn their backs on you quickly if you aren’t careful. As well as the standard missions that make up the main narrative for Tortuga – A Pirate’s Tale, you can also take on mini-quests known as Articles of Capture. These can help boost morale between you and the crew once completed, but you will also be penalised if you return to a port without having these completed.

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These two elements of Tortuga – A Pirate’s Tale are explained to you in a tutorial of sorts at the beginning of the game. After that, you are largely on your own, but there is a lot more to discover. Unfortunately, none of it is explained very well. There are several other elements to docking in ports such as scouting new recruits and potential captains at the tavern, buying and selling goods at the market, upgrading your ship and even taking on bounties. You’ll have to discover all this for yourself.

And whilst you can visit these ports, you cannot actually wander around them as your pirate. Instead, it is all done through a very confusing – and very busy – menu system.

Highlighting these options though can be tough enough. Simply put, Tortuga – A Pirate’s Tale was built primarily for the PC without any controller optimisation at all. It is painful to control, with almost every option hidden away in a radial menu accessed by holding the right trigger. Menu navigation is done solely by using the left thumbstick, as the d-pad has many other inputs hidden away. You can always press down the left thumbstick to see what your inputs can be, but sometimes these simply don’t do anything and then just disappear from the screen altogether.

And we need to talk about the UI. Once again it is PC first, consoles second. These are busy to say the least; the first time you access a new menu you will likely have the menu itself, a tutorial box in the bottom right corner, your first mate speaking over everything trying to add exposition and the tiniest font available. There are no accessibility options here. I don’t need to wear glasses but even I struggled with the font size and general state of this UI. This is compounded by the recent release of Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition on Xbox consoles which has proven that if you spend even just a bit of time tailoring a UI and controller scheme for consoles, it can easily be done for traditionally PC only games.

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Away from the ports and the simulation side of things, sailing around the seas can be a lonely place. The turquoise oceans look gorgeous and inviting for a swim, but too many times you will be sailing for too long between quest markers with very little else to do. Other ships do appear, but not at a rate to keep things interesting.

And I won’t even mention the fact that every Xbox achievement in Tortuga – A Pirate’s Tale ends in either a 2, 4 or 8.

Under the deck, Tortuga – A Pirate’s Tale looks to be a challenging simulation title, but the real challenge is figuring out what to do; it currently feels very inaccessible for console players. And then there is the shallow gameplay of turn-based naval battles, which is the only thing to break up the monotony of sailing between markers. With Skull & Bones on the horizon, the best option is to take a wide berth of Tortuga – A Pirate’s Tale and wait.

Set sail on a quest for booty in Tortuga – A Pirate’s Tale on the Xbox Store

Richard Dobson
Richard Dobson
Avid gamer since the days of Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Grew up with the PS1 and PS2 but changed allegiances in 2007 with the release of Halo 3.
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