Review By: Jared Black
now Iíve yearned for a great video game that centered on being
a pirate. Given what being a pirate is all about (tons of
adventure, plundering, general chaos, etc.) and how rich the
source material is, youíd think that more developers wouldíve
attempted to deliver the consummate pirate adventure. Westwood
Studiosí Pirates: The Legend of Black Kat comes close
to the pirate adventure Iíve always dreamed of, but itís got
a few nagging problems that prevent it from truly shining.
youíll assume the role of Katarina (aka Kat). As a wee lass
her mother Mara, the infamous leader of the Pirates of Skull
Cove, died in a duel while out at see. Her father Marcus vowed
to never let Katarina know that her mother was a pirate. Once
Katarina grew up, the evil Crimson Guard began taking over
islands of the Five Seas. Kat couldnít set by and watch this
happen, so she gathered up a crew and (unknowingly) began to
follow in her motherís footsteps as a pirate. This is where
the player steps in, and controls Katarina through her many
adventures on the high seas.
broken down into two very distinct areas: Ship Mode and Captain
Mode. Since the bulk of gameplay consists of the Captain Mode, Iíll
discuss it first. Basically, it consists of running around
slicing enemies up, hunting for buried treasure, solving
simplistic puzzles, picking up various items and interacting
with a few NPCs here and there. Being a pirate Kat can often
sense buried treasure when sheís near it, resulting in a sort
of "hot & cold" game based on the intensity of the
controller rumble. Items can be gained off of both foes and in
treasure chests, as well as purchased off of certain merchants
scattered throughout the land. The puzzles are almost solely
made up of simple fetch quests, such as finding five different
masks for a witch doctor in exchange for the ability to defeat
another foe. If youíve played virtually any adventure game in
your lifetime, you know what to expect here.
very basic, as Katís sword attacks are controlled only with
the X button and blocking is handled with L1. Either you swing
or you donít. Westwood did include a lock-on of sorts thatís
a welcome feature, but unfortunately itís automatic. As a
result, when surrounded by multiple enemies Kat will often end
up attacking the enemy youíd rather not attack first. Blocking
is occasionally useful with certain enemies (primarily bosses),
but even with these virtually all of them can be defeated by
just hitting X repeatedly. Itís not totally useless, but itís
darn near it. So while the combat system is a bit too basic, itís
helped somewhat by various projectile weapons that the player
can pick up throughout each area. These include things like
mini-kegs (bombs), knives, magic tiki statues that perform
different elemental attacks, and more. Often a situation will
call for smart usage of a particular item (like taking out a
cannon), and they do help to add somewhat variety to combat.
the Captain Mode, the Ship Mode also suffers a bit from being
too simplistic. I expected to be able to do things like board
enemiesí ships, but instead ship to ship combat boils down to
being able to maneuver into a position that the enemiesí
cannons cannot reach (usually in front of their ship where there
are no cannons), and then press X as fast as possible to barrage
them with cannon fire. In the Ship Mode youíll also do battle
with a number of different forts, and once youíve forced them
to surrender theyíll reward you with gold, access to new
areas, purchasable items, and sometimes the ability to upgrade
your ship. Again being able to buy a variety of attack weapons
(things like fire pots and battering rams) helps add a bit of
variety to combat, but itís still too simplistic to stay fresh
over a long adventure game like this. Much like getting a new
sword in the Captain Mode, upgrading your ship serves no other
purpose than to make the player stronger. It wouldíve been
nice if the different ship types opened up new strategies and
methods of fighting.
the overall simplicity of gameplay, my primary complaint with Pirates
is that itís simply too easy of a game. Anytime Kat runs low
on anything, the enemy will start conveniently dropping exactly
what she needs once theyíre defeated. Running low on health?
Just kill a couple pirates and collect the hearts and/or grog (a
drink that restores health) they leave behind. Ran out of
knives? Use the same method as above. Granted some types of
enemies will only drop certain things, but there always seems to
be a couple convenient ones close by that will. This also doesnít
encourage the player to take advantage of the little strategy
(such as blocking) to be found here, since itís obvious early
on that the game will provide whatever is in short supply.
are both ambitious and lacking. Animation is fluid, with some
awesome motion-capture work done for Kat and the various enemies
in the game. Newly resurrected skeletons have trouble walking on
wobbly legs, pirates with wooden legs hobble, and sword swings
looks as great as they should. The environments are expansive
and detailed, with some excellent texture work (particularly on
the ground) and near-horizon draw distances. A pseudo-cloud
pattern is even cast on the ground in a realistic manner, which
is a subtle and yet incredibly immersive touch. Accurate
light-sourcing abounds, and the overall style and feel of the
game definitely fits the pirate theme. Unfortunately the level
of detail line is drawn way too close, resulting in objects in
the environment to pop up out of nowhere on a regular basis and
the terrain to occasionally warp as itís being drawn in front
of your eyes. Overall, visually this is very good stuff, but it
has a few technical problems that prevent it from being in the
upper echelon graphic-wise that other PS2 games like Metal
Gear Solid 2 and GT3 inhabit.
Pirates is mostly great. The sound effects are numerous and
accurate, with plenty of ambient sounds that perfectly match the
area (jungle, cemetery, etc.) the player is in. The soundtrack
is also excellent, with exactly the type of adventuring/pirate
music youíd expect. It could be a bit more on the "piratey"
side (a lot of it is standard adventure fare that could fit in
any non-pirate game), but it sounds good enough. What doesnít
sound good enough is the voice acting. While not terrible, the
voice acting is mostly bland, with awkward dialog, bad accents,
and unemotional delivery.
quest with plenty to do: treasure to collect, enemies to
kill, and puzzles to solve.
graphics save for a few technical glitches.
both ship and hand-to-hand, is too simple for a game this
acting is generally bad.
needed a few more months of development time and polish. With a
little more depth in the combat system, a tighter focus on
actual pirating and some cleaning up of the technical issues,
this couldíve been the definitive pirate-themed game.
Nevertheless, this is still an above-average adventure that
delivers a solid quest, plenty of things to collect, some
interesting settings, and a fun (if simple) combat experience.
If youíre a fan of adventure games and/or pirate themes, pick