Kartuga is a free-to-play action-MMO with RPG-elements played in a browser, designed in Unity 3D; it was developed by Ticking Time Bomb and is published by InnoGames. The game places players in the golden-age-of-sail and thrusts them into a life of piracy and mayhem. As a result, players exist in the world on sailing ships and take quests from cannon-laden ships and sink NPC enemy windjammers ships.
I’ve had a chance to play in the closed beta of Kartuga and now I can bring that experience to you.
Graphics and Sound: Welcome to the sea, pirate, now look at this!
Kartuga is a Flash-based browser game so it has many of the hallmarks of those games: it’s somewhat simplistic, the graphics are sprite-based with medium quality backgrounds, and while it’s touted as 3D, players will be playing on a 2D (ocean) field and watch 3D sprites and cannonballs sailing along it.
The graphical style is best called slightly cartoony but this does not detract from the visuals.
Much of the game is styled around the golden-age-of-sail including different places to look at. While the beta doesn’t seem to contain as many of those promised—there are five game worlds that you can visit currently which is quite huge for a beta—and they’re all filled with culturally-significant architecture and beach-front property.
Since the entire game is played from water, it’s important to mention that the water looks great. The animation even a browser-based game provides a lot of shattering golden sunlight breaking on the waves across different colors of blue; and sometimes there’s architecture or sea-bottom visible beneath as I sailed over. Going past different regions, I saw buildings that ranged from overgrown shanty shacks and terra-cotta or brick-and-mortar Venetian buildings, or tall stone bridges cast across waterways.
In videos we also see other regions that are jungle-choked or on the edges of smoldering volcanoes (with fires and magma spilling into the ocean.)
The graphics behind this game has a lot of detail and it’s worth looking at—although it’s best not to look for too long as another ship might come by and attempt to sink you!
As for sound and music, it’s pretty good so far. Not very naval, but I recall some lilting tunes that followed me across the ocean to the sound of cannonfire. Nothing much to write home about here, but the game plays up the cartoony-effect with the sounds of the ship battles and the creak of wood as the ships sail across the ocean… In some ways it’s purely atmospheric in effect and not very intrusive.
Gameplay: FIRE THE CANNON! Now, FIRE THE OTHER CANNON!
Right now, Kartuga only supplies players with three classes: the Protector, the Destroyer, and the Engineer. As explained above, everyone plays a ship on the ocean—the controls are WASD and ships have a sense of “momentum.” Cannon fire is achieved with the mouse hovering near one side or the other of the ship and pressing the left mouse button.
The Protector: does exactly what it says on the tin, this is a tank class with lower speed, medium-to-powerful firepower, and very heavy armor. As expected the three skill trees on the protector do different types of tanking. The first turns the player into an impenetrable fortress—heavy armor designed to swallow up anything the enemy throws at them, sitting in the cannon arc and preventing cannonballs from hitting teammates. Another class is all about getting in-close-and-personal to slow down and pin enemies in place so that teammates have an easier time pummeling them (while also beating the snot out of them.) Finally, a ranged-support class that uses high accuracy and critical hits to inflict massive damage.
The Destroyer: the DPS unit of the game, provided with lower armor, higher speed, and impressive firepower. Described as “lightning fast aggressor” it moves quickly across the battlefield like an angel-of-death, dispensing cannonballs from any number of ranges and postures to make an enemies’ armor like Swiss cheese. The different skill trees on this vessel allow players to spec between a long-ranged-sniper, a medium range hit-and-run vessel, or a toe-to-toe scrapper with heavy armor designed to shove cannonballs onto the deck of an enemy ship at close range.
The Engineer: this ship is a controller class, with a fairly rounded firepower, speed, and armor, the engineer won’t stand up will in a frontal assault or toe-to-toe fight but instead deploys a number of traps and buffs to turn the very sea against her enemy. Engineers play like a support class with some pets in the form of buoys and drones; as well as repair kits for friends in the fray to keep them fighting (giving it a healing ability); they’re also loaded up with capabilities that can debuff, confuse, slow, and befuddle the enemy.
The game supplies a number of different types of ammo from the ubiquitous “pathetic” cannonballs that do regular damage, trueshot cannonballs for extra critical damage, flaming-pitch cannonballs for damage-over-time—and the like. Amid the cannons are those that hit better in close, at medium, or at long range (including mortars that act as a sort of odd sniping weapon.) Cannon choice can decide what kind of broadside a player is capable of delivering and greatly affects playstyle. Everything but “pathetic” cannonballs cost in-game currency so running missions and bounty is needed to upkeep ammo.
Other items include crew members who can be slotted into the various stations that a ship requires from first mate on down. Crew will give buffs and affect special abilities with their boons (including resistances, fire rate, critical rate, accuracy, and range.) Aside from crew and cannon, the game also affords consumables to help give players that extra edge in combat
Every moment of the game is played on the sea and even though the game is in beta, that sea feels a little crowded. Most of the quests run so far have been fetch or kill—pick up a quest to sink a particular type of boat or deliver an item to another NPC for a new quest. However, the whole of the world feels a lot like a cartoon version of the Pirates of Penzance, Caribbean, and Treasure Island—let’s we forget that the game has dozens of historically themed ports (based on the actual age-of-sail locales.)
Freemium: Expecting a cash shop and the ability to buy into boosts
As Innogames Kartuga is a free-to-play game we can expect that it will use a cash shop with freemium currency in order to engage users—however, due to the closed beta it’s hard to tell exactly what will appear in the shop currently.
As with most Innogames free-to-play titles the cash shop contains mostly quality-of-life boosts (such as XP or gold earning or else) as well as aesthetic items. However, there’s also been talk about selling items in the shop that players can also earn in game, just giving freemium users a boost over the free-to-play
Conclusion: An interesting pirate game with a nice mechanic that plays in browser
So far so good!
The amazing amount of customization (even with only three classes, each with three skill tracks, that’s nine different playable-ship-styles) including different crewmates, ammo, and cannon players will find a lot of different sorts of capability means that players will find themselves tinkering and working their way into their favorite way to approach both PvE and PvP.
In fact, while I didn’t review it here, PvP is a big deal for Kartuga. The developer, Ticking Time Bomb looks forward to employing a sort of cooperative PvP to engage players in the game far beyond the end game—and being that ship-to-ship PvP across any MMO is rather lacking right now (especially in browser-based MMO) it seems that Kartuga will more than likely have a niche it’ll fit into nicely.
The graphics and sound combine nicely with cartoon-styling and expected sounds—see buoys, the creak-of-wood and sail, the sound of wind and water—as well as jaunty naval tunes played as I sailed. I liked the sound of the cannon and the satisfying crunch and swoosh of water as the enemy sank beneath the waves.
So, if you have the buccaneering spirit and want a browser-based free-to-play pirate title: check out Kartuga!