Yo ho ho and a bottle of… wait a second. Which one of you landlubbers took my rum?
Ah, the life of a pirate. Mastering the open sea, pillaging, drinking rum. What could be better? Well, the fact that everyone is out to get you isn’t exactly ideal. And the fact that your life is constantly in danger – but boy, is it satisfying to take home all that loot. Pirates Outlaws is a new strategy card game from developer Fabled Game that puts you into the shoes of a pirate, uh, “hero” as they punch and shoot their way through battle after battle to earn repute and treasure. Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me!
It’s not going to be an easy feat moving from the bottom rung of the pirate ranks to the top. You’re going to have to work your way there slowly and fight through dozens of other would-be pirates to try and make a name for yourself. Equipped with only your gun and your fists to start out with, Pirates Outlaws eases you in with a tutorial which aims to give you the basics. That’s exactly what it is though; basic. Unless you’re already familiar with this type of strategy game you, might find yourself a little lost when you’re left to your own devices. Helpfully, Pirates Outlaws does provide tooltips and a glossary to help out new players, but it can still feel a little daunting until you’ve got to grips with it.
“Pirates Outlaws’ soundtrack is excellent, offering up delightfully piratey songs to accompany the theme of the game”
When you play, you’ll be presented with a map, which shows you the path to the “boss battle” – i.e. your main goal. With control of the ship, you’ll choose what path to take and you’ll be making stops along the way to battle, rest, shop and more. Of course, you’ll encounter other enemies along the way, but none present as much of a challenge as the boss of each map. They’re still no walk in the park though, and any health you lose on the way won’t refill itself. As such, you’ll need to carefully manage your items and your status to ensure you’re up for the challenge once you reach the boss.
That’s where Pirates Outlaw‘s special locations come in handy. Other than normal battles and boss battles, you’ll find markets, taverns and events around the map. Markets allow you to buy and sell new cards and relics (items that grant special abilities); in taverns you can rest and eat to regain lost health; and events are random occurrences that may give you more coins or health – or they might harm you.
When you’re in battle, there are a few different things happening that you’ll have to keep track of. If you’ve played Slay the Spire, you’ll likely find Pirates Outlaws’ combat quite familiar. At the start of a battle, you’ll have a certain number of cards in your hand that you’re able to play. You have a set amount of ‘ammo’, which you can spend on playing cards – and each card has a different cost. Melee attacks don’t cost anything, but if you’re using any ranged shots, you’re going to be spending some of your ammo. When all of your cards are used or discarded, they’ll be shuffled and you’ll start again from the top.
“It is a solid, genuinely fun and easy-to-play adventure”
Pirates Outlaws has a number of characters you can play as, each with their own special ability. The starting character gains one ammo at the beginning of each combat round, for example, and The Sword Master cannot gain armour but has a life steal ability. Using your collected relics in battle will also add new quirks and abilities to your pirate.
As you progress through Pirates Outlaws, you’ll gain upgrades to your cards as well as your chosen character and their abilities. You’ll earn repute as you play, which will bring you closer to unlocking stronger pirates and unlocking new chapters that have different types of enemies. There’s a surprising about of content and customisation on offer here; you’ll be playing for a long time before you’ve seen everything Pirates Outlaws has to offer.
While Pirates Outlaws’ soundtrack is excellent, offering up delightfully piratey songs to accompany the theme of the game, its graphics leave a bit to be desired. Animations are scant at best; when in battle, enemies wobble about as they attack, but don’t move their limbs. They also have little to no expression, which makes combat fall flat and can become repetitive. Along with this, there were a few finicky technical issues – like having to pull a card out of my hand multiple times before being able to play it. Small issues that are easily updated or fixed, though, and don’t make the gameplay any less enjoyable.
Lacklustre animation aside, Pirates Outlaws is a great addition to the strategy card game genre. It might not push the boundaries or offer up anything extraordinary, but it is a solid, genuinely fun and easy-to-play adventure. It’s a game that I can see myself going back to time and again, because I know there’s still more it can offer me. If you’re a fan of pirates and a fan of strategy card games, you should set your sights on Pirates Outlaws, me hearties.