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Tortuga: Two Treasures

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: CDV
Developer: Akella


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PC Preview - 'Tortuga: Two Treasures'

by Keith Durocher on Jan. 10, 2007 @ 2:27 a.m. PST

Set in the Caribbean of the early 18th century, Tortuga: Two Treasures is an action adventure brimming with Caribbean myth, legendary treasures and fearsome pirates. Two Treasures features epic land and naval battles, featuring everything from sword fights to cannon-battles.

Genre: Action
Publisher: CDV
Developer: Ascaron
Release Date: March 5, 2007

In recent years, Pirates of the Caribbean has captured the public imagination, and as a result swashbucklers are all the rage. For my money, The Goonies is a better starting point, but I suppose that's just my age speaking. (No truffle-shuffle, no high seas adventure. You punk kids get offa my lawn!) We all knew sooner or later someone was going to "strike while the iron is hot," as it were, and produce a game that exploits this newfound obsession with lawless buccaneering in the 1600s – someone besides Sid Meier, I mean. Looks like Ascaron has risen to the occasion, and the result is coalescing into a game called Tortuga: Two Treasures. If filleting Spanish soldiers with a cutlass is your bag, you might want to pay attention.

This third-person perspective, single-player action-platformer game puts you in control of a freebooter in the employ of Blackbeard the Pirate. This hirsute oceanic terrorist has undertaken a quest to unearth the fabled treasures of Sir Henry Morgan, one of history's most notorious privateer outlaws. Whether Blackbeard is driven by greed or simply a desire to build an even greater reputation is unknown. The hero of this story is one Thomas "Hawk" Blythe, also known as "you, the player." Gifted with an unknown past, a father who he never knew that left him with little more than a mysterious medallion, and paired up with a voodoo priestess named Sangua, our quick-witted protagonist is Will Turner and Captain Jack Sparrow rolled into one. To say Tortuga: Two Treasures has been heavily influenced by "Pirates of the Caribbean" is a significant understatement at the least, but this is a pirate-themed title. Is it a rip-off, or is it simply "Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum?" You decide.

The play style is dualistic; there is more to it than just running around swinging a curved blade. At least half the game appears to be ship-to-ship combat on the high seas. Manning the helm of a commandeered schooner or galleon, your successful cannon battles either sink the enemy outright or disable them for long enough that you can sidle up beside the burning vessel, board it, and finish off the remaining crew the old-fashioned way. Of course, not all fights will go so smoothly, and if you sustain too much bombard damage, you will need to track down repair power-ups before your boat burns down. This is a simplified process; Tortuga handles this via hull and sail repair kits that float in the ocean. All you have to do it find them, cruise overtop of them (they look like treasure chests) and use them. Then it's off to pillage more craft for more booty.

The non-ocean missions also have some different items available, like healing potions (in true pirate fashion, you chug them and toss them, just like a flask of sweet Jamaican rum), voodoo sleeping dust that stupefies all enemies surrounding you, and flintlock pistols that kill in a single shot but have extremely limited rounds. Rather than provide you with an inventory, however, these are generally single-use items relegated to a hotkey. Once you've used up the allotment you've collected, you're out of luck, so there's no chance of pistol-whipping some Spaniards, I'm afraid. These different power-ups aren't compiled in an inventory; they are instead listed as a hotkey icon on a sidebar. At the risk of sounding presumptive, I assume this was done to maintain a sense of action as opposed to a more in-depth role-playing mood. If this is indeed the case, it's really too bad because I get the feeling this would have made a very good action-RPG.

Learning combat moves appear to be part of the mix as well, although to be completely honest, I haven't quite figured out how these work. The idea, as far as I can sort it out, is that the more you fight, the more you learn. If you do a spectacular job of eliminating enemies, not only will you get a kill bonus, but you will sometimes be stricken with inspiration as well, and a new combat maneuver will become available to you. The problem is that I don't know how to make these work. Is it a keyboard combination? A hotkey? It isn't in my items list, and no experimentation on my behalf has yielded any new tricks. As it stands, "Hawk" Blythe might know how to "Kick the stern," but I don't.

Although there has been no announcement regarding a console release, Tortuga: Two Treasures feels very much like it would be at home on the Xbox 360 or PS3 (Possibly the Wii as well, but the controls don't initially come across as compatible with the motion-sensor Wiimote). The linear storyline, simplified item system, and smaller mission maps all point toward a non-PC release in the future. There doesn't appear to be a multiplayer component, so while this doesn't preclude an Xbox port, it certainly isn't "in line" with the Microsoft push for Xbox Live! functionality.

So what can you expect on a technical front? Well, graphically the focus is on high-detail textures with realistic motion capture and beautiful lighting. The water effects are gorgeous, although the actual liquid volume seems to lack substance. At the moment, the oceans tend to come across as too clear. (I think I'm probably just ignorant: I've never actually been to the Caribbean, so for all I know, this is dead accurate.) There are a curious number of cut scenes, so many in fact that it can almost seem disruptive. These are also currently lower in resolution than the actual gameplay, but again, this is probably just the state of the preview build at this point in time.

Tortuga is optimized for Ageia PhysX physics processing units, although I haven't yet seen any spectacular examples of this extra effort on Ascaron's behalf. While the ships do heave and sway in the cumbersome manner one would expect of a massive 16th century war ship, the hand-to-hand fighting doesn't dazzle with stunning rag-doll physics. I feel I need to stress again that everything I've seen so far is unfinished and completely unrepresentative of the final product, but everything looks great so far.

What more can I say about Tortuga: Two Treasures? Not much, really. It's a straightforward action game that promises a swashbuckling adventure and doesn't appear to go back on its word in any way. If you've been searching for a more hands-on pirate experience, then you should absolutely keep to the lookout mast. Your looking glass has much to show you.

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