Tortuga: Two Treasures Impressions - Sword Fights, Ship Battles
We take a look at this upcoming swashbuckling pirate adventure for the PC.
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In the wake of the highly successful remake of Sid Meier's Pirates! from 2004 comes Tortuga: Two Treasures, a new pirate-themed game from publisher CDV and Ascaron Entertainment. Tortuga will let you play as a young sailor who was the apprentice of none other than the vile Blackbeard. At least, until Blackbeard betrayed you. Over the course of the game, you'll seek out fortune in the form of Henry Morgan's legendary treasure trove, romance, and maybe a little payback on the scurvy dog that betrayed you.
Apparently, Ascaron, which previously developed the sophisticated economic Port Royale strategy series, has now turned its attention to more-accessible, fast-paced gameplay during the Age of Sail. The developer is also planning to make both the on-foot and at-sea portions of the game equally significant to your progress. While on land, you'll be able to hoof it through one of six huge towns using your W, A, S, and D keys, similar to a first-person shooter. You'll do battle with enemy guards (or dispatch them instantly from behind, if you can approach them stealthily) in order to reach your goals, such as stealing ships in dry dock, for instance. The game's dueling system uses a unique keyboard-and-mouse setup that lets you press and hold your left mouse button and press your directional keys to deliver one of many different sword attacks, and to press and hold your right mouse button while pressing your directional keys to perform defensive maneuvers.
When you're not on land, you'll be at sea, sailing between different locations and doing battle with enemy ships. Tortuga is much more about swashbuckling action and adventure than it is about heavy-duty strategy or economic simulation, so you won't be able to recruit a fleet of ships (you'll instead control only one at a time). However, the game will have many different classes of ships that differ in size, speed, handling, and cannon capacity. The mightiest ships-of-the-line won't be very maneuverable, but their lengthy hulls will allow for row after row of cannons to deliver devastating broadsides, while smaller ships will trade firepower for maneuverability. The game will feature different classes of ship based on size; the larger the ship, the more options it will have for setting sail. But in general, though giving more sail to the wind will propel a ship forward faster, it will make turning much more difficult. For instance, midsize and larger ships may wish to split the difference by setting their sails to half-mast, though in the heat of the game's fast-paced battles--which you'll fight with an individual ship that you'll also command with your W, A, S, and D keys--maneuverability and firepower will constantly be at odds with each other.
However, naval battles will have additional layers of depth to them. For instance, you'll be able to drop mines in the water to blow up overzealous pursuers. You can also choose different types of cannon shot to fire, such as chain shot, to target an enemy ship's sails to slow its speed. Though you can board an enemy vessel in the heat of battle from your own battleship, similar to the Firaxis Pirates! game, you'll also be able to use a dinghy to quietly sneak up to the side of an enemy ship and plant charges on it; you'll then be given only a limited time to flee, measured on a ticking onscreen timer, before the ship goes up in flames. You can also use the dinghy or your boarding platform in the middle of battle to leap aboard an enemy ship. When you do, you won't just do battle with the enemy captain in single combat--you'll actually have to deal with the entire enemy crew in hand-to-hand combat. This is why it'll usually be a better idea to try to damage an enemy ship, either to directly attack the crew or to deal enough hull damage to knock over scuttled crew, who can be captured and impressed into service on your own ship.
Tortuga should offer a pretty well-balanced combination of on-foot swashbuckling action and naval battles. The game is scheduled for release later this year.