Pixel Piracy Review: Low-Res Adventure On The High Seas Is A Barrel O' Fun [VIDEO]

Pixel Piracy Review
(Photo: Quadro Delta) Quadro Delta

I'm not a big believer in coupons, generally, but the mysterious appearance of a 25% off for Pixel Piracy piqued my interest. This was Steam, after all, where buying a game full price is for suckers. At a glance Pixel Piracy checked a lot boxes that tickled my scurvy bone. Open world? Check. Rogue-like? Check. Pirates? Ooooh, double-check. Like a lot of other interesting games on Steam these days, this one is also an alpha build. But hey, pobody's nerfect amirite? I figured Pixel Piracy would be worth at least an hour or two of my time and it cost less than $10.

My first session lasted six hours and I had tear myself away from playing to write this review. This game is damn good and, with a little more polish and structure, could deliver something special. It's always nice when a game gets its hooks into you and you find yourself addicted to a title you didn't know existed just a few days ago. Pixel Piracy offers up a boatload (seewhatididthere?) of charm alongside some pretty solid mechanics. I wouldn't recommend it to everyone, but if you've delved into rogue-likes in the past there's a lot going on in Pixel Piracy you're gonna like. Here's a little gameplay to give you a sense of the sprite-heavy style:

Pixel Piracy Gameplay Trailer

The premise is simple and, astonishingly, underused in game development. You're a no-name pirate with a little boat who wants to be a famous pirate with a big boat. Outside of the recent Assasin's Creed game and Sid Meier's legendary Pirates! series I can't think of any other titles that capture the spirit of swashbuckling as well as Pixel Piracy.

There is no story or narrative driving the gameplay and, to be honest, I didn't even notice there wasn't one until I wrote this sentence. That's because Pixel Piracy throws enough survival elements into the mix that you don't have time to notice no one is telling you where to go. Alongside your player's health bar there is also Hunger and Morale. If any of those bars reach 0 it's game over. This means you need to find food and find adventure and find it fast. Especially once you have a crew member or two in tow. They have the same needs as you and aren't above demanding gold when their morale bottoms out. Pay up ... or else.

Pixel Piracy is a bit slippery at first. It takes a few failed attempts to get a handle on what you need to do. It reminded me of Don't Starve in that I never felt so frustrated I wanted to quit immediately, but wanted simply to survive long enough that I could start to figure out what's what. Like most roguelikes you're gonna die a lot but don't sweat it. There's plenty of saving and reloading to protect you. The procedurally generated worlds can be unforgiving, but after a few retries you'll eventually cross a path that's easier to tread. Before you know it you'll have a few decent crewmembers, plenty of food and enough sense to only pick fights you can win.

The in-game navigation is reminiscent of Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. You can pick different islands off a map to sail to. The islands themselves aren't particularly large, but Pixel Piracy chooses quantity over quality. My current game has 600+ locations to visit, and during my six hour playtime I probably hit about 25. Locations are a mix of islands, towns and ship encounters. I didn't get far enough along to install canons and have firefights with other ships, so my only experience with encounters comes from raiding rival ships with my crew. Usually it was two vs two or three vs three but Pixel Piracy accommodates a crew of up to 36. that's an impressive number but what makes it even more amazing is the level of depth Pixel Piracy brings to each crew member.

See, crew members aren't just mindless AI companions. They level up and earn XP and can be taught new skills ranging from cleaning the poop off the floor to repairing the hull or taming wild animals. On top of that, each crew member has a lineage and backstory that influences who they are. My current crew includes a former boxer and former politician. Guess which one uses the axe and which one learns skills the fastest? Add to that all the usual RPG style trappings of equipment perks and stat management and you have a recipe for a very hearty game-stew indeed.

Beyond it's impeccable rogue-like components Pixel Piracy also has a quirky kind of character to it. the animations are these small adorable sprites but the sound effects include blood-curdling screams and slo-mo death sequences. even the voice work runs the gamut from amusing to creepy. It makes me smile everytime I hear my captain bellow "Dead men tell no tales!" in a voice two shades deeper than Barry White's.

Pixel Piracy is a damn fun game. And the upside to the alpha build is that it continues to get more fun. the dev team is big on patch updates and adding content. The latest patch notes went up March 20, so this isn't an Early Access project that's been abandoned. the two-man dev team at Quadro Delta have a lot more in store for us landlubbers. And I can't wait to see where this game is headed.

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