Raft Pirates (iOS) Game Review: An Incredibly Frustrating Experience

The SimCity 5 launch reminded me of Diablo III all over again, with its always on server connection (EA is not calling it that, rather players are “sharing” the same game space) and to hear an EA exec mention that more people logged on than they have expected, playing in ways that weren’t expected (check it out), makes one wonder whether do these guys have any idea what are they talking about in the first place.

This problem however isn’t endemic to the Diablos and Simcities of the world as casual games, which are facing a boom period on iOS and Android devices are guilty of this too. Mainly created to tap into the freemium model, these games constantly are in touch with backend servers, in the likelihood to prevent cheating (especially those that support any form of multiplayer) and to manage in-game purchases.

The folks at at Big Blue Bubble has just launched a brand new MMO on the iPad, featuring pirates and the high seas. Titled Raft Pirates, players get to build their pirate ships by piecing together rafts, and putting some really crazy looking weapons on board. The crew look like something out from a Miyazaki film and having said that, everything in the game is in beautiful 2D line-art graphics.

Besides taking turns battling other fellow pirates (the multiplayer action doesn’t require the active participation of other players, it’s basically a play against power levels), and building your rafts, players get to participate in mini games, collecting salvage (which is earned through combat as well) by diving deep into the waters of Rift Pirates.

In  a perfect world, a reviewer like me would say, hey, this will be the next big thing, but then like SimCity and Diablo, Raft Pirates features always-on connectivity back to its servers. Yes the game is an MMO (and one can argue that SimCity 5 is one as well), but what happens if the servers do not scale up with the seemingly increasing numbers of players buoyed by positive initial reviews. You get nothing short of a disaster.

I’m now having trouble starting the game, it crashes upon start-up. Before that, combat resolution was really slow and there were more than one occasion where I was booted out after a hard-earned victory (reason being the game communicates with the server during and right after combat, and so happened it failed), denying me salvage. To rub salt to the wound, the damage to my ship still remains, with  nothing (in terms of salvage) to show.

You can imagine that it has been an incredibly frustrating experience reviewing Raft Pirates. It seems to be a very nicely  made game, only to be hampered by it’s back end. I would give the game a 4.5 out of 5 just for the gameplay and graphics alone, but connectivity issues and the fact that it is unplayable now makes it difficult for me to recommend the game at all. It’s available for free on the iTunes App Store, so you’re more than welcome to check it out: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/raft-pirates/id539098940?mt=8.

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