Developer: Fabled Game
Genre(s): Deck-Builder, Roguelike, Card battler
Platform: PlayStation 5 (also available for PS4, PC and xBox consoles)
Release Date: 29/03/2023
A code was provided for review purposes
Slay the S-pirate
Roguelike, you say? Card battler? Deck-builder? In the vein of Slay the Spire? Well, why didn’t you say so? I adore Slay the Spire and adore roguelikes, so surely Pirates Outlaws (which I think is a weird name) will be a surefire hit. Load your pistol, grab a parrot, and let’s sail the high seas! AAAARRRRRGGGGGGHHH!
I do apologize in advance, but I will not be able to review Pirates Outlaws (still a weird name) without constantly comparing it to Slay the Spire. They say, “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” and it has never been more present to me than here. It’s like someone took Slay the Spire and added boats and pirates. This comes with all the sailing, booty, and canons you would expect me hearties! This is by no means a bad thing, and I think this comparison and my pointing it out will actually make more people interested in this title. Otherwise, unfortunately, this lovely title may sneak below most people’s radar.
In Pirates Outlaws, you will sail through three stages based in various locations, beating enemies and visiting a myriad of places to try and improve your chances of beating the bosses you will encounter. You start by picking from a plethora of uncanny characters. In this regard, Pirates Outlaws rises above Slay the Spire with its cast of characters and how different they all play. Each character has their own deck, quirks, and systems to wrangle with and overcome if you are to succeed.
At the start of every run, you are presented with a nautical map of wonders. You must navigate this branching map, picking your route depending on what you want to do. Battles award you with new cards or relics while events are a choose-your-own-adventure style of play. Taverns and markets allow you to thin your deck, buy new cards and items, and even repair your ship. You must use all these things, along with a few more I will not spoil to keep your adventurer alive, your ship afloat and make sure your deck is a pirate killing machine.
In the Heat of the Battle!
The battles are where the meat of the game rests. You are presented with a variety of enemies, which all have their own quirks and attacks. You must use your assembled deck to attack, defend and use a variety of skills to outlast your adversaries. Each of the characters you select has a varied play style, but the main mechanic is based on ammo consumption. Ammo is a resource used in each battle and is used to play the more powerful cards in your deck. You can refill this ammo in various ways, but more often than not, it comes from playing an ‘ammo’ card which fills up one of your ammo slots for later use.
I really dig this system, it is rewarding, and rather than having a set mana or energy value like in most games of this ilk, the amount of cards you can play is based on having other cards in your hand. This creates a rather interesting dynamic that varies as you play making every battle feel alive and different. When you then get into upgrading your ammo cards, things really start opening up. Enabling you to really combo things together and create strategies all of your own.
Good For Newcomers
Pirates Outlaws has the same game system as Slay the Spire that I really adored. Each enemy telegraphs what they are doing, and when you select a card to play, its damage is reflected in real-time, including any buffs or debuffs from other effects. This allows you to defend when necessary and properly plan what you will do each turn. It’s an amazing user-friendly system that makes it great for new players and veterans alike. You don’t have to know what things do or how certain special abilities will affect what cards to play, it’s all there, and with the glossary just a click away, this game really does a lot to smooth over some of the terms and keywords of the game.
As Pirates Outlaws is primarily a deck-builder, it comes with all the normal bells and whistles of such games. Relics are permanent buffs; you can upgrade your cards, remove cards from your deck to get to the good stuff quicker, and eat at the tavern. What I was not ready for, though, was the amount of unlocks and new stuff I needed to acquire. There are loads of characters, shed-loads of new cards, new modes, new maps, new areas, and even skins for each character. If you want it, there is a lot of game here for your cash, and I am certainly on board with that.
A Quirky, Comic-Book-Like Presentation
Graphically, while not being stunning by any means, I do like the cell-shaded, comic-book-style art on offer. It’s clean, it’s crisp, and really fits the theme well. It’s the same story with the sound work. While not anything to write home about, it does its job well and, again, fits the style and theme of the game. The sights and sounds of the game are thematic and get out of the way of what everyone is really here for, the gameplay that shines so very brightly.
I am happy to report that while being a very pleasing and well-designed game, Pirates Outlaws is also a very well-tested and aptly performing game. I have had not a single issue from a technical standpoint. Not a single crash or performance issue to speak of. This may seem like a given to many, but I am long in the tooth and have played so many broken, rushed games that I really do appreciate it when all that nonsense gets out of the way and lets me just play my game. Well done to all involved.
A Rootin-Tootin Good Time!
In conclusion, if you like Slay the Spire, buy Pirates Outlaws. If you like deck-builders, buy Pirates Outlaws, and if you want a shed-load of game for a small amount of cash, buy Pirates Outlaws. Otherwise, look elsewhere. It may borrow heavily from that game I have mentioned so many times in this review, but it does it well and does throw a few little wrinkles in to make it a product in its own right. Right, I am off to sell a wooden leg to a parrot; see you on the seven seas!
Rapid Reviews Rating
4.5 out of 5
You can grab your copy of Pirates Outlaws from the PlayStation store today.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.