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iPad  header logo

Crimson: Steam Pirates

For: iPad

Nautical but nice

Product: Crimson: Steam Pirates | Developer: Harebrained Schemes | Publisher: Bungie | Format: iPad | Genre: Strategy | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
Crimson: Steam Pirates iPad, thumbnail 1
It’s rare that a developer will openly advocate piracy, but Harebrained Schemes's iPad debut - the first to be published on Bungie's Aerospace label - does exactly that, placing you in the boots of rookie captain Thomas Blood, rescued from deportation to Jamaica after stealing Queen Victoria’s jewels.

Your saviour is feisty female pirate Captain Blackheart, who gives you a ship to commandeer. Naturally, you’re not much of a skipper until you’ve learned to handle a boat, so the opening missions of this turn-based strategy set you fairly simple tasks to ease you into your new role.

Moving your ship is a simple case of setting its destination (highlighted by a dotted line and an outline of your craft) and tapping the ‘play’ button to take your turn.

Plain sailing

Your ship can move quite a distance in a straight line – more so when you choose to go at full steam - but slows down considerably while turning. This becomes quite an important consideration, particularly in later missions.

Firing is automatic – as soon as an enemy ship comes within range, your cannons will fire at the interloper. You can increase the distance your cannons will fire, though as with acceleration this takes a turn to recharge once used.

The same is true of repairing your ship when it’s taken a beating, while the last of your early options is to board a ship.

Here you’ll get to choose three attacking parties, knowing only the size of your enemy’s teams but not their strength. Win, and the ship is yours, with one crew member remaining aboard to steer it to safety.

Aye aye, captain

As you progress, you’ll pick up a beautiful first mate and gradually start to amass a larger crew over the next few missions, capturing ships to add to your fleet and steadily increasing your strategic options.

While Crimson: Steam Pirates is billed as a strategy game, there’s very little that’s tactical about the opening four or five missions of the (free) first episode. Your fleet will overwhelm most opponents, while the one occasion where reinforcements arrive is a simple rush to the exit point.

Indeed, it remains fairly simplistic throughout – in theory you could try to outmanoeuvre your opponents (your cannons are useless if you’re facing a ship head-on rather than pulling alongside it) but often you’ll make a ‘fight or flight’ decision based purely on numbers.

Ship ahoy

As such, there’s no reason to replay the levels bar trying to increase your score – perhaps you’ll destroy more enemy ships next time, or attempt to take fewer turns than the ‘par’ total, but there’s little real incentive to do so, with no additional objectives to occupy you.

Even so, there’s something oddly compelling about Crimson: Steam Pirates that makes the decision to purchase Chapter 2 an easy one.

Gunpowder plot

The story, written on weathered parchment and illustrated by sepia photos of actors dressed as pirates, is basic but presented nicely enough that you’re interested to see where it goes next.

It helps that it’s soundtracked by a theme which sounds like an off-cut from the Pirates of the Caribbean films, which captures the swashbuckling spirit of the era.

With the second chapter adding submarines and elemental powers, the tactical element comes to the fore and suddenly the game itself demonstrates the same amount of care as the polished presentation.

If not quite a fantastic voyage, Crimson: Steam Pirates reminds us that a life on the ocean wave is an appealing proposition.

Crimson: Steam Pirates
Reviewer photo
Chris Schilling | 8 September 2011
Less strategic than it wants to be, but this is a fun and hugely likeable time-waster for iPad owners
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