Tempest, the Pirate Action RPG, is exactly what the name suggests. This game, previously available on PC and now ported to mobile devices, puts you in the role of the captain of a ship in an open-world where you can sail about fighting other ships, completing quests (both mundane and legendary), or hunting for treasure. There are quest lines to explore if you are looking for a focused experience, but nothing holds you back from going wherever you please after the tutorial. Along the way you'll also need to manage your crew, buy and sell goods, and upgrade to better ships. For a little $8 mobile game, there is a lot to see and do. Grab your eyepatch, strap on a peg leg, and let's set sail on this pirate adventure.
As you can see from the official trailer above, the game does look pretty nice, especially in terms of atmosphere and lighting. I played the game on an iPhone 5s, and it looks just like that while running perfectly smooth. All of the screenshots in this review were taken on my phone. The file size clocks in at 341 MB, so it won't take up too much space if you are constantly maxing out your file storage like I do.
Since this is a mobile game, how the controls work is going to be critical to whether I will enjoy it. In the case of Tempest, I can report that the controls work quite well, even with a lot of stuff jammed onto the screen.
The game starts you off with the basic age of sail attack options. You can load your cannons with standard cannonballs for hull damage, bars for sail damage, and shrapnel for taking out enemy crew. These different options come in a variety of quality levels, and your stocks are finite, so you need to keep an eye on inventory levels as you head into a big battle. Luckily, rusty old cannonballs are handed out for free at pirate ports. As you play the game, more exotic weapons like mortars and flamethrowers can be added to your arsenal.
There are also a variety of other upgrades you can add to your ship which give you more options for attacking and other advantages. For example, a very thematic item you can pick up early is the spyglass. Using this actually takes you into a first person telescopic view, where you can gaze at ships in the distance to gather information about them.
As you sail around the game world you will visit ports belonging to a wide variety of factions. Your reputation with each is tracked, and like in most games, having higher rep will give you advantages with that faction, while dropping it too low can get you locked out of their ports entirely. The various factions all have some sort of bonus that gives you a reason to visit them and keep your reputation with them strong. Each faction also has a series of quests you can complete, which run along their individual theme. Completing these will boost your reputation and reap you some nice rewards.
You also gain a variety of personal reputations based on how you fight. These reputations colorfully describe your character, but also give you a bonus related to actions you take while playing. In my case I tended to fight at long range and flee from combat when needed. This gave me a bonus to accuracy and speed, respectively. These bonuses are earned and changed automatically as the game goes along. I thought this was a really cool idea that rewarded you based on your preferred playstyle.
It is possible play the entire game without using the strategic map at all. You can sail around the entire game world while looking at your ship, or even zoomed in all the way to the deck. A map is available there at the helm with the same information as the strategic map. This is a cool option that adds to the immersion, especially when you want to do some peaceful sailing.
As I mentioned before, as captain of the ship you are also responsible for managing the ship's finances, cargo, crew, and officers. Crew management has two key factors. How many crewman of different experience levels you have, and where you put them. There are five different experience levels. You can always pick up more level 1 crew for free at ports, but skilled crewmen are limited and have a price. However, the crew you have gains experience and this can be spent to level up your men and make them more effective. Crewmen can also be wounded or killed in battle, which means you want to avoid lopsided battles where you might lose numerous experienced men.
The second aspect to crew management is where you put these men. There are three sections of your ship: the guns, the deck fighters, and the sails. Each section can be boosted in efficiency by placing more men there, so you may want to shift men around as the situation demands. In practice, you don't have to mess with this too much, but it's something to always keep in mind.
Hauling cargo from port to port, buying low and selling high, is a classic open world mechanic that fits into Tempest nicely. Whether you are buying those goods legitimately, or taking them off the wrecks of your latest victims is up to you. Funds earned by combat and selling goods can be used to upgrade your ship in numerous ways. Stronger hulls and bigger cannons are on offer of course, as well as smaller upgrades and tweaks to customize your ship. Once you earn enough cash, you can even buy an entirely new ship. These range from quick sloops to triple decked battleships.
I talked early on about how impressive the visuals were (considering I am playing this with smooth frame rates on a two year old phone) but something should also be said about the sound and music. The music is some of the best I have heard in a new game so far this year. It's exactly the kind of stuff you would expect from a good pirate movie and will have you feeling like Jack Sparrow going into the action. The sound effects are also very well done. The ship creaks as you change direction, the waves crash against your hull, and the cannons roar in battle. There is a lot going on in this regard, and I recommend playing with headphones on to get the full effect.
The game includes more fantastical elements as it progresses, including special artifacts, magical powers, and even sea monsters. I will let you discover those fun encounters on your own. The game also features co-op and PvP multiplayer, though I did not experience any of it during my playtime so far. This was likely because I spent most of my time playing before the game fully released. From everything I've read about the PC version of the game, these features are fun and seamlessly built into the gameplay. If you and someone else are sailing through the same part of the game world and enter a battle, there is a chance you will find yourself fighting along with, or against, that human player.
If any negatives could be said about the game, it would be that there are a lot of systems here, but none delve too deep. The gameplay loop is nothing new, you earn money in a variety of ways, then spend it to get bigger, better stuff so you can earn more money faster to buy more stuff. You've seen all this before. That said, everything here is as solidly constructed as the hull of Old Ironsides. The game delivers exactly the experience the developers set out to create.
Clearly, this is a game with a lot of content and things to do. Considering the price, and compared to typical mobile game offerings, you get some serious bang for your buck with Tempest. There are no In-App Purchases or microtransactions to be seen. $8 gets you the full experience, which is a rare thing on these platforms. I wanted to try the game out on my iPad, but it kept saying the device was not compatible. Hopefully this has been fixed with the full release of the game, but even if not, the game works extremely well on the much smaller iPhone.
While in a lot of ways the game offers standard open-world gaming fare, it is done here with a high level of competency all wrapped in an appealing setting. I find that I don't game much on my iPhone, with unsatisfying titles arriving and then walking the plank shortly after, but Tempest has me rethinking that pattern. The short initial load time, impressive sounds and visuals, all on top of the fully featured gameplay, has earned it a permanent spot on my phone.
- Joe Beard
Official Website: http://www.herocraft.com/
Tempest is available on iOS and Android devices.
The PC version is available on Steam.