Tortuga: Two Treasures Review

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Graphics: 5.0
Sound : 7.0
Gameplay : 5.0
Multiplayer : N/A
Overall : 5
Review by Niles Doubleday
Will the sails of Tortuga: Two Treasures billow in a strong wind or be shredded by buccaneer cannon fodder? Unfortunately this ship's sails flutter a little then get hit with a good dose of lead. In Tortuga: Two Treasures, the player takes on the roll of Thomas “Hawk” Blythe, a captain under the infamous Blackbeard. As Hawk you pilot various ships around the Caribbean sinking and looting other ships. There are also land based missions that involve sword fighting and lots and lots of wanton killing. The action is easy to get into and can get very hectic very quickly if you start getting to many enemies angry. The plot is this games strongest point and keeps me coming back for more pillaging.

My first impressions of the game were very good, the story starts off strong and I found the fighting on land and sea to be quite exciting. The problem lies in that the first hour was definitely the high point for me. The gameplay has a lot to be desired. One of the things that bothered me most was that the land combat is an entirely mouse clicking affair. A left click of the mouse swings your sword, as the story progresses you learn new moves which consist of tapping a directional button in conjunction with the normal click. You have a stamina bar which falls as you use your special moves. While the special moves add a little depth, they just mask the fact that most of the time you’re just spamming the click button. Another rather odd choice is that while some of the missions, especially the land ones, promote stealthy behavior (sneaking around unaware guards, etc.) there is no stealth mechanic in the game. All aggressive ships and NPC's have a radius of aggression which once you step inside they will attack regardless of weather they can actually see you or not, not unlike the agro system in most MMO's.

Enough with the land based combat, on to the real piracy! Sinking ships and taking names! The naval combat is done in a non-simulation style, which I personally enjoy. I don’t have to worry about which direction the wind is blowing for the most part. The ships are all impossibly agile, although some of the big ones are quite bulky, and the sails go up and down on your ship like a strobe light if you want them to. Normal ship fighting consists of attempting to broadside your enemy so you can get a good volley off then get out of range before they return fire. You have to watch out for reefs which do damage to your ship if you run over them, they also do damage to enemies. There are different cannon balls you can load in your cannons to deal different types of damage to your enemies. There are also exploding barrels you can drop which are incredibly effective if well placed. This is all well and good for a while, but eventually you will realize the AI is quite stupid and you can easily just run them over a nice long reef over and over again so they take thousands of damage and sink of there own volition. A problem I also had was that the battles all started to get a bit repetitious, same old tactics over and over; the ships just get bigger with more guns as the game progresses.

The visuals of this game are a very strange mix. On one hand you have the decently high resolution main and supporting character models. While on the other hand you have the environments which look 5 years old. In one scene there is a lady talking from a balcony her nicely detailed hand was placed on a railing with texture pixels I swear were the size of her palm, blurred all over it. Overall it seems to lack polish in many areas. In some of the cut scenes the animation is quite shaky, shadows sometimes only half show up, alpha maps have edges which weren’t cleaned up. These things all sound pretty bad, but the number 1 thing which I simply cannot ignore is the fact that every city and scene I have run into absolutely seems lifeless. One would expect the pirate town of Tortuga to be a loud rowdy bustling town. Maybe I set my expectations to high, but instead of a jubilant atmosphere as I’m recovering my land legs I get 4-6 pirates several of which are using the same character model and texture standing outside the pub waiting to be stabbed to drop a bit of coin. They are not talking, they are not moving, they are just standing around in groups of 2, perfect for easy killing. You may think well that’s just the pub, but no once you walk outside a 10 yard radius of the pub there is no one. I mean no one, the streets are empty of any animated objects or people at all. Maybe the engine was made only for sea battles? I suppose it’s a possibility. The sailing bits look reasonable, you can see your crew working the deck of your ship and you leave some nice waves behind you. Overall the sea graphics are certainly not anything to show off, but they don’t detract from the experience like the land graphics do. I really enjoyed the animation of sharks eating crew members who fall overboard after an attack, very nice touch, if only there was more of that throughout the game.

The sound is ok, I didn’t find myself turning it off. I liked the ambient sounds of the sea and it was useful at times so I could tell when I had angered guards or ships. One interesting thing however was in town I swear I could hear the sounds of hustle and bustle as one would expect in a city, odd because everything is barren!

I suppose on to the games strongest point, the story. It starts off strong but very cliché. If you have watched or read anything about pirates ever, then the story is probably very familiar to you. I don’t mind that though I like pirate stories and this is a classic, who cares if it isn’t terribly unique, its pirates. All of the plot points take place in short cinema sequences after each action sequence, the game follows a pretty rigid theme of one to two action bits then one cut-scene then repeat. I won’t really give any of the story away but it contains its fair share of voodoo, ghosts, betrayal, bloodshed, rum, and lots and lots of pillaging.

It is very hard for me to play this game and not wish for so much more. Namely more freedom, you can’t sail freely around the Caribbean stopping in towns, trading and sinking anyone you desire, you’re confined to each levels map which is not terribly large. The item system in this game is also not terribly inspired. You collect chests which have one of the roughly 20ish items in the game. You collect money to buy one of the same lot of items after the mission, not that exciting. No rare cool items, no visually customizing your ship. I guess I just wanted more of a sandbox game, with this same great story. Maybe I’m on to something. Given this game system specs most people with a computer can probably play this game, it’s only a thirty dollar game and the story is ok. The game has its moments but it has a whole lot of bad moments as well. My advice is to sail these rough waters with caution, because if you’re not careful you could very well end up depressed and out thirty doubloons.