I feel like this game has gotten a bit of a bad rap, mostly due to its early release and long awaited updates as a pre-release game. Clearly that can "♥♥♥♥" a few people off... better watch Ripoff Report, there may be posts! However, those who have given the title negative reviews close to or after release also have at least some basis for their gripe, as the game despite its depth, from a graphical standpoint, is not something you would expect for a PC released in 2015. The graphics are sub-par compared to most current titles - yes - but where the game lacks beauty it makes up for in depth. Technically, this game could have been released on iPad, and it would not have been compared to "console like graphics", but for the Mount and Blade engine powering the source code. I will say this though, I rarely write reviews, because I tend to bleed into them my heart and soul over the game, so you will at least get a comprehensive sense of what this game is about by reading, the good, the bad, and the downright, ugly - well, that may have already passed to some degree.
It has been quite some time since anyone has released a limitless sandbox title in the pirate genre. I have no idea why, and I am sure most pirate genre fanatics like myself are scratching their heads same as I. This game does a great job filling that gap. The game is a hybrid of Cutthroats and Sid Meier Pirates! offering sea and land immersion and battles, which is the predominant focus of this game, battles. Yet, the battle does not stop with sinking your enemy ships, or conquering land parties. There is also city siege and management. If you are lucky enough to be named governor for your exploits on behalf of a nation, you can manage your own town garnering resources and financial gain you would expect to receive as a governor.
The game maintains an underlying storyline and quest, which is versatile in scope set on land and sea as you interact with various characters underpinned to the storyline. Yet, similarly to other sandbox open world games, the quest does not slave drive your experience, affording you that long lost freedom from most titles. So, what is the title about...
There are five (5) factions, France, England, Spain, Netherlands, and Brotherhood of the Coast (pirates). During the initial term of your newly started career as a ship captain, you can join a faction. As you gain renown, you can join more than one. That affords you the nation, not god, given right to seek out and destroy, pillage, loot and anger your country's enemies, even take over their colonies, starting by Letter of Marque. There are noticeable shifts in power in the game as there are other AI players involved in the individual five nations seeking to take over power in the Caribbean. Battles?
Well, if you know Mount and Blade, you will know Caribbean! at least when it comes to the land battles. At sea, it is a Nuevo version of the well established title where you engage in ship battles only to lock in on the opposing party's ship, board, battle, and hoard after you decimate your opposition's crew on a "battle-scape" including the deck of the two ships. Blood gets you queasy? You can skip the battles and go directly to trade, owning plantations and shops that create goods sourced from plantation resources storing them in warehouses readily available for pickup for trade!
So, is it a Triple A title, definitely reads as though I am advocating its supremacy in the ever growing PC gaming market - thanks in great part to the "billion dollar man", Steam! I'm jealous, feels like one of those, "why didn't I think of that scenarios?" And getting back to the point, the game is far from a Triple A title! More like a cult game, one of those sleeper games that you know should have probably done better than it did with sales once you've played. What are its shortfalls? Well, from my first play-through, and really I am still playing, the foremost fallout of this game is its polish. "It be 2015 maties" which means games are released with polish when it comes to graphics. In addition to using the Mount and Blade engine, which of course has been out well, like, forever, the graphics could use a bit more love. Most call this game a M&B Mod, which is a bit harsh and should not stop you from playing, particularly if you enjoy pirate genre games, or for those of you who like RTS type games with immersive battles of 100s of avatars all with very aggressive and discerning AI.
The second shortfall is the unexpected limitations on what is essentially expected otherwise itself as "limitless" gameplay. I was a bit shocked that I could not amass more than six (6) ships, why six? Who thought of that number? Why not "lucky 7", why not 20? If you play the game, you would say "that would be something." Hey, if there are captains available out there to hire, and yes, you do hire captains with their own set of skills and levels that individually man ships in your squad, then you can have more ships. Finally, the limits to your squad based on the Leadership skill's reliance on Charisma. Now, I anticipate this will not make much sense to you if you never played this game or Mount and Blade I suppose, but I will clarify in a moment and as this review comes to its finality, finally - I know. The Leadership skill is limited 1:3 to your charisma, limiting most people to under 200 soldiers in their crew, in addition to ship crew limited obviously by ship. That ratio should be adjusted so you can amass a greater base of soldiers. Surely, you may have other gripes, but what game comes perfect in a package? That is why they release updates, and the developers promise a plethora of them! Thank god for the internet, right?
Your character is customizable and represented by a character sheet including a portrait, stats, skills and traits. Similarly to the multi-tier RPG structure of Dungeons and Dragons, your attributes dictate the limitations of your skills, and traits are gained based on experience that levels your character garnering trait points to allocate towards special abilities, i.e. ship maneuvering, weapon attacks, etc. Then you have your melee, range, and gunner skills. Each level grants you additional points to allocate for this purpose, and this applies not only to your avatar but your captains as well. You can also level your soldiers who battle both land and sea along your side, and even your sailors who man your ships. Everyone gains experience through gameplay, making the balance very versatile as you decide who to engage versus who to run away from when enemies are afoot.
Unfortunately, there are just not enough games released in the pirate genre. The last stellar title was released around 2011, Age of Pirates: City of Abandoned Ships. Well, Caribbean! definitely fills that void if you are a pirate game genre lover like me who cannot stay away from sandbox games. Anyone else, it is worth the buy, if not for the many wonderful aspects I have already shared, then the sheer fact that you can play over and over and over again and experience a different game each time. That makes the investment a good one if you are looking for a sandbox game. I have enjoyed this game, and still have yet to unlock the full potential the game has to offer.
I will end this marathon of a review with informing you that the developers have promised new content, expansion, and more depth with each progressive patch post release. Some of the updates I have read are wholly novel and unique to this genre, so I look forward to them. So, not unlike the "Jelly of the Month Club", this is a gift that keeps on giving. Kudos to the developers for igniting a spark back into the open world, sandbox, pirate genre! Thank you, and my I have another?