Time: to party
I jolt awake on the rough but familiar wooden floor of the tavern, a scream catching in my throat. Quickly raising an arm to my neck, I’m relieved to feel there isn’t a Kraken tentacle wrapped around it. No slime either. I’m not sure why, but a diet of sailors and ships has given the Kraken some highly questionable excretions – and this is coming from someone who only washes when they fall off their ship.
After the events of yesterday I feel I’ve earned my morning grog, although I was quite firm with Tess that I don’t want the Kraken vomit-based concoction that was once my favorite.
It’s just me again this morning – my crewmates are taking a short leave of absence following our last adventure to appreciate their loved ones and remaining limbs.
Sauntering out into the blinding sunlight I raise a shielding hand to my brow, and spy my faithful old SS Pugwash nestled in the dock.
Bouncing on the balls of my well-worn shoes, I weigh up my options for the day. I’ve assisted the Merchant’s Alliance and the Gold Hoarders thus far, so perhaps it’s time to pay a visit to the Order of Souls.
I won’t deny I’ve been putting this one off. There’s something creepy about the Order of Souls, the name being an obvious factor in my unease. The Order of Soul I could get on board with – what a genre – but the Order of Souls? Yeah, that’s going to be something very different.
Still, the bright warmth of the sun makes me feel braver than I actually am, and I approach a small shack nestled under a closed-up house. It has a telltale ethereal glow and all-seeing eye above the entrance, which tell me I’m in the right place.
Stepping inside, a muggy heat immediately brings a sweat to my brow, while strong incense singes the hair from the inside of my nose. Around the room there’s a mix of warm orange and cold blue flames, as well as a rather alarming collection of skulls; a single skull would be alarming enough, but there’s a whole basket of the things here.
Feeling watched, I turn towards the counter in the far-right of the room to see a tall, spindly woman wearing the shadows behind her like a particularly fine shawl. Her eyes have been bandaged over, yet somehow I still feel penetrated by her stare. She can’t see me, but she can see me. Maybe the incense is stronger than I thought.
Each of the guilds offers quests that will suit different styles of play. The Order of Souls are best for players that favor combat-based play. Becoming a kind of piratical bounty hunter, you'll face waves of skeletons before taking on a final boss.
Approaching the table, she introduces herself to me as Madame Oksana before I even clear my throat. I ask about fortune telling, she scoffs at me as though it’s ridiculous that the mystic trappings of her surroundings could lead me to this conclusion. "We", she tells me, "can read the minds of skeletons".
I’m glad I’m not a skeleton, because all that’s running through my mind right now is ‘craaaaazy’.
Still, even spooky gold is gold, and I accept a quest from her which tasks me with finding the skull of one Captain ‘Plunderin‘ Parks.
Down by the docks I stop by Scarlet the Shipwright’s stall to look at the 70,000 gold sovereign hull paint job I’ve been coveting. Shaking my pathetic coin purse, I sigh. Well, that’s all the incentive I need to go and find a creepy wise skull.
The gold you gather from completing your quests can be spent on outposts. At the moment you can purchase new outfits, cosmetic ship upgrades and more advanced quests. After three months, microstransactions will be added to the game, and players will have the option to spend real money on in-game items. The items available for purchase will only ever be cosmetic.
My quest comes with a picture of Captain Parks but it’s not particularly helpful; skeletons all kind of look the same. The one thing to note is his snazzy hat, which I know I’ll be able to spot, and envy, from a mile off.
On board SS Pugwash I set a heading for Tri-Rock Isle, where Parks was last seen, and weigh anchor.
Getting to the island takes barely any time at all (I don’t even get to finish my shanty) and I drop the anchor. Before I even get to the shore a wave of cursed pirate skeletons, which I can only assume is Parks’ crew, is coming to meet me, and I pull out my cutlass.
All of the skeletons look similar, the only distinguishing features being that some are wielding guns while others run in close with cutlasses of their own.
Then I see the snazzy hat. Parks. Disposing of the final crew member, I turn my attention to the captain and swing wildly with my sword. He’s more of a challenge than the others, but with a particularly forceful swing I feel his bones crumble beneath my blade, and see his glowing skull drop with a plop into the water by my feet. Sadly his hat is now nowhere to be seen; I'd take it to the afterlife too, to be fair.
Sighing with relief, I pick up the skull and wade into the water to start the swim back to my ship, where I place it in the center of the table in my cabin. The skull has a soft green glow, and I swear I can hear soft whispers coming from it that make the hairs on the back of my neck stand to attention.
