It is yet another beautiful day along the shorelines of the Caribbean. Your ship is almost ready for departure. The crew is loading the last supply crates as you stare out to the sea with your spyglass. The sky is bright blue and the wind is strong. You check your maps one more time to and verify the course you need to take. Your ship is small, your crew is inexperienced. Most of your gold spent towards the purchase of the ship and the necessary supplies, your coffers are almost completely empty. Dangerous pirates lurk around the islands you are planning to visit. Your nation is at war with the other countries colonizing the Caribbean. The waters are certainly not safe for a new captain with limited resources. Yet you can’t help feel great excitement as you gaze into the deep blue sea. You are determined to take your nation to greater glory. Your enemies will learn to tremble at the mere sight of your ship. Your name will become a legend among sailors. Your destiny lies in the clear waters of the Caribbean and it is time for you to embrace it.
Tortuga: Pirates of the New World takes us back to the sixteenth century. It is a time of adventure and discovery around the Caribbean. It is a time of exploration and colonization. Many towns are flourishing along the shorelines. Colonists are arriving ever rapidly to claim a part of the new world. Pirates are hunting down unsuspecting trade ships. Nations are at war to dominate the newly discovered territory. It is a hard and dangerous world. But there is incredible opportunity for a captain brave enough to sail the waters and face the dangers lurking around every corner.
You start the game at one of the major towns around the Caribbean. You are a new captain under the employ of one of the four nations colonizing the territory. You have a single small ship with a handful of cannons and a limited amount of supplies. Serving England, France, Netherlands, or Spain, your ultimate goal is to annex a number of towns within a ten year period. Yet your nation’s governors will not immediately entrust you with annexation missions. First you have to prove your mettle by completing a number of simpler tasks. As you successfully complete missions, your reputation will improve with your chosen nation and eventually you will be assigned harder tasks. If you are successful, you will have a chance to command magnificent ships and amass riches beyond your wildest dreams.
Tortuga mixes light strategic resource management and trade with tactical combat in the open waters. Players interact with the game through three major screens. The town view is used to acquire missions and purchase supplies for your ship. The ocean view allows you to sail across the seas, traveling between towns and encounter other ships. The battle mode allows you to engage enemy captains or lay siege to towns in real-time combat.
You will be spending a fair amount of your time visiting towns. Each town has a small number of important buildings that you can visit. The market place is used to buy supplies to feed your ship’s crew. You can also purchase additional cannons and different types of ammunition to use against your enemies. Trade goods are available at different prices in each town. Thus, it is possible to buy certain items at a cheaper price in one town and sell them for profit at another. The local tavern offers you a chance to gamble for a few extra gold pieces. The docks help you repair your damaged ships and sell the unneeded vessels in your convoy.
The bulk of the micromanagement you will need to maintain your fleet takes place inside the towns. In addition, the game can only be saved while you are visiting a town. Tortuga’s simple structure prevents the management efforts from becoming overly time-consuming chores. For the most part, players will be able to take care of repairs and the purchase of supplies with a few clicks and return to the seas where the real action takes place.
Leaving a town puts players in the ocean view. Here players can freely roam the Caribbean and sail to other towns. Other vessels can be frequently spotted across the open waters. Trade ships regularly transfer goods between various towns. Military ships belonging to the enemy nations or pirate ships might attempt to engage you in combat. When another ship tries to attack your fleet, you have the option to accept the challenge or attempt to flee. If you choose to flee, the game automatically determines whether or not you manage to outmaneuver the opponent. If you fail, you are forced to enter the combat screen. Thankfully, it is possible and often very easy to flee from a stronger enemy in the combat mode.
When you get into the vicinity of a different ship that is not already trying to attack you, the game prompts players to choose an action. Players can simply sail on, greet the other ship, or choose to attack it. Greeting the other convoy might provide you some valuable tips. Attacking the fleet takes you to the combat mode where you engage the enemy in a real-time tactical battle. It is possible to turn off the encounters so the game will not prompt you each time you come close to a ship during a long journey.
All towns are labeled on your world map from the very beginning of the game. This allows players to locate areas they have not already visited fairly easily. If a mission orders you to complete a task at a town you have never seen, it is nice that you do not have to sail the entire Caribbean in search of the colony. However, the information about the current ownership of various towns only becomes available when you sail close to them for the first time. From the ocean view, players can click on various towns to get detailed information about the daily consumption of trade goods as well as the town’s economic status and population of the settlement.
There are two kinds of battles in Tortuga. The first type takes place in the open seas and puts players against a number of opposing ships. The game allows players to add several different ships to their fleets. However, during a battle, you have to select a single flagship that actively participates in the combat. The fighting consists of strategically maneuvering your ship to stay out of the range of the enemy cannons while successfully firing your own. You can defeat an enemy vessel by inflicting enough damage to the ship’s hull to make it sink. It is also possible to board enemy ships. If you have more crew members than the enemy, your sailors will overwhelm the opposition and take over the ship.
Ships are capable of firing three different types of ammunition. The heavy-shot is most effective against the opposing ship’s hull. If you are trying to just sink the enemy ship, this should be the ammunition you should use during the battle. The scatter-shot can be decimating against a ship’s crew. If you are trying to eliminate the enemy sailors so you can more easily win the battle by boarding the opponent’s ship, the scatter-shot is the ammo of choice. Finally, the chain-shot targets the sails. With heavily damaged or destroyed sails, the enemy becomes unable to move, making it an easier target.
