What shall we do with the drunken sailor? Well I could fire him, but that might reduce my crews’ efficiency and if I do that I might not be able to fight off the furious tentacles of the legendary Kraken. First things first, hopefully, this port I’ve just docked at has the ammunition I desperately need to make it to the next archipelago where a potential new recruit awaits with vital information for my next mission.
This is the life of pillaging and skulduggery that Tempest offers: sail the seas, choose your allegiances, keep your crew alive, supplies up and above all keep your boat afloat. At first glance you’d be forgiven thinking Tempest is a cute nugget of boating action. It comes in at a paltry 80mb to download, in an age where we are accustomed to downloading a 20-gig-plus game on Steam then wandering off to do the hoovering or watch another episode of Making a Murderer, Tempest was good to go in the blink of an eye. And that’s not the only surprise, for such a wee game it looks pretty and sounds great. A brief word of warning at this point, Tempest has clearly been designed to work both as a regular PC game and a mobile game. Various aspects of the control scheme support touch controls, so navigating the menus can initially feel a bit unintuitive. Unlike some PC-mobile conversions, however, Tempest implants both control inputs thoughtfully and they rarely get in the way of the core game.
Finding yourself with a basic boat and rookie crew, you start on the fog-shrouded world map. As you explore you uncover ports and landmarks that offer missions or opportunities to upgrade ships, buy and sell goods, or hire crew. In a rather neat mechanic (which, by the way will be dope on a touch screen), you must ‘draw’ your route on the map. As you travel, you’ll encounter pirates and other factions randomly but frequently. Each battle is played out on a random 3D map and you can choose to auto fight if you’re feeling lucky or decline to engage in combat if you have that sinking feeling. You can occasionally choose to take a side in a larger battle, this is good way earn loyalty with particular factions and can ease the challenge of fighting multiple enemies at once. Battles can get tricky, particularly when fighting multiple enemies alone and I spent a fair amount of time crashing into the various islands dotted about because rather than looking where I was going, I was aiming my cannons at the bad guys.
The combat is the real star of the show; ships buck and creak through the surf angling for the perfect shot. Movement translates really well, ships feel heavy and lumbering, while you fight the currents and wind to keep the accuracy of your cannons at their most optimum. You might be familiar with the combat of a certain Assassins Creed-Pirate edition game that made some waves in its release a few years ago. Basically, the same principal exists here: catch your target on your broadside, unleashing a devastating volley of canon fire to reduce their hull to splinters. You can buy a number of upgrades for your ship, providing incrementally improved equipment. Disappointingly, you don’t start with the ability to perform boarding actions, they only become available when you buy and equip guns for your crew. You can also purchase other weapons like mortars and longer range guns to open up more options for sinking pirates.
Acquiring those upgrades is perhaps one of the biggest challenges, as money is hard to come by. Your main priorities will be keeping your ship stocked with the necessities to keep gameplay engaging, like an endless supply of cannonballs because you’ll burn through them rapidly, medicine for your crew, because they’ll likely get injured in every battle, and spare money for repairs because you’ll need to repair after every battle too. And everything is rather expensive, so some balance tweaks here and there would make that cycle a little more forgiving. It is possible to find yourself with no money and no ammunition and without ammunition you can’t earn money and without money, you can’t buy ammunition.
Tempest is in early access, so not all the promised features are present in this build. The current tutorial consists of a few text boxes explaining the controls and concepts but when and where they appear is not always consistent. It’s not always immediately obvious, for example, which buttons to press to fix your damaged ship, or how to re-stock your cache of cannonballs. But the game is simple enough that after a bit of experimentation you’ll have most of the basics covered.
According to the developer, a big content patch is just around the corner, so by the time you read this there’ll be more to explore, more ships, more upgrades, plus it’s likely some of the features already implemented will be improved. As it stands Tempest is a neat little ship-em-up, it’s stable and fun to play and that is a rare thing in early access games. Let’s face it the only reason you’re reading this is because you want to play pirates, and Tempest will surely scratch that itch. With a few balance tweaks, it could become one of those hidden gems on Steam that always puts a smile on your face.
Great ship combat
Plenty of content for such a small game
It’s not finished yet
A few balance issues