The Pirate’s Fate is yet another Kickstarter success story, since it received a nearly triple sum compared to its initial pledge request. Having played through a handful of its narrative “paths” as the game refers to them, I can safely say that it was a most pleasant experience which deserved to be Kickstarted. As the Steam debut of T.F Wright and Volkenfox, Pirate’s Fate is a visual novel emphasizing on transformation through choices and actions.
The game’s title also refers to the name of the ship you’ll be spending several adventures aboard. A nearly prophetic choice and the symbolism doesn’t stop with various names and places. Do not mistake the cheery animal sprites, for some simplistic tale about digging treasure and losing it in the nearest tavern you’ll find. There are more references and connections to the Pirates of the Caribbean than Stevenson’s classic “Treasure Island”, which started the literary pirate frenzy in the first place. More precisely, The Pirate’s Fate initial sequences and subplots reminded me of “The Curse of the Black Pearl”. The female protagonist is left with little choice but to join a crew of misfits, searching for certain mystical coins. The treasure they seek, represents far more than wealth and thus greed is not the primary motivation in either stories.
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Mila is the sole survivor of a merchant shipwreck and she was saved by The Pirate’s Fate and its captain, the idealistic Darious. Our heroine’s reluctance is unfounded, as she discovers that her new crew mates had abandoned piracy and are now simply “treasure hunting” for the aforementioned coins. A cast comprised entirely of anthropomorphic animals, is a nice departure from genre conventions. The first descriptions are cryptic and that’s how we’ll keep them in this review, since spoiling any crucial details is out of the question. You can take for granted the meaning behind the coins though. “Shape What You Were”. Or what you shall become. It’s an ongoing process and I’m pleased to notice that this particular visual novel understands the need for true freedom of choice. There are no “try this or die and game over” type of choices like in the first pirate-themed visual novel I reviewed on Steam, “Neighboring Islands”.
There will be plenty of death, sacrifice and even desertion aboard The Pirate’s Fate, since you can’t save or please everyone. I shall compare the game’s morality system to the one implemented in the Mass Effect series. Instead of black & white / good or evil, we have something more attuned to Paragon and Renegade. Your worst decisions shall be regarded as cynical and ruthless, rather than truly evil. Similarly, peaceful solutions aren’t portraying the protagonist as a living saint. Mila is just as flawed as the supporting cast. Each and every crew member had a tragic, if not entirely dark past. They won’t depart from their secrets so easily, if at all. Suffice to say, the coins will have an effect on those which come in their possession. The transformation can be subtle or not, yet it is fully dependent on the personality of those affected by this gift / curse. Take it as you will, the story gets shaped by your interactions after all.
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The Pirate’s Fate is very detailed, nicely drawn and with characters having several sprites for simulating speech and emotions. Rendered entirely in 2D, it did pleasantly remind me of “The Curse of Monkey Island” (old school adventure, recently added on Steam as well) and its distinct art style, not to mention exaggerations for comic relief. Pirate’s Fate is powered by the Visual Novel Maker and from this graphics engine choice, arise several issues that bothered me. For starters, the resolution issues involved some tweaking with the game’s executable, yet I was truly disappointed when I realized that I won’t be able to take even a single screenshot through the Steam Overlay.
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If you’ve been reading my reviews for while, you know I prefer and depend on those images getting linked to my Steam profile and published articles on TICGN. When it comes to game reviews, it’s usually my way or the highway. In other words, my own screenshots showcasing the gameplay as I experienced it. Not gonna happen in Pirate’s Fate case, sadly. The lack of Steam Achievement implementation can also be attributed to Visual Novel Maker. Looks like I found an equal to GameMaker: Studio’s annoying lack of support for the Steam Overlay. Suddenly makes me regard the ubiquitous Unity Engine, in a more favorable light.
Both the soundtrack and the somewhat limited voice acting, are of high quality. You’ll still be silently reading a lot of the dialogues and that is a flaw which far too many contemporary visual novels seem to suffer from. I’m obviously no stranger to reading, since writing implies the latter activity in abundance. But I will always prefer listening to a balanced mix between the OST and voice acting which enhance the gameplay, since video games are inherently excelling at interacting with their audience beyond the limitations of music and motion pictures.
In the epilogue, I found out that there are eight plot paths which dictate over two dozen endings in The Pirate’s Fate. It all depends on what romantic interests you had in your crew mates and several actions which shape the destiny of the entire game world. I’ll leave their discovery, entirely up to you. The gameplay itself is following the classic mechanics of most visual novels I played so far. Dialogue is king and a form of “cheating” for a better outcome to most situations, is represented by the option to save or load a game at any time during an ongoing discussion with the NPCs. Call it, the other extreme to the save game issue. You definitely don’t want to feel constrained by an autosave system, so a compromise would be impossible for this genre. Also consider it, a faster way to experience the consequences of your in-game actions and revert them, if you should feel like the fast approaching conclusion is undesirable.
A Gallery is found in the Main Menu. It stores a selection of pictures showcasing the endings and romantic partners you might have interacted with. This isn’t a dating sim or a “Sakura type”, so the adventure will still be enjoyable without forcing players to flirt with certain characters in order to advance the plot line. Again, this is a feature found in modern RPGs (some have removed romance altogether) and it offers a taste of modernity to a genre which relied on cheesy dialogue far too much in the past. Quite the contrary, some of the topics found in the seemingly random banter between characters, were intriguing to me and they sadly reminded me that I can’t take a screenshot and link it easily to my Steam profile. I’d say that the replay value alone, manages to keep the game interesting even once its plot may seem somewhat predictable. It’s not, if you will pick choices that eventually contradict themselves. You’ll know what I mean once you reach an ending.
Even with its several flaws, I still had fun with this unconventional tale of pirates “led astray”. It certainly gave a new meaning to the saying about a “thief with a heart of gold”. I reckon that a sequel would be in order, since at least some of the endings leave plenty of room to interpretation. Just keep your wits about you and remember that grey is a far better choice than black or white, whenever you’re in doubt.