Pirates of Gravitae: Review
This game was reviewed on PC.
Reviewed by: Oskar van der Vliet
Pirates of Gravitae is an early access release developed by Innerverse games. It was first released in March of 2022, with as far as I am aware, no confirmed date for the full release. You play as a pirate ship that has rockets strapped to the bottom, and fight other flying ships as you dodge and weave through the air and other obstacles, shooting each other down in a roguelike structure. To sum up what I am going to say in the rest of this review, the core gameplay is fun and engaging, with a lot of the surrounding details feeling a bit undercooked and lacking. I will reaffirm this, the game is in early access. So be mindful of any complaint I have that it is not a full release. I am going to complain regardless in order to inform any buyers of the current product.
But let's quickly go over the presentation first. I mention it mostly out of some sort of need to, not because I have much to say really. The graphics are fairly charming but nothing special. Same goes for the soundtrack. It is very fitting, very pirate-y but not something I'm going to keep thinking about. But it doesnt need to leave a lasting impression, it absolutely does the job it needs to.
Now to analyse what I said earlier, lets begin with the core gameplay. The controls are incredibly simple and intuitive, creating a satisfying weighty feel for the ship. As with all pirate ships you are only able to shoot the cannons from each side of your ship which is the perfect detail that holds the gameplay together, requiring the player to constantly be shifting the ship's direction and placement to keep the enemies within range. You aim simply with your mouse, and have 3 abilities of your choice to aid your journey. All of this is excellent and easily the strongest aspect of the game. The levels are layered with rocks, wind currents and random wreckage. The wind currents push your ship in whatever direction, the wreckage if broken can contain rewards and health, and the rocks kind of do nothing. This is where my first complaint begins, the rocks feel largely ineffectual. You can't shoot your enemies through them but neither can they, so it doesn't offer much of a tactical advantage nor disadvantage. I assumed if you rammed into them you would take damage, making you need to be more careful with your ship but that ended up not being the case, and they rarely impact anything during gameplay.
Then to discuss more structural gameplay. It is a roguelike, with you gaining different items as you go through the levels, and it culminates in a boss at the end. The items are a little ineffectual though, at the end of the run I don't feel any different then the beginning of it, despite my long list of items. And this is due to two reasons. Firstly, the items are very conditional, most only applying their effect in certain circumstances, like whether it's night or day, and high or low altitude. The second reason is that the abilities themselves do very little. A 10% damage increase sometimes isn't going to be too noticeable when most enemies die in 2-4 attacks. Or a 15% increase in turn speed, I am already quite happy with how fast I turn, I don't feel the need to improve that much. There are some more useful ones based on health, or energy and energy recharge, they aren't all useless, but a majority of them feel pretty lacklustre. I would suggest an adjustment in these values at the bare minimum, but I'm aware of how drastically that can throw off balancing so I am not sure how likely this is to be fixed. There is an exception to this, being the different captains. Each captain offers a much more significant change, more in line with some bigger abilities you would see in something like the binding of isaac. One creates a sword that follows the mouse which at the cost of energy can block bullets and deal damage. Another makes all rewards from wreckage turn into health pickups. There's even an ability that turns your ship into a tesla coil, dealing damage to nearby enemies. There is a problem with poor balancing of these abilities, some being quite definitely better than others, but they are the most engaging changes between runs and add the most variety. While still on the roguelike mechanics, there is also a currency that allows you to buy upgrades that persists from run to run. It's nothing special, pretty simple upgrades and not exactly unheard of in the genre but it works pretty well, and I don't have much to complain about it.
Lastly on the gameplay side of things, with how much you are going to get out of this, there isn't much. Obviously with games your mileage may vary, especially with a roguelike where you're supposed to repeat it a bunch of times. But with that in mind, I beat the boss in about 20-25 minutes. I continued to play ofcourse, getting to the boss a couple more times, but there isn't anything after that boss fight, the game ends there, so content wise you aren't looking at a lot. But of course, like I said in the beginning, this can easily be explained with the fact that it is early access. This isn't a complete product. I also encountered a small bug when I played, but it feels wrong to call the game buggy as it's in early access. The bug, by the way, was that after I beat the boss the end screen wouldn't load, so I had to reset my game and I found it autosaved right before the boss so I just had to repeat the encounter.
But yes, it is early access. Do not expect a finished product. But if the gameplay looks enticing to you, and you would like to support it I would absolutely recommend it. It feels like a good game on its way to becoming great. And it isn't too expensive either, so it's not a steep buy-in. I rate it 3 out of 5 stars in its current state, but with the addition of a second boss and a little bit more refinement of the abilities it would easily be a 4 out of 5. It just needs a little more cooking, a little more time in the oven before it's really ready to be all it can be. I wish the developers the best and I hope it turns out well.
Reviewed by: Oskar van der Vliet