Pirates Outlaws PS4 Review

Pirates Outlaws by developer Fabled Game and publisher Bitworks—Sony PlayStation 4 Review written by Nick with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated reading time:  4 minutes.

There’s something of a new gaming niche over the last few years, with roguelike and deck building mechanics that has really resonated with me. Like a lot of people, Slay the Spire was one of the early entries into this growing genre, and Pirates Outlaws has a lot of that same addictive DNA, even if it isn’t necessarily charting a path to undiscovered lands.

Fundamentally, the first thing that came to mind as I played Pirates Outlaws, was how similar it was to Slay the Spire. Right off of the bat, you’re scrolling a map vertically, choosing which direction to take at branching paths that could lead to general combat, elite enemies, markets and upgrade opportunities for your cards. Playing the game, there’s some strong parallels to Slay the Spire’s structure as well. There are a couple of different types of attacks - melee and ranged. However, while ranged cards tend to be stronger, they also require ammunition, which is a resource card you will need to draw to use them. However, ammunition is not needed for melee attacks or when you are blocking to try and absorb incoming damage. There’s a similar flow to the combat that runs smoothly by and large.

However, this is not to say that this is a reskinned Slay the Spire clone. For starters, there is a lot more content here. While ‘more’ doesn’t always mean better, in this case I thoroughly enjoyed chasing these particular carrots. There are hundreds of cards and relics, there’s over a dozen different heroes, tons of bosses and unlockables and a trio of game modes. I suppose one could quibble that this creates a bit of grinding to see all there is to see, but the overall formula’s an addicting one that made it entirely too easy for me to go: just one more run.

Famous last words that are usually followed up by at least a few more runs.

This is a credit to how the combat itself is structured. Matches are challenging (especially boss ones), but most of the battles you encounter are pretty quick affairs. You are going to lose, and lose a lot – after all, it is a roguelike. But the progression makes for more interesting strategic options as more and more of the game’s layers become available. There’s really nothing of note here narratively speaking. You’re not saving the world or anything like that, and the focus seems to be more on whimsy than seriousness with the seafaring theme.

For me at least, the highlight was experimentation. There’s enough different characters and types of cards out there that there was almost always some level of tweaking I was doing between runs, it seemed like. I never really ran into an overpowered strategy, though I definitely gravitated towards some forms of deck building than others. There’s different locations you can sail, providing greater challenges and improved rewards and thus the overall gameplay loop is established.

Some of the characters and deck combinations are focused on defense, others are focused on ranged combat. There’s plenty of options for melee, and yet others incorporate buff and debuff mechanics. These are all pretty standard fare for this genre, but it’s done well. And given the large number of available cards and characters, there’s a lot of different flavors of gameplay to experiment with.

While the majority of what I’ve gone over has been pretty positive, there are a handful of smaller concerns worth noting. The audio is pretty repetitive and the visuals are nothing special. The overall presentation just feels pretty minimal – but in looking the game’s history up (I didn’t know much of anything about it prior to this console release), it was a mobile game at one point, so the barebones presentation tracks. Also, a bit of a story wouldn’t have hurt – I like narratives and while this overall theme of breezy and fun keeps things moving, a goal other than ‘discover new things’ would have been appreciated. Lastly, Pirates Outlaws is a pretty accessible overall roguelike, but with so much content baked in, it can feel just a smidge unfocused. While I enjoyed doing multiple runs in a row, I do wonder what the longevity of this title will be for me. Right now it’s an addicting way to kill twenty minutes in small bursts, but will I be playing it in a couple of months? Hard to say, but my guess is probably not.

In the end, Pirates Outlaws is a really good example of the roguelike / deckbuilding genre, without doing anything too risky. The gameplay is brisk, there’s a ton to find and do and it’s even a bit more accessible than some of the other titles in this genre that I’ve played. Admittedly, the production values are a bit lacking, especially when you consider the visuals and the lack of narrative. Pirates Outlaws is a fun game that has an addictive quality to it, especially at the very beginning.

Score: 7 / 10



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