App Mini-Review: Crimson: Steam Pirates

Geek Culture

I’m calling this a mini-review of Crimson: Steam Pirates because I’ve only really been able to complete the first four of eight missions — it was just released on September 1, but I wanted to include a review during my Steampunk Week, so I hope you’ll forgive me for not completing all eight missions.

Those first four missions, however, have given me a fairly good idea of the game mechanics and style of play. In the game, you play the role of prisoner Thomas Blood, prisoner of Queen Victoria (for stealing her jewels) and recently freed by Captain Blackheart and her crew as he was being transported by ship to Jamaica. Youv’e got to get your sea legs (learn the rules and mechanics of the game) before you’ll be trusted with larger, more powerful ships and weapons, so the first few missions revolve around learning to move, fire, repair, board, and fight.

After the first few missions, you acquire a larger, faster, and more powerful ship that can do some major damage… and you partner with other ships that you’ve commandeered during earlier missions.

First, the interface, sound, and music — all top-notch. The soundtrack actually sounds familiar and I think it may have been from Cutthroat Island but not 100% certain. It’s good, though, and definitely enjoyable to have playing during battles. The user interface is easy to navigate — buttons are clearly labeled as to their function, and there’s always a small graphic to the right side of each mission preview that gives you a basic overview of what you’re to do, and the scoring system is easy to figure out. The game is turn-based, so you’ll enter your commands (Repair, Move Here, etc.) and then click the Play button… battles ensue, cannons fire, ships search for treasure. When the turn ends, you choose your next actions.

Controls of ships is done by dragging a line with your finger to direct each ship. In addition to directional control, you can also elect to begin repairs, pack the cannons with extra black powder (for greater firing distance) and more options are added as the missions are completed. Firing happens automatically between ships and land-based targets — you’re really responsible for more of the tactical side by directing the ships to the best firing locations (and keeping their sides pointed in the direction of targets as best you can). If you choose to board a ship or attack a colony you’ll also select characters from your ship (you plus others that are added here and there such as a ship’s weapons officer, an engineer, etc.) to fight the opponents… win and you’ll gain a ship or steal something valuable… lose and you’ll have to fight it out again or maybe even lose your ship (and have to start a mission over).

In addition to the free eight missions, it appears that additional missions will be made available for in-game purchase. The next eight missions would cost me $1.99 and I’m not quite sure yet if I’ll commit. I’ve managed to finish the first four levels in less than an hour, so unless the next four missions really grab me and give me more interesting missions I may pass. I’ll add that my one of my primary reasons for this is that the replayability for the game is almost zero — the missions are locked and the only thing you can really do is restart a mission and try to sink more ships in fewer turns.

There is a multi-player element to the game which does allow you to play against another player (locally or against Facebook friends, apparently — seems to require that you allow the company to access your FB data). There is the Defense game and the Shipwreck game — each have different goals for Player 1 and Player 2. You plan your moves, hand your iPad to the other Player who does the same, and the game progresses from there. Additional multiplayer missions appear to be forthcoming… no word on whether they’ll cost money or come with additional single player missions.

What I’d really like to see added to the game in the future (or with the purchase of more missions) is the ability to have a randomized ocean generated (sandbox) and freedom to move, attack, plunder, and more. The missions are fun, but I’d like to be able to explore, get achievements for finding treasure, encounter other pirates, etc. The game mechanics are there, so adding sandbox capabilities and randomly generated missions and events would be outstanding — something I’d gladly pay $1.99 or maybe even a bit more if done well.

All in all, I’ve definitely had fun with the first four missions and I’ll go ahead and finish the remaining four tonight or tomorrow… the first eight missions are free, so it’s definitely worth your while to download and give it a play and make further purchase decisions if you really enjoy the game.

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