The presence of different kinds of ammunitions and two ways to defeat enemy ships makes it possible for players to employ a number of different strategies in battle. Each time you fire the cannons, they take a certain amount of time to be reloaded. If you have a full crew on board the ship, the reloading time is relatively short. But when you have a small number of sailors left, the reloading times get very long, making it extremely difficult to effectively fight. It is also possible to change the kind of ammunition you are using at any time during the battle. However, loading a different kind of ammunition takes a considerably long time, forcing players to use this tactic selectively. The direction of the wind also plays a factor in combat. Your ship understandably moves extremely slowly if you try to go against the wind. It is important to pay attention to the wind and use it to your advantage.
While it is nice to have a number of different options in battle, Tortuga fails to take full advantage of them. After participating in several battles, players will quickly realize that a single strategy will not only result in the best long-term gains, but also ensure that you win just about any battle. First of all, it is impossible to buy ships in Tortuga. Thus, the only way to get your hands on better ships is to capture them. Ships can only be captured by having your sailors board them. In order win the ensuing automated melee fight when you have your sailors board an enemy ship, you need to use the chain-shot to thin down the enemy ranks. As such, in most situations it is recommendable to attack the enemy vessels with the chain-shot and attack board the ship when there are only a few opposing sailors left standing. On top of this obvious strategy for capturing ships, you can also take advantage of the wind to make the battles even easier. If you simply sail in the direction the wind is blowing, the enemy ships will give you chase. While cannons can fire slightly to the back, they cannot fire directly forward. Thus, with the enemy vessel trailing behind you, it becomes easier to target your opponents without getting hit. This generic strategy is not enough to get you through the entire game. There are situations where you will be faced with too many enemies to effectively employ it. Lack of ammunition or too much damage on your sails and hull may also keep you from moving fast enough to take advantage of the wind. However, all too many battles can be won throughout the course of the game by using the same tactics, which can eventually make the battles tedious and not as entertaining as they should be.
The second type of battle featured in Tortuga involves laying siege to towns. The towns have a number of powerful stationary cannons. In order to win the siege, players have to destroy all the cannons defending the town. Since the town cannons are so much stronger than the ones mounted on ships, their fire is truly devastating. However, players do have an edge to help them in the siege. If the ship they are initially using to attack the town is destroyed or forced to flee, players are allowed to resume the assault with another ship from their convoys. Thus, players can use their entire fleets to overcome the enemy town’s defenses and annex it for their nations.
The game play in Tortuga is centered on completing missions. While players are certainly welcome to sail the seas and engage in random encounters with other vessels, truly advancing through the game and increasing the amount of gold in your coffers requires players to successfully complete missions. Governors assign the scenario missions that allow you to complete each campaign. However, it is also possible to acquire missions from citizens. Sometimes, upon docking at a town, a citizen will automatically request your help for a task. You can also look for citizens in need of help at the town inn. Finally, governors may ask you for personal favors besides the scenario missions they assign. The actual quests vary from simple delivery tasks to sinking convoys. Sometimes you will be asked to just visit and assess the strength of enemy towns. At other times, governors will request that you blockade a town, sinking any trade ships approaching in an effort to destroy the enemy town’s economy. Hunting pirate ships or carrying citizens from one town to another are also among the popular missions.
Since you will be attempting to complete a large number of missions in each campaign, it is a good thing that Tortuga has a variety of different quests. The game features four different campaigns that require players to annex a set number of towns. Players are required to successfully complete a handful of other missions between each annexation. Thus, each of the four scenarios takes several hours to complete. In addition, it is possible to choose different nations in the second, third, and fourth scenarios. This gives players some incentive to play the scenarios more than once. Unfortunately, by the time you finish the four scenarios in Tortuga, you will have probably had more than enough of the game. As much as the developers tried to provide variety of tasks to complete, the simple combat structure and the considerable amount of sailing you are required to do in each scenario can make the game rather repetitive. Tortuga would have certainly benefited from having a few additional things for players to do. For instance, the ability to construct unique buildings in your nation’s towns or a feature to upgrade your ships would have helped the game.
Tortuga: Pirates of the New World provides a simple and relaxing gaming experience for real-time strategy players. The sea battles are initially highly entertaining. Experimenting with the use of different kinds of ammunition can be interesting. Claiming larger enemy vessels for the first time can be satisfying. Moving from a simple ship with sixteen cannons to a mighty galleon with forty-six cannons feels like a great upgrade. The diversity of missions will be initially sufficient to keep you interested. However, once you get a good grasp of how the battles work, you will easily identify ways to win most fights. Even the more difficult third and fourth scenarios may not provide enough of a challenge. The amount of time you will be required to complete each scenario may also make the game drag for too long. The initially engaging missions can quickly generate into tedious chores you have to complete before you get to annex a town. Fortunately, if you are looking for a simple strategy game with a pirate theme, Tortuga might still be worth your consideration. Despite its considerable problems, the game does have a number of good features that can make for an entertaining adventure as you sail the waters of the Caribbean.
The final grade is 73/100.
Tortuga: Pirates of the New World is part of the Buccaneer's Bounty collection. To read about the other games that are part of the compilation, click here.