Ahoy maties! Want a thrilling action adventure game that makes even the Dread Pirate Roberts’ boots shake? Want a blood-curdling story about making land lubbers walk the plank and plundering plenty of booty? Want to be the terror of the high seas? Well, sail far, far away from here because Tortuga: Two Treasures is not what you’re looking for. Sure, you get to play as Thomas "Hawk" Blythe, a pirate working under the notorious Blackbeard and you get some mystic lady friend to tag along, but almost everything this game does, it does poorly.
I’m all for getting straight to the action, so I have to give Tortuga points for that. Upon first starting the game, players are faced with a battle on the high seas. But instead of thinking, "Wow, cool!" I thought, "Why is the ocean such a weird color?" Water in the high seas of Tortuga is not a dark ocean blue, but a light sky blue — not menacing at all.
After getting used to the odd sea color, I started steering my ship around, which wasn’t as satisfying as I thought. I’m not saying that steering a pirate ship should be easy, but it shouldn’t be this clumsy. Pressing up (W) opens up more sails which accelerates the ship and down (S) drops the sails and slow the ship. That sounds pretty easy, but I felt more like I was playing a race car game than steering a ship. It doesn’t help that sea battles are disappointingly formulaic: circle around an enemy ship while firing cannonballs at it until it’s ready to board, board the ship and kill the captain.
I thought there was more to swash-buckling than clicking the mouse button like crazy, but there really isn’t. Sure, there are moves to learn, but the new moves do so little that I just often resorted to strafing around and clicking my enemy to death. Battles also have two difficulty ratings: too easy and insanely hard. Fighting isn’t insanely hard because enemies get smarter, but because there are just so many people to fight sometimes that there’s no way to escape. The logical thing to do is to run away, but running away rarely works because for some reason Hawk gets stuck turning around and fighting mid-run.
Interspersed between action on water and action on land are cut scenes that attempt to fill players in on a story about finding some legendary treasure. I doubt anyone will play the game enough to finish it, so the story doesn’t really matter. The voice acting in this game is surprisingly decent. It’s not going to win any academy awards, but I had expected really really bad voice acting for this game. One thing I can’t shake is why does Hawk’s voice have an American accent while narrating, but have a British accent when speaking to other characters in the game. Maybe it’s a mystery that will be explained in the later stages of the game. Or maybe it’s a secret that will forever be trapped in Davey Jones’s locker. Another mystery of the game is, why do the characters have such soul-less eyes in cut scenes? I know some people say that pirates have no souls in the first place, but still, it makes the scenes a bit disturbing to look at.
It’s sad to see how Tortuga stacks up against the games it tries so hard to emulate such as Sid Meier’s Pirates! Imitation is the highest form of flattery and all, but almost every part of this game can be seen as a blatant rip-off of either another pirate game, or a pirate movie. This wouldn’t have been so bad if it had been a good rip-off, but the fact that Tortuga is so unpolished (don’t even get me started on collision and clipping bugs) makes me sad. Not sad for the game itself, but sad knowing that there’s at least one well-meaning parent who will buy this for his or her kid.
If you’ve got a hankering to sail the high seas and to establish a fearful name for yourself, do yourself a favor and pass on this one. The only entertainment I found from Tortuga was when I saw that the bodies of men I killed would sink into the floor and a grave marker appear in the same place. But after seeing that for the twentieth time it lost its charm.