Published on June 17th, 2023 | by Logan Ladynyk

Pirates Outlaws PS4 Review

Pirates Outlaws PS4 Review Logan Ladynyk

Summary: A seaworthy addition to the roguelike deckbuilder genre with a treasure trove of content.


Treasure trove!

Buried treasure! Thousands of islands to explore! And a… boatload of cards? In Pirates Outlaws, it’s that last one that’s going to save your booty! This infinitely replayable game from Fabled Game Studio and Blitworks Games takes a shot at the roguelike deckbuilder genre and connects with a full broadside.

Pirates Outlaws is, as the name explains, a game in which you set out as one of 16 classes, all based on pirate archetypes. From a dexterous gunner to a flashy, slashy sword master, to even a chicken berserker, each captain has their own deck of cards and a special ability that makes them stand out from one another for continuously fresh gameplay.

It’s that freshness in gameplay that really stands out to me, especially when compared to some of my other favorite games of the genre. In Pirates Outlaws, there is just so much to do, even when the core basis stays the same.

Ultimately, any game in this genre has the same premise: You’ll have a starting deck with the goal of navigating a procedural maze to fight the boss at the end, modifying your deck with new or upgraded cards and items giving special abilities along the way. Pirates Outlaws is no different. As the player navigates the ocean, you can choose to sail toward a battle, an event, one of three kinds of stores, or occasionally something else entirely like a maelstrom or rival pirate crew. Aspiring captains need to be careful, though, because their ship can only travel so much before wear and tear take their toll and needs repairs before sinking. This added resource management system made for an interesting wrinkle to the genre that I wasn’t expecting beforehand.

What separates Pirates Outlaws for a unique gameplay experience is, as noted above, that the game packs that base concept with so much more. First-time players begin the game with 0 reputation, but quickly build that rep as they set sail time and time again. Increased reputation unlocks most of the 16 classes, most of the 7 maps, universal bonuses to make future voyages easier, new card unlocks that are bundled in specific packs to further customize gameplay, and even two other game modes. After earning enough reputation, a new in-game location unlocks as well; these areas feature exceptionally strong mid-level bosses called Bounties, which result in your character taking on a string of multiple battles in a row for the chance of fantastic rewards. Maximizing reputation results in the option to play any level at a harder, more unforgiving level of difficulty.

What I found especially cool, though, was the inclusion of a quest system that had more function than simply being a glorified achievement list. Completing certain quests will unlock characters, specific skins for every character, and even the last map. The quests also help tie the levels together. I was trying to do as much of the first map, Pirates Bay, before moving on to other locations I’d already unlocked, when I found myself teleported to the next map as part of that quest’s progression. For me, it was like I had discovered the way to the next area and actually earned access to it rather than simply getting it rewarded to me for playing enough times.

While I’m impressed with the sheer amount of content, my complaints with the game are relatively trivial. Aesthetically, the game’s art style and sound direction is best described as “being there.” While the characters have different playstyles and appearances, they also have an abstractness that allows for a lack of detail while sharp edges and jagged lines help enhance a combat that is mostly two-dimensional models getting squashed and stretched or moves linearly in basic animations to simulate movement. Similarly, the music is generic and though it isn’t jarring enough to shatter any immersion, it also doesn’t make any lasting impression. My experience hearing it has been “yeah, that’s pirate-y.”

There have also been a few moments where the user interface was a little clunky, resulting in me making a choice I didn’t intend. That may also just be a result of me expecting certain aspects to have confirmation screens like how other roguelike deckbuilders I play do. Occasionally I found myself playing-but-not-playing, but that was because I had built an efficient deck that could run itself so long as I hit the buttons that played cards and ended my turn.

Overall, I’ve very much enjoyed my time sailing in Pirates Outlaws. The core gameplay is intuitive but requires a fair amount of strategy to master, the characters are all different enough to change the gameplay experience, and most importantly, I can see myself playing it for many months – if not years – trying to accomplish everything in it.

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