Publisher: CDV Software
Release Date: March 5, 2007
Ship battles, sword fighting, exploring, discovering buried treasure, and adventures on the high seas are all things that come to mind when we think of pirates. If you've played Sid Meier's Pirates!, then you know how much fun this can be when implemented well. In terms of gameplay, Tortuga: Two Treasures feels a lot like Sid Meier's Pirates!, but unfortunately, the implementation is less than ideal.
The phrase, "Do what you want 'cause a pirate is free!" doesn't quite apply here. The campaign mode takes you through a series of completely linear missions, but you lack the ability to roam about and explore areas. You also cannot play the role of a merchant, buying and selling goods from port to port, because you are forced to go from one specific objective to the next. Linearity is not necessarily a bad thing, but in the case of Tortuga: Two Treasures, it just falls short in too many areas to make it entertaining.
The ship controls feel like a cloned version of the many pirate games that have preceded Tortuga, working in a very similar fashion to the combat in Sid Meier's Pirates!. You control you ship with the WASD keys, with W and S to raise and lower the sails, respectively, while A and D control the ship's rudder. There are a number of items which can be used such as repair kits, kraken bait, and various ammo types which are assigned to the number keys. The ammo types include normal shot, which damages hulls; grape shot, which kills crew; and chain shot, which takes down sails.
This is pretty standard for a pirate game, but the actual combat has been simplified so much that it's not much fun at all. Your ship cannot shoot unless you are in range and a green reticle appears around the enemy ship, so there really is no timing involved in firing shots, and you can't shoot ahead of them to hit where they will be.
Additionally, you cannot ram or board enemy ships unless it's part of the mission. The enemy ship's A.I. will almost always go in a straight line from its position to where you are, even if it means going through reefs. I can't imagine that this was intentional, as it makes many of the fights completely trivial. You can circle coral reefs with a fast ship, and enemy ships will try to cut right through the reefs to get to you. In the process, their ships will be torn to pieces, and you can beat them without firing a shot. After several monotonous battles, you'll find that this isn't exactly "living the life" of a pirate.
When you board an enemy ship or go onto land, you will control your character from a third-person perspective. You'll fight with sword and fist and have access to a number of items to aid you in combat, but this is where the gameplay really starts to fall apart. The enemies rush blindly toward you and attack, and your defensive strategy consists of hitting the left mouse button repeatedly, which causes your character to execute a basic sword-slashing combo. There are a few other special moves you learn, such as a chest kick and a sweeping sword combo, but if you just repeat the sword-slash combo on every enemy, you can clear through entire levels with ease. If you are fighting a single non-boss enemy, he has no chance of hurting you at all, since you can attack so quickly that he will always be too stunned to retaliate. You're only facing a real threat when fighting three or more enemies at the same time. It comes down to a battle of attrition though, and after you fight enough enemies, you must down a healing potion to keep going.
The story is one of the few highlights of the Tortuga, although even that isn't without its problems. You start the game as Thomas "Hawk" Blythe, and you're working as a captain under the infamous pirate Blackbeard. There is a love interest between Hawk and a fellow captain Sangua, who is a voodoo priestess. Your first mission is to distract a governor into leaving his port by giving him a false treasure map. Shortly afterwards, Hawk finds that he has been betrayed by Blackbeard and is sentenced to be executed. He escapes with the help of the governor's daughter and sets out to find Blackbeard.
The overarching goal is to find the long-lost treasure of Henry Morgan, which may seem like a completely clichéd rip-off, but it is presented well. At the end of the single-player campaign, you can upload your score to an online ranking system, but I doubt many people will take the time to try again for a higher score. Replaying the game multiple times would be a brighter prospect if it had more varied gameplay. All the game really has is naval fights and hand-to-hand sword fights delivered in a very linear and constricting presentation. To top it all off, Tortuga only lasts a few hours.
The visuals look quite nice during the title's sailing segments. The ships are finely detailed, and as you are sailing, you can see everything from the individual cannons and crew members to the ropes and bulges in the sails from the wind. Some of the land features are a little less detailed, especially the trees and rocks, which come across as quite bland. The reflection of light off the water looks especially nice, and the sunsets are picturesque in detail. Another neat effect is the translucency of the water at different depths. You can see the sand at the bottom in shallow end, and as you move farther out into deeper waters, it becomes murkier. It doesn't appear quite as good when you are on land or aboard another ship in control of your character, but the models and textures still look pretty good.
The music is appropriately pirate-themed, with high spirit music when sailing on the open seas, and fast-paced music when engaged in combat. The sound effects are mediocre at best, and sometimes they can be downright irritating. The sound that is used when you kick an opponent on the ground sounds like two sticks hitting each other. Other players have complained about the voice acting, but I thought it was average; it didn't really stand out, but none of the voices seemed over the top or poorly done. Overall, the sound was standard fare, with some good music balancing out the poor sound effects.
If pirate themes are your thing, then Tortuga: Two Treasures might interest you, but the gameplay falls short when compared to similar released titles. It's really difficult to recommend this game to anyone since Sid Meier's Pirates! has everything that Tortuga does, and even manages to do it better. If you're an absolutely diehard fan who cannot get enough bottles of rum, then Tortuga might be worth checking out just for the single-player story. Otherwise, you should look elsewhere for your pirate fix, like the superb Sid Meier game or possibly the Pirates of the Burning Sea MMO, which is set to debut later this year.
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