Tortuga: A Pirate’s Tale review | Yarrr me hearties, you wanna be a swashbuckling buccaneer? Does da sea run through your veins? Do you fear the tread of land between your boots and go your heart aflutter when you hear the roiling of the waves? Then ya ha harr, this might be a tale for ye. Welcome! To Tortuga: A pirate’s tale. Brought to us by Gaming Minds Studios. In this game you take up the role of a pirate captain that has lost his memory after a heavy night of drinking. You apparently have to re-learn everything going from basic movement all the way up to dividing up the booty (no pun intended) after a few days at sea. Yes, as the name suggests. This is a pirate game where you build your fleet up from scratch and gain rule over the seven seas… Or at least, if there were 7 in this game at least. Do you have what it takes to become the next Black Beard? Or will you remain a swabby? Let’s set sail in this review of, Tortuga: A pirate’s tale!
|Developer||Gaming Minds Studios|
|Publisher||Kalypose Media Group|
ℹ️ Reviewed on Xbox Series X | Review code provided by PR/publisher, this review is the personal opinion of the writer. Got unanswered questions about this game? Get in touch on Twitter!
What we Liked!
- Shanties| If there’s one thing that is synonymous with pirates, it has to be Shanties. And the game has a ton of them! You’ll often find yourself listening to your crew singing wholeheartedly while sailing the salty seas. And that actually gave a lot of immersion, that, together with the sounds of a realistic sea and calming wind, gave off a sense of actually being on a ship that is alive with a bustling crew rather than just static sprites on the top deck. Kudos to whoever thought of this!
- Broken economy| The economy is quite broken in its current form. Let me explain. You earn ducats (the game’s currency) by winning sea battles (which isn’t much), selling captured ships or by trade. It’s the trade part that’s busted. You can often just sit in a port, have the marketplace tab open and just buy goods at a discounted price and sell them off for a higher price. And do this over and over again, essentially just breaking open the economy. I’m sure this will be patched in the future, but as it currently stands you’re just better of doing this to get your money’s worth and then investing those ‘hard-earned ducats’ on upgrading your ship.
- Visuals| Visually Tortuga isn’t a high roller. Sure, there are some aspects that I truly loved, but others were questionable at worst. For instance, I love the attention to detail when leaving a port (A port by the way is this game’s equivalent of a town where you can dock to trade, divvy up the booty, gather crew, get mission, repair your ships, …), that seagulls follow you for a short period. I also loved that the sea in itself is just goddamn gorgeous while sailing around. You can see reefs in shallower water or whales and dolphins in deeper waters. But on the other hand, you’ll notice that some lands are oversaturated and honestly? I hated the fact that there is no day/night cycle! I would’ve loved seeing the sunset and stars replace the previously lit-up sky. Was it really that hard to visualize this? Also, there isn’t much detail during the sea battles either. Sure, you might get a close-up shot in slow-mo when getting some critical damage on a boat, but the ‘damage’ shown then is just… Meh. A few black dots appearing isn’t really worth that sudden close-up shot guys…
- Empty world| Tortuga has a massive map for you to sail around in, yet… There is barely any seafaring life out there. Sometimes you’ll be in luck and see a few ships pop up at the edge of the horizon, but if the wind isn’t in your favor? You’ll see it vanish as quickly as it appeared. This wouldn’t be that big of a deal if it weren’t that some promises that you make to your crew to keep them happy actually revolve around sea battles and either capturing or sinking ships! You’re better off sailing around some ports then and hope a ship spawns near them that is in your weight class to combat!
