On the surface, Pirate Outlaws appears to be quite the straightforward deck building roguelike. You’ll persevere across various maps while taking on a variety of pirates and other foes in the hopes of reaping as much gold as possible. However, once you’ve got a few hours under your belt, there’s a lot more than meets the eye. From different modes, hundreds of cards, and a substantial amount of challenges and decisions at your disposal, there’s more than enough to keep you going back for more.
The simplicity of Pirate Outlaws’ approach is appealing from the start. Battles are quick and flow with an unexpected grace, much similar to how Jack Sparrow conducts himself at sea. The fundamentals see you start with a deck of cards ranging from melee and ranged attacks. Melee attacks don’t cost ammo (essentially your attack points), but ranged attacks do. You can play cards that restore ammo, but this may take up a turn that could’ve been used to do damage. Some attacks are brutal and some are tactical, and with so much choice, battles can take on a variety of different forms.
The purpose of the main mode in Pirate Outlaws is to make your way across a map filled with pirate battles, visits to taverns, markets, and random events, then up towards the ultimate goal of taking on the boss. Every choice you make on your journey requires some thought as to what comes afterwards, as the wrong decision could lead to a battle you can’t win, or a missed opportunity to pick up some much needed rest or a fancy new relic that grants a specific buff or ability. That risk and reward is present in everything you do and gives you plenty of replayability with each new run. If the gameplay wasn’t engaging, this would be a problem, as there’s little in the way of story or atmosphere.
While not a massive concern, I’m a sucker for some kind of narrative regardless of genre or style, but Fabled Game has chosen to focus solely on how it plays. Thankfully, I thoroughly enjoyed the battle system. It’s simple yet varied, with multiple enemy types and cards available, making each playthrough feel different from the last. By visiting markets and taverns, you can purchase new cards and relics, and regain health or upgrade your cards. There are also encounters across the map which might lead to a new card or buff, but could also lead to a loss of health points. You can regain health during each run, but again, managing this is imperative if you want to reach the boss at the end. Your success in each playthrough leads to Repute, and by earning this, you’ll unlock new heroes and maps.
If you don’t quite get on with Pirate Outlaws’ gameplay or art style, the urge to grind will mean new challenges, enemy types, and more won’t be unlocked. It can take a long time before you start to see the spoils of your efforts because it takes multiple runs to gain anything of substance. Providing you enjoy playing, this won’t be an issue, but it requires hours until you start to see all the good stuff the game has to offer. I was a big fan of combat, especially when balancing the risks of playing certain cards at the behest of my heroes, and the satisfaction of victory is great. The art style is rather basic, lacking a lot of detail, but it’s still something I grew rather fond of.
If you’re looking for a deck builder with tons of replayability, Pirate Outlaws is a solid choice. Battles are fast, offering a vast assortment of cards to be unlocked and used. When facing tougher enemies, you are pushed to the limits, and dying only pushes you to keep playing. Whether taking on pirates across the different maps, or surviving the challenges that await you in the Arena, there’re tons of hours to spend enjoying the fluid gameplay it offers. There is plenty to unlock for fans of the grind, and if you dig games like Slay the Spire, then this is one you won’t want to miss out on.
Plenty of cards available
Simple yet addictive gameplay
Solid replayability factor
Lack of a story
Difficult at times
Plenty of grinding needed to unlock stuff