Having taken a little break, the UC Gaming Club decided to return for the festive season with a game they knew nothing about: Pixel Piracy. The only thing that was known was the fact it was classed as a “Roguelike.”
Again, the only people for this session will be Ellen and Khinjarsi, so they shall share their views and experiences from their yule-tide adventures.
Khin : Yo ho ho and a bottle of Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum.
Ellen : Uh, Okay… Anyway, let us carry on!
Pixel Piracy sees you take up the role of a pirate captain, set with a mission to complete in an ocean of adventure. When you start up a game, you are asked a handful of questions. These relate to the world of Piracia, [the game world you are in] the family you have descended from and the social climate. With these answered, you create your character and set sail.
Ellen : I made my little avatar as best I could but I found it quite tricky as the sprite was quite small and rocking left and right while I was editing it. Not the best circumstances for altering a tiny, pixelated character…
Once I had entered the world, I was given a quest to slay four, specific, legendary pirates.
I felt Piracia was Mysterious, society had fallen and my father had been a coward. These meant there would be mysteries, more pirates in the seas and I started with 25 extra gold pieces. I would say the gold was redundant, having now played the game.
Khin : I think I just went with whatever looked like it covered the most flesh (you don’t want seaweed where the sun don’t shine after all), and purple hair. I gave up trying to properly customise my character since the sprite is so small and moves around a lot.
You start on the central island and are dropped straight into the game with a tutorial. This explains how to move the camera, move your character, employ a crew and set sail.
Ellen : As an introduction to the game, I’m gonna say this was pants. The tutorial prompts stay up until you have completed the action, whether intentional or not, and then jumps straight onto the next one without any relation between them:
01. Move the camera left or right.
02. Move your character.
03. Press Space at the Tavern to recruit crew members.
04. Press Space [elsewhere] and select “Ship Setup” to place food on your boat.
05. Select “Global Map” to sail somewhere else.
Wow! That was a whirlwind ride, was it?! It is all necessary things, but it rushes by so quickly that I felt quite perplexed. I eventually sussed it out and employed four crew members of various backgrounds.
Khin : I had no clue what was going on – I find the text a little hard to read and everything just a little difficult to work with. Still, through trial and error and spending too much gold I worked stuff out. I still feel confused, and I’ve moved onto captain number 2 (more about that later).
Ellen : My favourite part of the controls, which they do tell you, is the movement of your crew and your captain. The crew are assigned to the right mouse button, while the captain is solely on the left mouse button. It is simple and lets you easily assault ships and islands and retain your captain’s safety.
The Global Map takes the form of a grid. Within this grid are numerous icons, depicting pirates, islands, towns and dangers. You select one and get to see your ship sailing towards the destination. Once the percentage track reaches 100%, you reach your intended location. Depending on the distance travel, there is a larger chance of being interrupted by pirates and managing the new situation.
Ellen : On my very first journey, one of my crew members committed mutiny and was slaughtered by the rest of the crew. I didn’t know what was happening while we were sailing and only realised when we reached the first destination and I was one member down.
Khin : Rough day at work, Ellen? I actually didn’t get interrupted until my second loading of the game, and apart from one terrible thunderstorm, had a pretty pleasant time sailing the ocean blue in loading screens.
As you complete encounters, your crew gain experience and level up. But they also get hungry and lose morale. It is important to keep track of these factors, as well as their overall progress bars.
Ellen : This leads me to one of the easiest to overlook aspects, I think: Paying your crew. Nowhere does the game tell you to pay your crew, but if you don’t, they will let you know about it. I can only assume that was why my first journey was shower in bloodshed.
Khin : Paying your crew isn’t mentioned anywhere in the ‘tutorial’, but appears in the help menu. As with workers everywhere, getting paid boosts your crew’s mood, and helps boost their morale. Hunger is kept at bay by simply putting watermelon or other foodstuffs somewhere on your ship. Your crew will help themselves to it as they need to. The fact that the crews morale will start to drop isn’t really discussed at all and is an easy to ignore factor. If you ignore it for too long, your crew will mutiny.
When you reach your destinations, you can do as you see fit. If it is a pirate encounter, you get an option to engage them or try to escape.
Ellen : When I encounter a pirate, it is by choice, and they soon sleep with the fishes! I send my crew onto every pirate ship and slaughter them as quickly as possible. Having killed everyone, I saw the ability to “Capture” became available. I selected it and discovered that options trades you existing ship for the new one; needless to say, I had unintentionally traded down my vessel. I then started the search for a decent looking ship and eventually traded back up to a sea-worthy vessel to call my own.
Ellen : Later on, after coming across inferior ships, I tried to sail away and discovered the “Plunder” option. This only appears once you move all of your crew back to your own ship. This blows up the opposing ship and gives you a handful of components to use on upgrading your boat. I felt foolish for not having found this earlier, but now it is all I do. Sail, Slay, Explode, Repeat. Now, I have a mean-looking vessel.
Khin : Seems like this is something the game needs to explain better. I too ended up trading down my ship. It took a long time and an unintended return to my own ship to discover the Plunder button, which destroys the attacking ship and gives you some gold. Since then I’ve had some pretty nice upgrades to my original ship and currently power around in a 3 storey ship.
If you reach an island, you can go to shore and “greet” the natives or visit the town. The bonus of going to islands is the ability to manage your ship. This comprises both the makeup of your ship and the placement of food.