- Customization?| So, you can customize your captains and ships. But, I’m finding that some of these customizations aren’t really that straightforward or oftentimes do not do anything to help to your advantage! For your captains you get experience. Each time you level up a progress bar unlocks more traits for you to assign to yourself. There’s a skill called Battle Frenzy, that increases your damage and % chances to succeed in boarding actions. I proc this ability every time that I board, and yet nothing seems to change. So I’m not sure if this skill is just broken, or if the text of the skill isn’t correct. The other captains that you hire get randomly selected traits by the AI. Those will probably align with the ‘character’ of that captain. Your ships can also be customized and upgraded. This can be done in ports that have a harbor master. But not every harbor master does everything. Each harbor has its specific specialty, so you’ll have to explore the world to find the needed upgrade that you want. So this is something that is extremely tedious as well…
What we Disliked
- Combat| The combat is stacked against you and it quickly shows. I’m also pretty sure the combat is currently bugged. Let me explain. The sea combat is split up into two parts. A sea battle, and if you choose to board a ship, you’ll get offered a few options. The sea combat in itself is a rock-paper-scissors thing. Both ships fire a salvo in a turn-based style combat trick. If it hits, there’s a % of the damage that will be done, and there’s also an optimal range for your cannons to fire. The optimal range is often 2 blocks away. Why? Don’t know. I would reckon that if you fight sideways, that your cannons would be doing the most optimal form of damage. But hey… That’s just me. It’s more the boarding combat that is impressively broken. When you board a ship, you’ll be offered 2 to 3 options. A risky move, an in-between move, and the safe move. You’ll lose a % of the crew depending on how the risk/reward system goes. The amount you’ll lose if you succeed is shown in the outcome blocks. The success chance is also shown. It often is a 45%, 90%, and 60% success chance. It is here that the game quickly becomes rock paper shotgun though. The number of times that my crew was overwhelming an opposing crew and suddenly get fully killed off? Is staggering! For instance, I was about to win a boarding battle where my crew still numbered 45 while the enemy crew only had 7 people left alive. I chose the safe option (90%) which shows that I could lose around 5 men if it succeeded, but the overall progress bar was fully lit that, if it failed, I would lose everything. I mean … First off, how would that even be possible? That 7 men kill off an entire crew! And on a 90% roll? So I wanted to check it out and… Yup, it happened. I then did a few more checks, and let me tell you. If that progress bar goes back to nearly killing your entire crew in the possibility %? It’ll happen. Out of the 7 times, I did a 90% chance roll with that as outcome. 7 times the combat failed and I lost everything. Fix your broken combat system!
- Plateaus quickly| Tortuga does an amazing job in humbling you and letting you hit that ceiling of ‘yeah, I’m not doing this anymore’. So, as I already mentioned the combat is pretty broken. On top of that, there is also a glass ceiling that you’re rapidly approaching without even knowing it. So your first months at sea will be fairly simple, slowly building up your fleet and gradually improving your ships as you go. Until the game feels like you’ve garnered enough strength and fully upgrades the AI ships to unseen levels of unfairness. You’ll see their ships go from sloops and frigates to master-crafted warships like Ship of the Line and things like that. Making sea battles a nearly impossible thing and boarding those beasts a fading dream. If anything, that ‘switch in combat pace’ was what made me uninstall the game and start writing this review. It was an absolute slap in the face that isn’t even foreshadowed by anything! After losing my best 3 ships vs 1 of those things? Yeah, no thanks.
- Tutorial| There is none. The ramshackle attempt of even being a tutorial is pitiful or laugh-worthy at best. It doesn’t show you ‘the ropes’ of being a captain. And afterward, I didn’t even know what to do or what certain things mean! So yeah… That’s a big nope for me!
- Crew satisfaction| My god this was honestly one of the worst aspects of the game by far! The crew satisfaction in this game is mindbogglingly moronic to say at best. So every now and then you need to divvy up the spoils of your plunder. Of course, they are your ship crew so they deserve the best! After dividing the ducats amongst your men (there’s an increase the bigger your crew becomes) you’ll need to make some promises towards your crew as well. So far so good, right? Alright! Let’s set sail… 8 days in I suddenly noticed that my crew satisfaction was dropping. I checked my crew tab… And noticed that they were dissatisfied because they didn’t get any booty yet! I was like… What? I just did this! And they’re already moaning for more? Mind you, because the ship population is so scarce, I couldn’t even divvy up much because I didn’t even get the chance to fulfill one of my promises (sink 3 ships) due to the low population! And some ships that I came across were more powerful than I currently was. So the game was punishing me for something I couldn’t do much about. Yeah… I was done!
How long to beat the story | 15+ hours.
How long to achieve 1000G | 20+ hours.
You’ll love this game if you like these | Sid Meier’s Pirates!
While Tortuga: A pirate’s tale might look and somewhat feel like a pirate game. Its bravado quickly falters when you notice that everything is just a quick rinse and repeat. I know, things will be smoothened out in the future with patches, but that won’t fix the boring combat system that is already present and the horrible gameplay mechanics.
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