It’s an honor as a bearded Steam player to share my thoughts on playing Pirate Code last week. A game developed by one bearded developer from CIRCUIT HIVE.
And what a missed opportunity it is. This developer didn’t ask around on Steam for some folks to test the game before release. If he did, those testers did a bad job.
It’s not only a little rough around the edges, but it misses some basic functionality we, as PC players, demand from every game in the genre.
I say a little rough because it’s not completely rushed and rubbish.
We can use our keyboard (WASD) for the Overworld Sea map movement and for scrolling the battlemap. We can use the mouse pointer to issue orders and we can close some of the ingame menus prompts with the mouse. We can not use the mouse to close all windows ingame and we are forced to use the keyboard often.
There is no autosave on exit the game. You can only manually save in harbors and if you forget to do so or suffer a main quest story defeat you automatically return to your last save.
There is no way to skip the tutorial. In the worst case, you did not finish the tutorial and didn’t save the game so you are forced to start the tutorial from scratch.
There are no settings that can change screen resolution and graphical effects like vsync and you cannot remap any of the key commands. Alt/tab out of the game is problematic for me.
All those issues didn’t had much weight for me if the game was released as an Early Access title. But we review a full release version of a game with a long development history with a steep price tag for a game in the genre.
At the same time, all of those issues didn’t prevent me from playing Pirate Code, having fun listening to the pirate yells, the original music tracks that absolutely fits the theme and enjoy watching and listening sinking enemy ships.
Within the somewhat unpolished game lays a serious strategy game title that has a very rewarding game flow and an addictive one more turn feeling.
You start the game as an old pirate and his daughter. But he calls himself a mercenary. And as a mercenary, you are asked by a small peaceful island to help them fight against pirate raiders. The main goal, of course, is to master the seas.
The main story functions as a tutorial for new players. There is a lovely portrait showing the pirate and his daughter, but as soon you make contact with other pirates, your crew or key figures in the main and side missions, they all lack a portrait painting. In a game with lot’s of content in the form of graphical objects, this is really missing. All characters in game are plain text presented on huge text-boxes.
The open sea is the world map. It’s divided into regions. You have to unlock regions by playing. Every region contains one or more islands. Those islands you can find by exploring. The player can buy maps in harbors on those islands to make it easier to find them and to be able to display a navigation arrow on the sea map which is very helpful.
In harbors, you can buy and sell multiple items. This includes ships, ship upgrades, buffs, crew, luxury objects, supplies and items you can use to customize your ship like flag patterns and colors.
It’s a good and complete mix of usable ingame objects and collector’s items.
All categorically placed in your inventory.
In shipyards you can save the game, you can accept missions for the main quest and there is a continues load of bounty (side) missions to accept with a maximum of four different missions at the same time. Those are diverse and can be requested for supplies, proof of sinking pirate ships or match your strength with one of the enemy captains.
The Battle map in Pirate Code
In Pirate Code, if you leave the port you are a simple sprite in the enormous open sea. The controls here are somewhat different and in real time. There isn’t much navigation required that really test your reflexes, but to pick the right fights, the ones that are most rewarding, but also possible to win, can be somewhat frustrating. Anyway, the game shines when you actually enter a battle.
You will see a hexgrid varied in size with multiple enemy ships. Those encounters are randomly generated so it’s a surprise how though the battles will be. Glad you have the option to set one of your ships to fishing instead of fighting for some extra loot. But for most fights you really need your whole fleet, tactically decide their movement formation and skill use.
Ships can move and shoot in one turn. The battle is turn-based. You can buff other ships, for example with combat yells, if they have the skill or have a captain aboard. There are many other skills to learn by books and scrolls you can find or buy. Not all skills are available for all ships and the number of ships you can buy is really diverse. All with different basic skills as well. Double movement, multiple cannons and so on.
The tactical battles don’t take that much time. After every battle, you will be rewarded with experience, gold and liberty points, that also unlocks new options and maps in different places on the map.
It’s a big game. It’s not really casual, but battles don’t last for hours. There is a lot of replay value since loot and enemy encounters are generated on the fly. Because the battles don’t take forever and the loot is rewarding you keep playing since one more battle is just ten minutes. And before you know you have hours of sinking enemy ships and listening to funny pirate yells.
There are two mechanisms in Pirate Code I want to point out since they are not often used in other games in the genre, but probably offers what a lot of gamers want.
There are no random dice rolls in the game. You know how much damage your ship, and if you know the status of them, the enemy ship will do. There are no missed dice rolls here or hidden algorithms. Of course, ships have buffs to improve damage dealing, but they are all visible at forehand.
That offers a more tactical way of play and I’m actually fine with it.
The other mechanism is that lost ships and crew are automatically repaired after fights, experience isn’t ship based so you keep all experience from a defeated ship in your fleet as well. And you keep all loot.
Of course, you have a harder time to win the battle and when your whole fleet is defeated you will return to your last save point automatically.
If you can look past an enormous UI with chocolate fonts and don’t care about fine tuning the game to your liking there is a deep game in it that combines turn-based tactical naval battles with a rarely seen, but oh so fun, Tropico 2 like pirate theme. Though it doesn’t end with wooden ships and cannons.
In late game, you can even take command over a fully customized fleet of Steampunk like ships.
You can play Pirate Code as a coffee break game by doing some bounty quests or dive into a multiple chapter story. Rough around the edges but made by someone with a passion for boardgames since his childhood. That is obvious.
Thank you for reading my review about Pirate Code by Circuit Hive and let me know if you want to read more reviews from my hand in the future.