Posted: March 14, 2014
Early Access Review
When the Terraria devs posted this game on FB I knew I had to buy it. I wanted to try it for a half hour or so last night before bedtime (10pm), but I couldn't put it down till 4am. Today I'm writing this review at work, and I'm super tired after just a few hours of sleep (probably won't get a lot done today). And yet...
I REGRET NOTHING!!!!
I have been a gamer for 20+ years, played countless indie games, and I can tell you that this game (even in early access/alpha) is a true gem. In terms of fun and addictiveness, I would rank this game right up there with other indie classics who I've spent hundreds of hours with: like Terraria, Hotline Miami, To The Moon, and Faster Than Light.
HERE ARE A FEW THINGS TO NOTE IF YOU ARE CONSIDERING BUYING THIS GAME:
- Are there bugs?
If you would consider a high level of difficulty, steep learning curve, and a lackluster tutorial to be "bugs," then sure there are bugs. It seems to me like that's the only bugs people are talking about. "OMG I died in my first encounter, so buggy." "I can't figure out how to do anything, too many bugs." THOSE AREN'T BUGS. In my first 5 or 6 hours of play, I only encountered one actual bug: the game froze up a bit, but I lost no progress as I was able to re-load.
- What's it like?
Pixel Piracy borrows a lot from other successful, indie roguelikes. It's actually like a mix between Faster Than Light, Terraria, and Sword of the Stars: The Pit. It borrows a lot of concepts from all three games, adds in a few new ideas, and throws it all together in a pirate setting.
You travel the world in search of crew, plunder, ship parts, and weapons until you have the most powerful ship in the sea (or galaxy, like Faster Than Light). You travel around a randomized world map in your ship, you click on a spot on the map where there could be a special event, an island, a town, an enemy ship, and etc. Once you have traveled there, that opens up some new spots on the map to explore, and the further out you go, the harder it gets (and there's better plunder). In battle, you have 3 options: flee, blow them away from a safe distance, or board their ship and fight em' up close. All of that is very much like FTL.
But unlike FTL, you must build your own custom ship block by block, from the hull to the sails it's all in your hands. This reminds me a lot of building a house in Terraria; there are a lot of things that you will put in your home/ship that have a very specific use and function of course (cannons, ladders, lamps, barrels), but you always end up spending even more time making it look cool, right? Also, there are bosses (huge ships full of bloodthirsty pirates and cannons) on every map. It would be most unfortunate if you just randomly came across them and died, but you are able to see very clearly where they are on the map. Terraria also has many bosses that you can choose to fight when you feel that you're ready.
What ship would be fit to sail without a crew? In Pixel Piracy, you must learn to expertly manage a crew of dangerous, unruly, mangy pirates. I can't imagine how that could ever be an easy task. You must keep them fed, paid, happy, clean, and safe. If you fail at any of these task, things will not go well for you. In my opinion, it's much more profitable to train them and keep them alive than it is to replace them. You are also in charge of leveling up and maintaining each individual crew member's abilities: putting points into certain traits, training them to learn new skills, and equipping them with weapons, armor, and items. If anyone reading this has ever played Sword of the Stars: The Pit, all of this should be sounding familiar. Except that you have a whole crew to manage instead of just your captain.
- Just how "Roguelike" is it exactly?
Although it has a lot of FTL (and SPAZ) features like a procedurally generated maps, randomized encounters, and permanent deaths, you can still reload your save from before you died. So even though you don't respawn after death (like Terraria), you also don't die and completely lose all of your progress (like FTL). This is probably a good middle ground to be in for this particular game. Considering that you will spend a LOT more time in Pixel Piracy customizing/upgrading your crew/ship than you would in FTL (which is a shorter game by nature), it's nice that you can re-load your previous save after you're killed in a CRAB BATTLE (not even kidding, those freakin' crabs will drown you man). But at the same time, there is no such thing as a roguelike with respawns. Roguelikes are all about making tough, strategic, and irreversible decisions. If you could just respawn after death, it would completely ruin the whole experience. I wouldn't even be opposed to your save file being erased after death like other roguelikes, but I'm just masochistic like that.
- What tips do I have for you?
Don't look anything up. Watch the trailer, look at the screenshots, read the game description, check out a few reviews... then just start playing and don't look back. Don't alt-tab to google and try to search for all the answers, FIGURE IT OUT. I'll admit, a game that doesn't spell everything out for you and hold your hand through the early stages is indeed very old fashioned. This is one of those old school games where you learn by trial and error. How do I get my crew to clean up all this poop on the ship? How do I keep them fed? How do I take on ships that are bigger than mine? FIGURE IT OUT. When you highlight certain items, the description may not necessarily tell you what it does. So buy it and find out. When you come across an island with some shady looking characters you've never seen before, you may not be sure if you can take them or not. Well it's a roguelike, so YOLO. What does that shrine do? What does that potion do? What does that ability/skill do? Try it and find out; it's a lot more fun to learn it on your own.
- Should I buy this game?