I’m not sure I’ll make a habit of working with the Order of Souls – as a pirate I wouldn’t say I’m a lover, but neither am I a fighter. ’Dispassionate sneakthief’ is probably my category.
It’s not long before I see the outpost appear on the horizon. The wind fills my sails, and I hear them snap outwards as I pick up a surprising amount of speed. Too much speed… enough speed to send me off course. Spinning the ship’s wheel hard to port (and feeling the need for some hard port) I try to pull myself back in line, but it’s not enough, and I bump the ship against a collection of rocks.
If you're not careful, you can do damage to your ship by crashing it. Always make sure you have planks of wood on board, as these are used to patch up holes – be quick, though, because water will pour in and fill up the ship, and too much water and you'll capsize. After the holes are patched you can start bailing out the water; with larger crews, of course, this is a much faster process.
When I say ’bump’ against the rocks I mean ’crash headlong into them with a deafening screech’. It’s chaos. I hear the water pour in. If I had a crew they’d be screaming – instead it’s just me screaming.
Dropping the anchor, I rush below deck with planks of wood in hand. I swear I can feel the eyes (well the sockets) of Parks’ all-knowing skull judging me from my own desk. Well it wasn't wise enough to avoid my sword, so it can’t be that clever.
There are three rather large holes in the bow of the ship, and water is streaming through them. Wasting no time, I cover each hole with a plank of wood and hammer it into place. The problem doing this as one person is that as you repair one hole the ship continues to fill with water, lending a definite urgency to the task.
Ship repaired, I slowly bail the water that’s somehow managed to rise halfway up the stairs, ‘tripping’ with the bucket to slosh some water on the judgmental skull.
Satisfied the ship won’t capsize in my absence, I swim to shore with the skull and collect my reward from Madame Oksana before heading off again.
Deciding to clear the backlog of Gold Hoarder quests I’ve managed to accumulate, I set off to an island north-east of the outpost.
The seas are choppy and jewel-green today, and I delight in sailing to the crest of the waves before feeling the swoop in my stomach as the ship crashes back down.
After sailing past my destination three times (I did say I’m not good with maps), I finally land.
It’s when I’m on the island, and counting my steps to find the spot marked by the X, that I hear cannon fire. Scaling a rock at the highest point of the island I see a two-man sloop firing on my own very empty ship.
Spluttering with indignation, I pull out my pistol and fire a warning shot. Probably not a good idea, I gulp, as I see the glint of spyglasses from the enemy ship. A bullet whistles past my head, and I throw myself behind a rock to catch my breath and protect my delicate forehead.
Definitely not a good idea.
Making a snap decision, I throw myself from the rear side of the island into the sea, and swim underwater towards the attacking ship determined to put a stop to this, well, piracy.
Hidden under the waves, I’m hoping I can catch them by surprise, but when I pull myself up the ladder to their ship I find one of them waiting for me, and immediately strike out with my sword. After a brief scuffle, which I imagine looks rather pathetic from a distance, I manage to slay this crew member, and I shove a healing banana in my mouth with urgency.
Certain there were two of them, I look around for the other pirate, sword held in front of me defensively.
Suddenly a gunshot hits the back of my head from above. Spinning around wildly, expecting to see a pistol-wielding monkey hanging from the rigging, I instead see the other crew member in the crow’s nest before a second shot finishes me off.
Though the Ferry of the Damned will bring you back to the world of the living, it doesn't always drop you off at the most ideal moment – it can be very frustrating to re-spawn in a situation that's likely to result in your death all over again.
Blinking rapidly, I find myself on the Ferry of the Damned for the second time in two days, this time with a splitting headache.
It’s no coincidence, I reflect bitterly, that this ship is so reminiscent of public transport. Waving despondently at my fellow dead passengers, I take a deep breath and prepare to return to life…
…only to find myself back aboard my now-sinking ship. With barely a moment to think, I’m dragged back under the waves. Scrabbling to get to the surface with barely a breath in my lungs, I think pirates are the worst.
I’m sure somewhere I can hear the laughter of that poor solo pirate from yesterday.
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Emma Boyle is TechRadar’s ex-Gaming Editor, and is now a content developer and freelance journalist. She has written for magazines and websites including T3, Stuff and The Independent. Emma currently works as a Content Developer in Edinburgh.