Deck builders are quickly becoming my favorite genre. Maybe it’s because there are roguelike elements, strategy, and some luck. But often, these games can be overly complicated and intimidating for newcomers to the genre. So I’m happy to report that PIrates Outlaws is easy to pick up and play and is quickly becoming my favorite deck builder. And besides, it’s pirates; who doesn’t love a game about pirates?
Pirates Outlaws is easy to pick up and play. There is a short tutorial, and while I’m glad the developers included it, the game feels so intuitive. Like other games in the genre, you’ll make your way along a path up to a boss battle. Along the way, they will be special events, taverns, and markets, all of which I’ll discuss later in the review.
The battle system is also similar to other deck builders. It uses a turn-based system, where you play cards to damage enemies or buff your character. However, one unique aspect is how Pirates Outlaws implements action points. Most deck builders limit you to how many actions you can complete on your turn. Each character has bullets, and you’ll spend these bullets based on the cost of the cards. The more power the card is, the more ammo it will cost. However, you can reload your bullets with ammo cards in your deck. Some cards will buff your character or debuff your opponents. Most of these types of cards will also use ammo to play.
But there’s more than just cards that consume ammo. You’ll also have physical attack cards that won’t consume any ammo. Most times, these types of attacks won’t do as much damage, but they come in handy when you don’t have any bullets left.
Sprinkled into the deck are cards that will cause you (and sometimes your opponent) to get drunk. Sometimes these cards will heal you but cause you to become intoxicated. This effect can stack, and the more inebriated you become, the less likely you’ll land your attacks. This feature leans into the pirate theme and plays into the risk/reward system as well.
Every run you do will earn you experience. Once you fill up the experience bar, a new card is unlocked. These cards will be available to purchase merchants scattered on the map. You earn coins when you beat an enemy. You’ll use those coins to buy cards to build your deck. But that’s not all you purchase. You can upgrade cards and buy relics. Relics will give you special abilities - like extra health or more damage during attacks. You can only hold a certain amount of relics, but you can also sell them.
On the map, you’ll come across special spaces. Most of these will have a risk/reward system; for instance, you may battle several waves of enemies. If you win, you’ll earn a new card. When you land on these spaces, you can pursue the reward or choose not to.
Each space on the map costs your ship action points; you start with one hundred points. You take damage if you run out of these points. You can replenish these points at a tavern, for a price, of course.
You earn repute points after each run and unlock new characters and levels with these points. Each character plays differently, and each has a specialized deck. And on top of this, each pirate has alternative clothing you can unlock by completing different challenges.
Besides the main game, there are also two other areas that you can unlock with repute points, The Arena and Tavern Brawl. These games are for those looking for a challenge and want to battle waves of enemies instead of playing through the map.
Final Grade: A+
Pirates Outlaws is one of the best deck builders. It’s not overly complicated, yet challenging enough for veterans of the genre. Each run feels meaningful, as you’ll earn experience and repute to unlock new cards, characters, and levels. This game has plenty to do, and each run feels a bit different than the last. If you’ve never played a deck builder, you need to give Pirates Outlaws a go; you may find that you’re a fan of the genre after all.
Review code provided by the publisher