Game Review of Tropico 2: Pirate Cove

When I first heard of Pirate Cove I though it was another expansion pack for Tropico, the island simulation I was so addicted to. I was wrong. Pirate Cove is actually the next incarnation of Tropico: Tropico 2! I did not find this out until I snagged it at Best Buy on sale for $29.99.
With that said, Pirate Cove is a stand-alone, not an add-on. You do not need to own Tropico to play, and you do not need to have ever played Tropico to learn this one; although that would help you learn it faster. Even as a die-hard Tropican, it took me awhile to pick this up to the point that I felt confident enough to put the little manual in a drawer. There’s a lot of stuff to learn here in order to succeed. I’d say a several hour learning curve…but those hours are way fun!

Pirate Cove is set in the 1600s. You are running a hidden island inhabited by pirates. It’s up to you to keep your mateys happy and keep your kidnapped folks from escaping! This is much easier said than done. Since Pirate Cove is a reverse economy, you can’t sell what you grow. There are no rich tourists bringing you their moolah…if you need something, you must build ships and go take it! Arr Arr Arr!!

Lets talk about what you can do, and then we’ll get to techie stuff. At the main menu you can either go into campaigns or single games. I didn’t much care for campaigns, but a few were like say, build X amount of ships within this time frame… typical campaigns. If you go into single game options, you can select scenarios or sand box. The scenarios I do recommend, these get you familiar with the game in a fun way. You go thru them in sequence starting with getting the grog flowing to keep your mateys happy. Each scenarios completion leads into the next scenario, each getting progressively more complex.

I went thru the first couple of scenarios then straight into Sand Box. This pretty much equates with free-play. You get to set your goals, pick your Captain, decide Island size and resource levels, and length of game play. Now, the longest you can set this to is 30 years, which immediately grated my teeth. Every Sim should have the option to play til your tired of it. Grrrr. But this is a minor quibble since Pirate Cove figures time differently than its predecessor, Tropico. Every 2 years of game time is equal to about an hour in real time. So that 30-hour max is actually 15 hours of game play. Not too shabby.

No matter which way you decide to go, there are things you must do to keep your island running smoothly. Your pirates absolutely must have entertainment or they will leave you. This is in the form of drinkin’, gamblin’, and wenching! Make sure you have plenty of brothels and gambling dens. Eventually they will tire of grog and demand rum so do scout out in advance where you are going to plant your sugar and place your distillery. Sugar grows well in very few places so you will want to leave those spots open for when you get to that.

Putting up towers and cannons and the like will make your pirates feel safe too, which adds to their satisfaction. You will want a shipyard fairly early on also, I mean, what pirate will be happy for long if he can’t go pillage? Besides, the ships will often come back with more captives, and you need captives to run your farms and whatnot.

Speaking of captives…you better keep them in line too! Toss up an interrogation chamber and a gallows or two. The hedges are also good; they are in the shape of skulls and will help the fear factor. A few mess tents will keep them fed. They sleep on the ground when they aren’t working, but a bunkhouse will help their attitudes and they will work harder if they are better rested. Rich captives just lay about eating your food and drinking your men’s grog, so ransom them back ASAP!

To the ships… you need to build a dock, then a shipyard. Both must be on water (DUH!). You have 6 ships to choose from, all with different levels of safety/speed. The Snow is the cheapest and smallest and requires less crew to run her. It’s not very sturdy, but it’s great at escaping. Next is the Schooner, which takes more crew and supplies, but it’s a bet better at defense and can bring back more captives…still a very fast ship. The third ship is a Sloop, bigger still and slower, but still fast enough to escape for the most part, and holds quite a few captives. There are three progressively bigger ships… but I pretty much have learned to skip those altogether. They are too costly to build, take forever to supply and man, and all but one of the 15 or so I have painstakingly built have been sunk their first time out to sea. Aggravating!

Speaking of supplies, I hope you managed to build an iron mine, smelting, and blacksmith shop…your pirates need cutlasses ya know! Ye canna be sendin em out there with their bare fists! You can also make muskets and cannons for them. If all else fails, buy a black market building. You can supply your ship in a hurry with one of those, but it’ll cost ya greatly to do so!

So…you want the ‘guy’ stuff….

Required
PII-200, 64MB RAM, 4MB video

Recommended
PIII-500, 128MB RAM, 32MB video

My two machines:
P4-fast (LMAO), half gig RAM, top video (He just built that machine with top everything)

P3-800, half gig RAM, gForce

Loading the game was pain free. My CD-ROM had busted so the first 2 days I played it on The Male’s computer. Then I popped and old 8x into my system and have been playing on that for over 18 hours game-play time. So I can tell you some system differences. Mainly, the initial install is different. It installed fairly fast on The Male’s p4, 52x. This install is over a gig and a half, btw. On my slow 8x it took about 15 minutes. That’s really the only rom-speed difference though. Once the game is installed it doesn’t use the disc at all except to verify that you have it upon starting the game.

Really, that initial install is the only major difference between the two machines. The P3 runs a tad slower, but really not much at all. Not enough to detract from game play in any way. The graphics were crisper on the P4, but that may be due to the monitor, and again, the difference is really not that big of deal. You can zoom in or out in the game, close zooms are slightly pixelated but not any more than any other game. Better than most actually. You can see your captives up close and personal and watch the overseers threaten and cajole them into working harder. Tooo fun! Zooming all the way out while the game is running in fast mode is not recommended by me. The screen gets a bit jerky and will give you a headache fast. LOL

Sound is the same as with Tropico, which is about the same as any other Simulation out there. Tropical music plays in the background and is really soothing in an upbeat sorta way. Crisp and clear, no distortion. Voices are clear as well…although that does get irritating after awhile. Not the quality, but the repetition. You do not need to tell me every 5 minutes that we need more wenches! They should put a feature in the next expansion to turn that guy off!!

One thing they did do differently in this than in Tropico, you get to open your log whenever you want, instead of it being forced open every year. Gads that was annoying before! Thank you G.O.D! This is much better. OH, what’s the log? The Captain’s Log shows you everything you need to know about your island… income from each ship/captain, how happy everyone is and why… stuff like that. Very handy little tool!

WARNING
This may be a small issue to some, but it grates on my nerves. This game has a slight memory leak. It’s done it on both machines. You likely will not notice it until after like 12 hours of straight game play, give or take, but if you play hard-core, this is an issue. Save your game, get out and reboot. That’s the only solution, and annoying as hell. Your good to go for another 12 hours or so, but still. That shouldn’t happen in the first place.

The other annoyance that I hope they address with the first expansion is the auto-save. It does save quite frequently on it’s own. Which is great! But, the issue is that it stops your game each time…freezes it until it’s done. Tropico was a smooth painless autosave, why is Pirate Cove glitchy?

This is an awesome game with unlimited replayability. It’s customizable, so the option combos are immense. I highly recommend Tropico 2: Pirate Cove if you like Simulation games at all. I’m starting to get a bit burnt out on the island themes…but This is one I will come back to repeatedly after other games. Definitely up there with RCT2 on my fave list.