Tortuga:Two Treasures (PC) review
"The damage engine in particular is exceptional, as you can see individual sails being ripped, and holes appearing in the sides of the ships due to cannon fire. Honestly, it is quite an impressive sight. The sea itself is handled very well, with sharks circling for snacks in the form of men overboard! "
It is an inescapable fact of life that pirates are cool. A pirate is, without making any effort, instantly amongst the top 2 coolest characters a work of fiction can be about. Some may argue that ninjas are superior, but it really is a close thing, and it all depends on the writing.
Well, almost. In videogames, ninjas really are better. Perhaps this is because there are just more ninja games. Pirate games don't come along very often, whereas there are a couple of hundred ninjas out there. Remove Guybrush Threepwood from the equation, and the ninja army seriously dwarfs the pirate fleet.
Maybe Tortuga can buck the trend? Is this the game that starts a new ball rolling? Are pirate games about to become the new vogue?
Sadly, not quite.
Oh, don't get me wrong. Tortuga has plenty of potential, and at least early on has you thinking that you have found a true gem. Unfortunately, there are just not enough supplies for the entire voyage. What starts out as an epic journey across the Pacific falters and peters out somewhere mid-ocean, ending up adrift near Easter Island.
In Tortuga, you play Thomas Hawk Blythe, employee of none other than Blackbeard himself! Blackbeard has got his hands on the location of Henry Morgan's treasure, and he needs your help to get it. So you start off at sea, where you are plunged straight into your first battle. Here, you maneouver around another ship, shooting it until you damage it enough to board. Then, there is a quick swordfight on the deck, wherein it is you against the leader. This is also where the first problem rears its head. Because, winning this duel is a simple matter of clicking the left mouse button a few times.
Next, you have to capture a British merchant ship, so as to go to Port Royal in disguise. So, you once again sail round in circles, damage the ship, board it, and fight the captain. Which means a few more clicks of the mouse.
Once you get to Port Royal, things pick up a little. Here, you ... um ... well. You battle a few soldiers, by clicking the mouse. By now, you also get to pick up some extra fighting skills. Which would be handy, if you ever needed them. It is just such a shame that clicking the mouse does the job, really.
But why are you going to Port Royal in the first place? Well, the quick answer is because you have heard of it, and because it is exactly the kind of place every clichéd pirate story needs at some point. And, this story is as predictable as any other pirate tale you could care to mention. Strangely, it actually works in the game's favour, because when the next bit of plot is drip-fed to you, you feel all the better for it. The familiarity breeds content, as it were.
There are actually no real flaws with Tortuga. The plot may be clichéd, but it has all the required elements for a good pirate story. The sea combat is pretty good, but it does start to tire as the game continues. The damage engine in particular is exceptional, as you can see individual sails being ripped, and holes appearing in the sides of the ships due to cannon fire. Honestly, it is quite an impressive sight. The sea itself is handled very well, with sharks circling for snacks in the form of men overboard!
Where the game really falls down, though, is in the swordplay. Now, being surrounded by a dozen soldiers is supposed to be fun. Dynasty Warriors made it fun, by dint of allowing the player access to a variety of attacks. Tortuga relies on a series of clicks of the left mouse button, which ultimately reduces the combat to an irritant. What could have been intense is instead insipid. As the game progresses, you earn extra combat moves, none of which you will ever actually use.
As the story unfolds you find yourself in more sea battles, with more and more ships, and even with ghost ships, and then in more combat with increasing numbers of enemies, before squaring up to even tougher bosses. These 2 sections of the game, whilst being technically sound, are just not enough to save the game from ultimately being a little too repetitive.
There is fun to be had in Tortuga. Of this there is no doubt. The doubt comes in when one thinks about how best to play the game. It would be difficult to get engrossed in things, and the player may best be served by loading it up very occassionally. Because, as a casual game, there is plenty of fun on offer. Since the story is more or less irrelevant, one can dip in and out with fairly long breaks between sessions. There is a score aspect too, with an online leaderboard, which certainly adds to the replayability. You may not be bothered enough to try to beat your best score, though.
Ultimately, then, Two Treasures feels like a missed opportunity. The framework of a good game exists, and with some tweaking there is clearly potential. A bit less repetition, and slightly improved AI would make a world of difference. But then, you get what you pay for, and this IS available at a budget price. There are certainly worse games, but there are also better ones. With no obvious stand-out moments, Tortuga is destined for the bargain bins of this world.
Freelance review by Lee Weedall (July 02, 2007)
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