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Tortuga: Pirates of the New World PC CD-ROM Official Website

Published by ASCARON Entertainment
Developed by ASCARON Entertainment
Released: Out Now
Price: £29.99

Ascaron must love all things nautical as they can't seem to stop creating games based on ships, trading and pirates. They've given us Patrician (I,II,III) and Port Royale (sequel also in progress) and now we have Tortuga: Pirates of the New World. Whilst the main focus of Patrician was trading and Port Royale was a mix of trading and completing missions Tortuga moves even further away from the trading simulation in a kind of role-playing strategy game where you have to gain experience and work your way through 16 different scenarios. It's also a single-player only game which again is very different to Ascaron's past titles.

The game begins much like the Patrician or Port Royale games where you have a boat and a small amount of money to begin with. However the similarities between Tortuga and the other Ascaron games are actually quite small as the gameplay is very different. The game is set in the Caribbean during the 16th century. The game has 16 scenarios for you to play through and each scenario involves seizing a number of towns within a given time. You belong to one of four nations (Spain, France, England or Holland) and you receive additional missions from the town governors. You'll have to progressively increase your rank in order to acquire more and more missions though. Your rank can be increased by gaining experience. Experience is gained by sinking and boarding ships, discovering new towns, completing missions and getting rid of notorious, wanted pirates who have a price on their head.

If you've played Patrician II, III or Port Royale, then Tortuga will come as a bit of a shock because certain things are different. You don't have a zoomed out view of the sea map and you can't scroll around either. The camera is always tied to your ship. To move you ship you simply place the cursor in the direction you want to go and right click. The ship will move in that direction until it's impossible to do otherwise. You can't just click on a town for a ship to travel there because unless it's in a straight line it will not negotiate deviating from it's straight line route. You can still trade in Tortuga but it seems fairly fruitless compared to Ascaron's other titles but this isn't meant to be a trading simulation, so this isn't really a problem.

The ship battles in Tortuga are enjoyable but the developers made a strange decision that will leave gamers baffled. No matter how many ships you have in your convoy the moment you enter battle you'll only have one ship. Yet in Port Royale and Patrician you fought with multiple ships so why not in Tortuga? This situation can lead to some very frustrating battles as your enemies could attack you with 3 ships and yet you'll only have one. Before each battle, if you have more than one ship, you are asked which ship to take in to the battle. It wouldn't have been so bad if all of your ships had their hit points and crew members combined to make it a fairer battle but alas it does not do this. It wouldn't matter so much but the ship battles are a key element of the game. Thankfully though you are told how many ships your opponents have and how well armed they are before you commit to battle.

Graphically Tortuga looks like a zoomed in Port Royale and with good reason too, as many of the graphics from Port Royale have been reused for Tortuga. The whole look of the game seems to have been dumbed down from Port Royale and you get big chunky interface buttons that look like they came from a children's PC title. I'm not saying that this is a bad thing but it is way out of step with the clean and professional look of previous Ascaron titles. The advantage of using the Port Royale game engine is that you get wonderful 3D ships and sea animations. The battles do look impressive, especially for a title of this nature. The towns don't look as impressive as in Port Royale though as the developers went for a 2D Heroes of Might & Magic III look,which is disappointing but easier to navigate as everything is on one screen and no scrolling has to be performed.

Tortuga is absolutely fine for deaf gamers with the only exception being the introduction, which is not subtitled. All the instructions and tutorial messages etc. are given exclusively in text and all messages can be recalled. Every Ascaron title I've played has been great for deaf gamers and Tortuga is no exception. The game manual is only 16 pages long and whilst it's good stuff, it needs to go into more detail. There is also no map given with the game which is unusual as Patrician II, III and Port Royale all came with a map and a map is an essential navigation tool.

Your opinion of Tortuga will greatly depend on whether you've played Patrician II, III or Port Royale. If you have then Tortuga will seem good but rather shallow. If you haven't experienced Ascaron's classic titles then Tortuga will be enjoyable and you'll be oblivious to the lack of depth the game has. It's enjoyable but ultimately you're not going to be playing this in six months time, which is a very strange thing to say about an Ascaron game as they're usually games to treasure and play years after you've purchased them.

Overall Game Rating: 7.4/10
Tortuga is a very different game to the Patrician and Port Royal series. The gameplay is, for the most part, enjoyable but there are niggles such as only being able to have one ship in a battle when your enemies have multiple ships. It's a good game but falls quite a bit short of Ascaron's usual standards.

Deaf Gamers comment:
The introduction isn't subtitled but otherwise there are no problems for deaf gamers.