Well blow me down, it if isn’t a new pirate game for iPad, and with International Talk like a Pirate day just around the corner! I do so enjoy pirate games full of swashbuckling adventures on the high seas… except maybe Sid Meier’s, urgh, but lets not get started on that one.
Bungie Aerospace corporation have just released Crimson: Steam Pirates, a turn based strategy game set in the Steampunk genre. What the hell is Steampunk?!? Good question! Steampunk comprises of a scenario where steam and steam engines are still in large, the main source of power. Think Will Smith’s ‘Wild Wild West’, but please don’t let that put you off, this game is much better.
The game structure is built in chapters and displayed over 3 different novels, the first one (8 levels) is free, the second and third require an in-app purchase. When you open up the first novel to begin your pillaging and plundering you’re met with a iBooks-esq interface, on the left page you get to read up on the story and understand why exactly you’re sinking ships and capturing bases, written rather well I’d like to add. The right page shows ‘The Plan’, listing your objectives in a clean, illustrated manner. Once you’re clued up on your mission it’s time to get down to business and start your voyage.
The gameplay is classic turn-based, but full of action from the start! I’ve rarely felt I’ve had any wasted turns, except on the odd occasion where I have hit land or shallow water head-on, so reversing the ship out takes about 3 turns and is a complete pain in the peg leg!
You navigate your ship by drawing a line with your finger to set your course similar to Harbor Master or Flight Control, then depending on your crew you have additional options at your disposal like repairing damage, full steam ahead to increase your travel distance and grappling hooks to board an enemies ship among others.
On the subject of boarding, when jump on an opposing ship, you’re thrown into a mini game where you have to spread your crew out over 3 different battle slots, then the combat plays out much like an old fashioned game of Top Trumps where the side with the higher stats claims victory (how piratey, I was expecting a game involving dice made from victims bones). To successfully capture a boarded ship, making it part of your own fleet you will need to be victorious on all 3 battles slots. Once captured you need to split up your crew members, moving some over to your new ship keeping in mind that each crew member holds their own specific abilities. It’s crucial to make sure you do this correctly or you’ll be left with a new ship with nobody onboard that can repair it, or engage further captures.
Each level scores you on the amount of turns you take to complete all of your given objectives as well as extra points for destroying enemy ships along the way. If you’re a boaster you can view your score on the online leaderboard to see where you shape up against the rest of the world. As you progress through the different chapters you’ll unlock different ships and abilities to help you tackle the increasing difficulty level.
Crimson: Steam Pirates doesn’t throw you in the deep end either with it’s simple to follow tutorials whenever you embark on something new then letting go of your hand when you’ve got the hang of it.
Visually I wouldn’t say Crimson: Steam Pirates is a masterpiece by any stretch, but its art style is like a highly detailed version of Harbor Master HD. All your controls are mapped out clearly too and where other games use fog to cover untraveled regions you can view the entire map here before making a move to determine the best approach. I do find the photographs in the novels laughable though, looking more like bad models from a fancy dress catalogue than fierce pirates set on domination. The music and sound effects are a pure compliment to the pirate theme, keeping you in a seadog state of mind as you destroy forts and capture opposing ships.
There’s even a pass and play multiplayer mode here too! You’re able to play two different game types, Defense or Shipwreck. Defense consists of one player defending an American ship while Player 2’s objective is to come in and destroy it without being sunk. In Shipwreck mode the map is littered with stranded crew members and your objective is to collect as many of them as possible then sink the other player’s ships. I tried both these modes with my wife for and we found Shipwreck to be the more fun of the two.
Crimson: Steam Pirates is a free game with an in-app purchase if you want to continue your story past the first 8 missions, the multiplayer is also included without this purchase. Gameplay is slick and simple, the music and sound effects are right on the mark too. For those reasons alone and unless you have some sort of life threatening allergy towards pirates or pirate related games you have absolutely no excuse not to download this game.