Ellen : I kinda hoped for a little more from islands, at first. I quickly learnt that all you do is jump ashore and kill everyone; there isn’t much to it. I mean, it is fine, just a little simplistic.
Then, I encountered a choice. I was killing some native tribespeople and the last person didn’t immediately die. Instead, a window popped up and gave me a decision. The tribesman offered me his sacrificial cow… I accepted and now I have Cow Joel on my boat. He doesn’t do anything, he just wanders around the hold and gains levels. I have no idea what I shall do with him, but in the meantime, he is the closest thing my crew have to a ship’s pet, so we nurture him!
Khin : I have yet to get a cow. I’ve had tribal blessings from totem poles and a fair few coconuts drop on my head though. With regards to island hopping, you can check out the island before you disembark. If the island looks too uninviting (usually too many enemies for my small crew to handle) then you can just return to the map screen and try somewhere else.
And that is basically the core gameplay of Pixel Piracy. I guess we should just discuss experiences and see what has occurred in our playthroughs.
Ellen : I travelled north from the starting area and came across Chinese ships and Chinese-themed islands. These comprised killing pandas and chinamen. I kinda felt bad about killing the pandas, with them being an endangered species, but I soon floated into level 6 vessels. These seemed to be sporting cannons, so my ship sank and I was able to retry from the previous encounter. This was when I decided to invest in cannons.
With cannons on-board, I discovered crew members had to be trained with Cannon Mastery to actually use them. It was at this point, I also discovered you could divide your crew into groups and select different crew group via the number keys. I made a boarding party, a gunner crew and, later on, a training crew.
Ellen : After finding cannons and coming up against some challenging vessels, I decided it was time to recruit more shipmates. I had been running a crew of five, including Lady Eliann, and hadn’t encountered a single new recruit. With my only point of reference being the starting tavern, I sailed all the way back to the start and employed four more Level 1 pirates.
Knowing I would have to level them individually, I started sailing around the low level areas again and began grinding out a decent crew. This was when I encountered the friendly tribesman and a whole host of new taverns; seems I just sailed into an alcohol-free area of the sea. With more crew and a bitter taste about the Chinese region, I sailed East and encountered Vikings and Colonials.
Khin : I’ve played so many short sessions that I don’t remember how I started out. I just tried to stick to map areas that had lower levels and fewer enemies until I could build up my levels and my crew. Now that I’m more used to the game and how it works, I’ve caught myself a ship’s dog, and have a merry band of 5 pirates. So far I’ve stuck to sinking pirate ships and invading small tribal islands, but I have ventured far enough in most directions to notice Colonial and Vikings spaces. I haven’t really ventured into ship building since until now my stolen 3 storey house-ship seems to do a good job. I have yet to encounter those cannons though.
Ellen : A session which left me enraged revolved around redesigning my ship. I wanted to entirely revamp my ship for my larger crew and rearrange my cannons. I wiped the current ship build and then discovered my cannons had been deleted. What the game doesn’t tell you is that items which have been altered are deleted permanently; this includes half-eaten food, cannons which have been loaded, cannonball piles which have been loaded and sections of the ship which have been damaged.
Now, I did find that on later attempts, if you remove a single altered item, the game will alert you to the risk of deletion; no warning if you just clear the whole ship. Grrr…
The other issue I had involved making ships “my screw could access.” Despite building a ship, which my crew had all boarded, the game insisted that my ship was inaccessible and wouldn’t let me leave the port. This was the only time I had to quit out and leave it for a day. When I returned, it still said the ship was inaccessible and I deleted it all again and rebuilt ANOTHER new ship. Grrrr…. x2!
Khin : I’m now on my third captain. My original, Balthier, was killed in combat, whilst my second was charged by a boar and fell in the sea. He couldn’t swim. My third, Joel, seems to be doing quite well. What I do like is that should your captain die, your next pirate in your crew list inherits the title and life goes on.
Ellen : Over the last few weeks, I have been without Internet on far too many occasions. During these times, I decided to continue my sea-faring adventures in Pixel Piracy. I have since built up my crew, built up my ship and slain two of the four Legendary Pirates.
I was a little disappointed to discover that the legendary pirates are simply dotted in the furthest corners of the map. It isn’t a huge issue, but it felt a little uninspired. I was hoping that there would be small collections of islands with high danger ratings and amongst them, there might be a Legendary Pirate; no such luck.
Ellen : The Pirates themselves came across as pushovers to me. When you approach, they have a danger rating of “10,000” which daunted me at first. I decided to risk it and had slaughtered the crew and plundered the ship before I knew it… Not particularly fearsome, but maybe I have just power-gamed the system on “Sailor-Mode.”
I have a crew of 16 and they are all above level 25, so maybe that will be it for me…?
Having shared some of your experiences so far, would you continue with it?
Ellen : The game has its flaws. The biggest for me is the single phrase your captain says all the time. ALL. OF. THE. TIME. Everything Eliann would do would be accompanied by “Loser!” in the most annoying voice. Urgh….
My ship building experience was frustrating, but not unmanageable.
Overall, I am still happy with the game.
Khin : The more I play it, the more I love it. I’ve changed some of the graphic settings (turned the bloom down, taken off the vintage PC look) and now it looks more snazzy. In my head, I see it as a pixellated, jolly Sunless Sea (which I enjoyed and you can read about here).
The UC Gaming Club plundered all of these images from their own computer screens. The property was created by Re-Logic and Quadro Delta. The UC Gaming Club are pirates and are preparing to board a new game, within a few weeks. Yah!
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