There are very few video games based on the genre of piracy and pirates. It’s a hard one to pull off successfully and most games that are released end up being mediocre at best. The only game in recent memory that has come close to pulling off an authentic pirate experience was Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. Pixel Piracy is unfortunately another game that unsuccessfully tries to tackle the genre and falls flat on its face in the process.
• Developer: Quadro Delta/Abstraction Games
• Publisher: Re-Logic/505 Games
• Reviewed on: Xbox One
• Also Available On: PC, PlayStation 4
• Release Date: Available Now
Ported from PC to consoles, Pixel Piracy sees you take on the role of a captain on a small vessel. Your objective is to plunder the high seas and defeat four notorious pirates in order to become the most notorious pirate of all.
It sounds simple in concept, but Pixel Piracy is the most frustrating game I’ve had the displeasure of playing in recent memory. After creating your pirate you start on a small island with a tavern in order to recruit the first member of your crew. I opted to have the game show me the tutorial as I had no idea what I was doing. I was told to grapple from my ship to the island at which point my character walked off my ship, fell into the water and died. After a second – more successful – attempt I hired a pirate with the biggest beard and the game told me to teach him how to clean. It was at this point I encountered the most unintuitive menu system I’ve ever used. Just navigating through pages upon pages words which meant nothing to me and which the game would never explain properly, but at least my crewmate knew how to clean – or so the game led me to believe.
After this the game told me to buy some food so that my crew wouldn’t starve and lose morale. I bought two bowls of sauerkraut and placed them on my ship and directed my new crewmate to the ship as well by using the right trigger. It’s at this point Pixel Piracy insists you know what you’re doing and leaves you to your own devices. There is no explanation about how ship to ship combat or traversal of the world works at this point, two things that are key points of a pirate game.
Upon opening the world map you’re met with islands with different icons which don’t give any real indication of what you’ll find. It’s also at this point you’ll realise that Pixel Piracy’s promise of an “open world sim” in the description on the Xbox Games Store isn’t relevant in the slightest. You click on an island and after a short loading screen you arrive. Your ship remains static the entire time as you load the game from island to island. Encounters in the game world are repetitive and you’ll be fighting the same enemies in the same locations over and over again in order to grind experience to level up. It’s boring and uninspired.
Combat in Pixel Piracy has no redeeming features to it whatsoever either. You simply walk up to an enemy, press the “A” button to begin attacking, put your controller down, sit back in your chair and hope that you’ll win. You can direct other crewmates to attack as well if you can master the fiddly and unresponsive combo of the right stick and right trigger. If you’re not quick enough in selecting a target then your crosshair will simply reset and disappear.
After a few successful skirmishes I returned to a tavern and hired another crew member before resuming plundering. After a few minutes I began to realise my crew morale was getting low; and it turns out the reason for this is that the crewmate the tutorial specifically told me to train in cleaning seemed unable to pick up the vast quantities of poop that had amassed on my deck. Not only this, but the crew were refusing to eat the sauerkraut I’d placed out for them too. After deducing that it must be a bug I decided to pillage one last ship.
I directed my crew to attack the enemy crew first before sending my own character over. After taking out everyone but the captain I then directed my crew over to help me finish him off. My crew simply stood still and watched as the enemy captain diced me up into little cubes with his cutlass. That was when I decided to stop playing.
There comes a point when a game has thrown so many unnecessary obstacles – either of its own design or through frustrating bugs – at you that enough becomes enough. Pixel Piracy is a monstrously frustrating game to play which managed to put me off it entirely in only a few hours. The only redeeming feature of Pixel Piracy is the art style it has adopted, the game looks great, but underneath that pretty exterior is a cesspit of poor design choices, game breaking bugs and an overall shoddy port of a PC game to consoles.