Republic of Pirates review key art

Review: Republic of Pirates (PC)

I dunno if running a city/nation of pirates would be my dream job, personally.

7 mins read

The pitch for Republic of Pirates is straightforward enough: It’s a very light Anno, with a pirate theme. That should make it a pretty safe bet for a lot of folks out there, especially when it’s also priced as a very budget-friendly Anno.

I’m not usually one to talk about the price of games and when something is “value for money.” As most people who read DDNet know, I believe that the price tag attached to a work of art is irrelevant to its quality. High-quality art can be very inexpensive, and there’s a lot of low-quality art that comes at a premium. Republic of Pirates, however, is explicitly presenting itself as a “dollar store” city builder, and so it needs to be mentioned that while it doesn’t do much in terms of forming its own identity or being particularly creative, as a bargain-priced game, it is a generally admirable effort.

On the city building side of things, the game is structured exactly like Anno. You’ll need to build places for your citizens to reside, and then build support buildings that are within a certain distance of those buildings to make its residents happy. At first, the little pirate community that you’re growing will be content with fish and a marketplace. Soon enough, though, they’ll be demanding rum and a brothel… we are talking about pirates, after all! Anno has churches, Republic of Pirates has brothels. I know which community I prefer.

Republic Of Pirates Review 1

The need to meet the growing demands of the population will force you to expand beyond the initial island that you start on. Each territory in the game has its own resource specialties, and so when you’re in need of iron or coal, you’re going to need to make moves on your rivals and claim territories in the name of your “Republic”.

To go to war, you will build a small fleet of ships, hire a captain, and then direct them around in real-time. I was a little surprised by how much detail the developers worked into this, because the ship captains do level up and acquire new skills by winning battles, and there are different categories of ship, with the larger ones being significantly more powerful. There’s even a “Diplomacy” system that allows you to do favours for other pirates or traders, and completing these missions can have additional benefits for your growing communities.

None of this is going to be new to anyone who has any experience in simulation or strategy gaming, but it’s all executed perfectly adequately. The communities grow at a reasonable rate and you’ll never feel stressed about needing to work “efficiently.” There’s the same puzzle-like quality to town design so that each of the services can reach the maximum number of citizens. Don’t say it too loudly, because some people get really weird about the term, but apparently pirates quite enjoy the idea of 15-minute cities!

A screenshot from Republic Of Pirates

With over 100 buildings and eight ship classes, there is a lot of raw content in Republic of Pirates. It’s not going to feel like it’s stripped down or limited in scope. It also has the requisite game modes. The one most people will reach for first is the story mode, which not only walks you through a story of betrayal and revenge (what else for pirates?) but also acts as the gameplay tutorial to help you ease into all the mechanics and flow.

After that, there’s the free mode. This is where the budget nature of the game shows itself, as there are only a tiny few maps, rather the randomly generated archipelago that you might expect for a sim-building game. Each of the maps will take a while to polish off, but there won’t be the same incentive to dip back into this mode once you’re done with each of the maps compared to those games that do randomly generate the environments for you with each play.

The only other issue I have with the game is the controls. Republic of Pirates can be played with a controller (I reviewed it on the ROG Ally), but the interface isn’t particularly intuitive if you do, and it’s clear that the developers built it with mouse-and-keyboard in mind before realising they needed to prepare for a potential console release. If that console release is still on the cards, the interface needs a major overhaul and streamlining. The developers aped Anno in every other way, they should probably consider just copying the control system from Anno for consoles too. That one worked really well.

A screenshot from Republic Of Pirates

Aside from that, Republic of Pirates is an enjoyable, if generally uninspired city builder and light-touch RTS. It’s pretty to look at, has a comfortable, laid-back vibe, and aside from wrestling with the controls, is an easy-playing experience that you can tune out to. It ticks all the boxes and leaves you wanting nothing, even if, after a few weeks of solid play, it will then be buried in the Steam list to gather virtual dust.

Matt S. is the Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of DDNet. He's been writing about games for over 20 years, including a book, but is perhaps best-known for being the high priest of the Church of Hatsune Miku.

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