Republic of Pirates Review | PC

The pirate theme is a neat aspect, but its real-time exploration clashes with the city building.

By Fragnarok, Posted 20 Jun 2024

Crazy Goat Games has released an assortment of titles in the past. This includes the strategy game Worshippers of Cthulhu, the turn-based strategy The Dragoness: Command of the Flame, and the puzzle game The Brave Furries. Republic of Pirates will be the Polish developer’s first excursion into a city simulation.

Republic of Pirates is not like typical city simulators that concentrate on land. Every map is an archipelago, many small islands separated by water. This means there aren’t enough resources just in one area and you must always concentrate on every settlement being a self-sustaining port town.

 Republic of Pirates, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, RTS Games

The first focus is always on the wood industry, as it is the most basic material for constructing nearly everything else. Similar to Patron, you must place your woodcutting lodge near a dense forest to maximize production. If too many other builds or roads are nearby the yield may become too low to be useful. Still, you also need at least one close storage depot to keep production going.

The port dock acts as a sort of town hall where the rest of the city congregates and builds out. You must have a sufficient road system to move both people and goods. Workers and other citizens will not travel through the wilderness, even if it only encompasses a tile or two.

Once workers move in, they will have certain wants and needs that should be met. This includes new industries like fishing, alcoholic beverages, rope making, herding, and farming. Both productivity and upgrades are determined by meeting at least the minimum needs.

Outside of lumber, the other major starting industry is cotton farms. These are the keys to making sails for ships, which are the true essence of Republic of Pirates. You can build a whole range of ships at the port from the shipyards. This includes basic dinghies “cog” to impressive battleships like the “frigate” and “brigantine”; it is all a matter of what materials you have already acquired.

 Republic of Pirates, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, RTS Games

After completing a ship, you can also hire a captain at the inn. Each individual candidate has their bonuses and drawbacks. This might include preferences for types of ships, more power when attacking, or additional speed. Besides stats and a name, the captains don’t have any real personality or difference.

Ships can collect debris out in the ocean. This is usually ship parts like lumber, sails, or guns. But it can also include treasure and rarer materials. Typically, a larger and more powerful ship will drop better goods when plundered.

There are two types of enemy vessels: neutral and hostile. Neutral enemies will not directly engage and will let you be if you don’t initiate a fight. They are typically sailors or privateers of a nation like England, Spain, or France. The other type is hostile units that are actively patrolling and will attack on sight. While they are typically a pirate band, they can also be official government ships you have harassed in the past.

Sea combat isn’t very compelling as the enemy AI can be easily tricked. They almost entirely concentrate fire on one target and rarely pursue to finish off a nearly destroyed ship. This means you can bring your strongest ship to tank hits, then disengage and rotate in an off-tank. If you take this active approach, it is near impossible to be fully annihilated. However, your pathing can get a bit strange, and large enough fleet - say eight or more ships - sometimes won’t follow orders or will simply sail away.

 Republic of Pirates, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, RTS Games

To make this a little fairer, you can only repair ships at a friendly dock. This costs both money and some materials like wood or sails. Mix this with roaming enemy bands and a massive area to look out for, and you will often remain safely near a dock after each journey.

Ships also serve a secondary purpose of clearing out enemy bases. This not only lets you reap the enemy’s goods but allows for building a dock on another island. This allows for more building space, but also access to new resources. Your original island might have lacked clay, sugar, wild animals, or something else that can be used for a new want or need.

The town building and ship exploration tend to clash at times. If there are production problems you might be spending upwards of 10 minutes to an hour figuring out where the problem lies. This might involve pausing the game or speeding it up to see if the issue is solved. But, for the most part, you want to be completing the sailing portion in real-time with only pausing to course correctly.

What also makes things feel strange is that there are no speed hotkeys by default. In most other simulations pressing 1-3 and the space bar adjusts the flow of time or outright freezes the action. But, in Republic of Pirates, those binds are served for menus and switching through ships. This means you have to actively drag the mouse to the speed HUD to change the rate of action.

 Republic of Pirates, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, RTS Games

This tends to make it better to “solve” the city portion similar to games like IXION and the Anno series. You will want to build your depots and manufacturing into the perfect order so that it can be fully automated without further interaction. This takes away any form of creativity to or experimentation once it is workshopped by the Republic of Pirates’ player community. 

Republic of Pirates has two game modes: a free-roaming sandbox and a story campaign. The former has no real direction, letting you build and loot where you want. Outside of upgrades, there isn’t really an overall goal. It is up to you to explore and figure out what you want to accomplish on each map.

The story mode is much more compelling. The pirates of the archipelago formed an alliance, names identical to the tile of the game "The Republic of Pirates”. For a time, there was peace. However, three factions emerged to take power: the Gallows Men, the Los Guerreros, and the Raiders of the Caribbean. They inevitably killed your father and stranded you with one lone cog ship. Now, with just your first mate John Artley, you must establish a foothold and fight back.

Outside of John - who runs most of the tutorial and other guidance - other main story characters include pirate captain Mary Connor and brothel owner Isabella Rojas. Mary starts as your first real ship captain but soon becomes under siege by Raider leader Jack who destroys her craft in a scripted cutscene. From then on, Mary is more of an advisor similar to John.

The story beats don’t quite match up with the gameplay aspects. For instance, Jack sends all kinds of threats but does not make a move until you have built up an army to crush his fleet. Likewise, John and Mary might remain silent after a major event, all because they were still waiting for a basic hut to be built and populated by more workers.

Still, the story is the overall highlight of Republic of Pirates. Things get much more intense and characters become even more compelling several hours in. You should approach the game as a pirate narrative adventure that just so happens to wrap around a city builder.

 Republic of Pirates, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, RTS Games

The story itself has some structure to introduce systems and waits until showcasing the next concept or menu. If you start in sandbox mode there is no guidance at all and some of the pop-ups and UI will be very confusing. There is a “knowledge hub” in the options menu, which will list various topics. However, it doesn’t cover everything or directly link to subjects it brings up, unlike other encyclopedias from games like Civilization.

The game is fully voice-acted, though the performances can vary. John seems to be the only overall serious character. Even other main characters tend to either be flat or completely over the top. Additionally, when clicking on a ship or building the NPC lines are overly goofy, possibly to simulate that the pirates are jovial drunkards.

Republic of Pirates has a single long load time when first entering a map. The UI also shows only a single progress bar that can often stall. It can easily feel like the game is crashing in this timeframe. Once a map does load there is no need for other transitions, which makes the rest of the experience a smooth ride. However, it is possible some assets are loaded during a cutscene.

There is also epic pirate music that plays the whole world and cutscenes. It feels like it could fit well in the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise. However, there aren’t enough tracks in total. It can get a bit repetitive when you hear the same musical score repeat on end for dozens of hours. 

 Republic of Pirates, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, RTS Games

As far as a city builder, Republic of Pirates doesn’t reinvent or improve anything. It uses a lot of the same systems and rules from other proven games from the last decade. The main draw is the pirate theming and sailing aspect. If the idea of pirates and raiding appeals to you, you might want to try the Steam demo first. Then from there, decide if Republic of Pirates is worth the full price.

Kurtis Seid (@KurtisSeid)
Senior Editor, NoobFeed

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General Information

Platform(s): PC
Publisher(s): PQube
Developer(s): Crazy Goat Games
Genres: Real-Time Strategy
Themes: Pirates, City Builder, Simulation, 3D
Release Date: 2024-06-19

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