by Marko Susimetsä
reviewed on PC
Captain Ironbeard Returns
Arrr! The smell of the sea air, the feel of the almost white, holystoned deck, after so many months in a sickbed. I feel rejuvenated, ready to face the new enemies and monsters of this world. I’ve heard stories of new-fangled galleons on these waters and whispered tales of ancient ruins, guarded by other-worldly skeleton warriors. I wish to see the galleon and I wonder whether the skeleton guardians can be brought down with the kiss of a steel blade or if they require something more... magical.
The pirates can now walk on land!
Almost a year ago, I reviewed a new game called Tempest, which places you in the position of a pirate captain and throws you into a strange, new world with little or no explanation of how the game is to be played or what the factions in the world are. Still, after I had studied the game and learned its idiosyncrasies, I began to like what I saw.
Now, about a year later, Lion's Shade and HeroCraft release the first DLC for the game: Treasure Lands. This DLC is somewhat on the small side insofar as the content goes. Basically, it contains some first-person land-based adventures (with loot!) here and there on the main maps and one extra ship. However, the base game has also seen some improvements along the way as regular updates, so the feel of the gameplay has slightly changed from the time I reviewed the title. I will shortly introduce these changes before I deal with the DLC itself.
What’s changed in the base game?
One of the first things I noticed after loading my old save is that some of my crew suddenly - after I entered a town - asked for wages and threatened to quit if I did not hand it over. Luckily, I had some space coins lying around and could give them what they demanded. I also noticed that the town and crew management GUIs had been revamped and were a lot more self-explanatory now. Training less skilled sailors into better versions of themselves, however, still costs an inordinate number of experience points - it is still recommended to hire expert crew directly; they cost only money and that is easier to accrue than experience points.
The next big change faced me in a boarding battle. I remembered them being the least enjoyable part of the original game design with the enemy easily taking down my better trained and more numerous crew. Now, not only have their defence values and damage values been decreased to more sensible levels, but the entire boarding battle mini-game has been replaced. Instead of just looking at your men fighting and giving them targets to focus on, you get a proper first-person fight scene where you take the role of the captain and can run around killing enemies side-by-side with your crew. In addition, the crew morale is less punishing and lets you enjoy these battles more.
With the release of the original game, the developers promised that you could travel anywhere on the map in the ship view (instead of having to go to the map view). At the time, this turned out to be impossible, because there was no way of telling which direction you were travelling into. Now, there’s a compass available that actually makes this possible.
With all of the above, plus some other improvements and graphics updates here and there, I must say that this is, overall, a more enjoyable game than the original I played a year ago.
New DLC additions
As I wrote above, the DLC introduces land adventures. These come in several formats: exploring an ancient city defended by skeletons, attacking a fort, defending a village etc., but they all seem to share a relatively similar map and basic design. You land and the captain goes - alone! - to explore and fight the locals with sword and self-loading(!) musket pistol in hand. There are traps around that you avoid simply by reacting quickly to their noise as they are activated. Similarly, there are barrels of gunpowder that you can move around (apparently only by walking into them and hoping that they roll in the desired direction) and blow up. The captain can also order precision cannon strikes from the ship by, I assume, calling out to his crew with a very loud voice. This helps take out enemy troops who, I assume again, are either deaf and cannot hear you asking for that cannon strike so that they could move their asses out of the way.
The new ship, the Galleon, is apparently intended as the most powerful ship in the game. As I like smaller and nimbler ships, this is not a big attraction for me, but if you want to be the biggest and baddest, this ship is something that you might enjoy.
Captain Ironbeard’s Verdict
In comparison to the general updates to the base game, the DLC seems to offer very little new. The land-based adventures are a welcome addition, even though they certainly require some further updates in the future, as they give you more stuff to do in addition to the regular missions and main storyline. The DLC’s best effect, however, may be that it could bring back players who gave up on the game before all the above-mentioned updates and let them see how much the general gameplay has improved. This is, indeed, a pirate title that you should try out!
However, when I give the score here, I will give it to the DLC alone. To me, the content is worth the 5€ price, especially when you realise that the base title is already very affordable. But others may disagree: the additions do not really change the gameplay that much and the land sequences are rather similar to each other, so many players could be well satisfied with the base game alone.
New big ship to sail, first-person adventures to experience.
Doesn’t add _that_ much to the base game experience.