Cloud Pirates Beta Review
Pros: Exciting combat, looks great, intuitive controls
Cons: Currently slim on features, ship customization is limited, gameplay gets a little bit samey
We recently got access to the Closed Beta of Allods Team’s new PVP third person shooter Cloud Pirates, in the game you control your own flying pirate vessel and battle through a variety of game modes and maps trying to earn gold and XP so that you can upgrade your ship and ultimately buy better ones. The first thing we noted were the graphics, they’re particularly well done and find a nice balance between cartoony and realistic, with high amounts of detail and, as we found during battle, some great effects when it comes to explosions!
The experience was, in our opinion, a true closed beta; there are still a lot of features missing, a lot of polish needed in places, but game wise it looked and performed great and we didn’t suffer any noticeable bugs during play. When starting out we had a choice of three Tier 1 starter ships, stats wise they all looked relatively similar in ways, whilst they were different classes of a fashion though it wasn’t particularly obvious what they were. When jumping into game we were a little unsure whether we were supposed to be a front line tanky defender, or focusing more on dealings DPS, depending on our ship choice; this is a negative contrast in comparison to similar aerial armada shooter MMO Dreadnought from Grey Box where it was always immediately obvious what role you were filling (this may differ down the line with the higher tier ships).
The quick tutorial broke down combat and the controls very well, though the controls are extremely simple they are also very intuitive when it comes to aiming and firing your weapons. Standard movement is done through WASD, able to move forwards and backwards and steer your ship, using Spacebar and Shift you can gain or lose altitude respectively providing a full 360 degree movement where you can go up over the top of other ships or underneath them as you fly around; although you don’t have space based movement with pitch and yaw, the ship just moves up and down vertically. The cannon controls we were particularly impressed with; your ships arsenal is broken down into three primary weapons; forward cannons, starboard cannons and port side cannons; each of which has around a 90 degree firing arc. Depending on where you are aiming the cursor determines which cannons arc you are in (with no rear facing cannons) and so when you fire you are only firing the cannons you are currently aiming with. Whilst this means you can’t attack ships on all sides and must primarily focus on a single target, it did make the control intuitive, easy to use, and very effective.
Our first four matches went amazingly well, suspiciously well and into our third match when the enemy team hadn’t managed to earn any points and we still (in all our games) hadn’t seen the death screen due to our skills, we clicked that we were fighting against AI. This is a real annoyance for us, and not one that is restricted to Cloud Pirates, but we hate it when you can’t differentiate between AI and real players due to the developers using gamer tags to name their ships and avoiding putting any [Bot] or [AI] style tags. Asking in the lobby how we go about playing against real players, one of the developers “Omega” (we presume a developer or publisher due to other chats he was having) informed us we had to play five AI matches before we could PVP; we hadn’t been keeping track of how many we’d played and, at this point in time, no personal player stats screen exists where you can check your win/losses, games played, etc. (but it is in development).
Pushing through a few more games and we ended up going up against real players in 10 v 10 matches, and it showed, the skill suddenly went through the roof, though we have to say we performed consistently well and ended up top of the score screen a few times. Combat is fairly fast and with abilities such as speed bursts or long range teleports players were flying all around the pretty large maps, breaking off into little hunting parties and trying to take out stragglers at the edge of battle. We managed to play four out of the five game modes (though apparently only two game modes were supposed to be available to Tier 1 ships), which included a team Deathmatch, Points Capture, Escort and Treasure Hunt, with the unplayed mode being Dreadnought. Deathmatch and Points Capture are fairly standard, Treasure Hunt is like a capture the flag but with three coloured neutral treasure chests that you have to take to a corresponding coloured ship, and Escort is part point capture where you take control of different teleporters that summon an AI ship and you have to escort it to an exit portal.
The modes were fun and combat is pretty exciting; whilst every game does feel very Team Deathmatch orientated with players splitting between focusing on just chasing kills and others focusing on getting the objectives, overall it does feel team focused and being able to get to a more distant part of the map quickly when seeing an ally in trouble is great. We will say that after a couple of hours of playing though the game did start to feel a little bit samey, whilst there are multiple modes and each has a unique map, the reality is that the maps whilst being designed differently are still just lots of open space with rocks in the way (which are great for taking cover and trying to escape to when you’re low on health) and don’t really stand out that much from each other.
Earning XP and gold allowed us to unlock new tech upgrades, which give you passive boosts and the occasional new skill such as torpedoes, and each ship has its own mini tech tree to progress down, albeit there isn’t much customization really and the same ship type won’t wildly change from player to player. Then there is a wider ship Development tree where players have to earn enough experience in a specific pre-req ship before they can unlock higher tiered ships in the tree that they link to; it’s essentially the same setup as World of Tanks/Warplanes/Warships. One of the disappointing aspects of the game was that, at least currently, adding new tech onto your ship doesn’t change the cosmetic and so your ships seemingly always look the same and it’s impossible to tell in game what your opponent is kitted out like.
Cloud Pirates is fun, it looks great, the combat is fast and exciting, we’re just not sure if it has enough depth to stay interesting without throwing a hell of a lot more modes at it and designing some more unique maps that don’t feel the same. Definitely worth checking out and trying once it goes into open beta, and the developers are still pushing out new features and looking at new modes already, so the future definitely looks promising.