Pirates: Tides of Fortune from Israeli developer Plarium is a slick, polished new nautical-themed social game that takes its cues from more complex multiplayer strategy titles such as Kabam’s recently-closed Samurai Dynasty, Digital Chocolate’s Galaxy Life and Kixeye’s Backyard Monsters. The new English language version of the game launched as a 30-day exclusive to Google+ on January 11.
Early experiences in the game are taken up with a very lengthy tutorial that walks players through the building of their first buildings, what all the resources mean and the game’s technology researching mechanic. Rewards of the game’s premium “Rubies” currency are provided liberally throughout the course of these tutorial tasks and players are kept safe from attack during the tutorial period. An unfortunate flaw in the system, however, is that if the player completes a tutorial task before it has been formally offered as a “quest,” whether accidentally or deliberately, they are not given credit for having completed it and must do it again. If the task involved the spending of money or resources that the player now does not have, this may lead to protracted wait times or the spending of premium currency. It’s a small issue, but one which should be addressed to provide a slicker introductory gameplay experience — or to cater to those who wish to jump straight in to the meat of the game.
The game has very high production values. The artwork is detailed and well animated, and the majority of the tasks offered to the player are presented with full (though thankfully, given the questionable quality of the acting, optional) voiceovers. An unfortunate side effect of the detailed artwork on buildings is that it sometimes becomes difficult to distinguish buildings from one another without moving the mouse pointer over them, particularly if they are tightly packed together. The 45-degree isometric viewpoint also suffers from the usual problem that tall buildings can easily block out smaller buildings placed behind them, making them difficult to click on at times. Fortunately, as with most games of this type, it’s possible to move buildings once they have been built, meaning that such inconveniences can be avoided with a little rearrangement.
The game is strongly geared towards interaction with other players. Regular popups to invite friends remind players of the various benefits offered by having a large “crew” — the opportunity to claim loot from friends’ havens, the ability to recruit said friends as an army of undead pirates, and the ability to set up alliances. Alongside the usual friends mechanic, the game as a whole takes place in a large, persistent world populated by everyone else who is playing the game, or who has played it in the past. Glancing at the in-game map allows players to visit nearby players’ havens, set up trading agreements with them, scout their defenses or even attack them. Players are protected from attack until they reach level 9 partway through the tutorial, and attacking anyone over level 15 immediately surrenders a player’s “Novice” flag, indicating that they are ready and willing to engage in the full game.
Despite the few little interface niggles mentioned above, Pirates: Tides of Fortune is a polished game clearly ready for the prime time. Its complexity may put off more casual players used to simpler game mechanics, and the long tutorial may put off impatient gamers, but for those seeking a deep, complex and rewarding title in which they can play alongside a large and growing player community, Pirates: Tides of Fortune is a solid offering.
While unlikely to enjoy universal appeal due to its complexity, Pirates: Tides of Fortune is well worth playing for its high production values and deep gameplay.