Sea of Last Chances

This isn’t a review, per se. Actually, it started in my head as a rant. After-all, I feel more than a little salty at the release of Sea of Thieves. It looked to be such a gorgeous game built on the wonderful premise of letting friends to crew up, explore the ocean and do some plundering. And as a bare-bones platform, that’s what the game is, albeit only just. After years of following the game’s development, of salivating over the idea of countless islands full of mysteries to explore, an immersive world full of colorful characters, and the ability to customize your pirate and their ship to make them truly your own, Sea of Thieves proved to be a classic case of over-promise and under-deliver.

Sea of Thieves is a classic case of over-promise and under-deliver.

The crazy thing about it all is that the ideas are there. I’ve read through the Art of Sea of Thieves and many of the other companion materials, and clearly the creative departments had been working overtime to bring everything to life. But in execution, so much of it failed to manifest. NPCs are shallow and dull. Hidden locations are empty and unworthy of exploration. Customization options—one of the biggest selling points touted time and again—were minimal. And “Pirate Legends,” which had been promised as Sea of Thieves’ expansive end-game, when the “real” fun would start, were all hype and minimal substance.

Many reviews of Sea of Thieves have shared these observations, while many of the more forgiving fans have suggested patience and talked about how more is coming. And maybe that’s so, but it doesn’t change the fact that people paid full price for a half-baked game. One in which there isn’t enough to do, and so players grow bored with the tedium and instead wind up killing anything that floats just for the LOLs; and everyone else winds up killing anything that floats in preemptive defense. That’s not piracy—that’s paranoid anarchy. And on a fun scale of 1 to 10, it’s adrift in uncharted waters.

This isn’t piracy—it’s paranoid anarchy.

So yeah, things are off to a rocky start. You can tell that the game’s developers are well aware the clock’s ticking before they’re declared this year’s No Man’s Sky from their regular podcasts, in which they always put a sunny outlook over the thinly-veiled subtext of, “please bear with us while we sort this shit out.”

And now it’s May, the month in which we were promised a massive update full of new content. I hope it’s true, because patience and sunny outlooks aside, I think players need to finally see Rare making real strides to deliver on the game that they sold us in the promos. One in which we have vast options for customizing our pirates. One in which the islands are actually worth exploring, where mysteries are more than empty riddles (and krakens more than just tentacles), and where pirate ships aren’t engaged in endless, pointless battles out of shear boredom.

Through it all, I’m still a sap for Sea of Thieves. I believe in the dream, and I’m convinced that the creatives at Rare have brilliant ideas that were intended for launch day, but for whatever reason couldn’t be released on schedule. But now’s the time for it all to start coming together. We’ve seen a tiny trickle of new outfits as of May 1st, which is a good start, but only a fraction of what’s needed. Hopefully the trickle is about to turn into something more substantive, because if Sea of Thieves under-delivers this month, I suspect many fans will consider it a last straw.

Secret of Monkey Island – SOLVED (for realz this time.)

So just about a year ago, I boldly stated that I’d solved the secret of Monkey Island. In truth, all I did was finally get an ingame joke that had gone over my head all these years. But this time, I mean it. I think I’ve actually discovered something significantly game-changing about Monkey Island that I’ve never seen discussed elsewhere.

First, some backstory. Yes, the original game was called The Secret of Monkey Island, and yes, the game revealed that the ghost pirate LeChuck had been hiding out on Monkey Island, which could, clearly, be considered the island’s secret. But the series creator, Ron Gilbert, has claimed that there actually is another, greater secret—one meant to be revealed in the trilogy’s never-created final chapter.

“But Bilge,” you say, “you’ve gone daft. There’s no ‘never-created’ third chapter. After The Secret of Monkey Island and Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge, we had The Curse of Monkey Island, and then Escape from Monkey Island, and finally Tales of Monkey Island. And besides all that, in Escape the secret of Monkey Island was clearly revealed to be that the giant monkey head was actually part of a giant monkey robot.”

“You’ve done your homework,” says I. “And you’re correct on all counts, but you’re forgetting one important detail. Ron Gilbert wasn’t part of those further releases, meaning only the first two of the series are OG Monkey Island. Everything that followed was more of an extended alternate timeline, and doesn’t reflect Gilbert’s vision for the true trilogy—or its secret. In fact, he’s even said as much in interviews.” Continue reading

Pamper yerself. Pirate-style.

You work hard. Between vet appointments and housecleaning and the 9-to-5 grind at the acid mines or nail factory or law dispensary or whatever you do for a living, you’re beat. And you long for nothing more than to cut loose and blow off steam in a manner most piratey. You reach for the rum and cigars, but then remember the doctor told you to cut back. You’d settle for striking a jaunty pose, but your knee isn’t what it used to be. You could say bugger it all, grab a flintlock and raid the neighbors poolside tiki bar, but there’s that damned restraining order to think about…

So what’s a modern pirate to do? All you ask is the chance to swash the occasional buckle, but Talk Like a Pirate Day is months away and your hearty crewmates are all busy with their kids at judo practice and ballet recitals. You’re too landlocked to steal a dinghy, and too broke and/or out-of-shape for any respectable carousing.

Whenever the call of the sea is thwarted, it’s good to remember our pirate forebears of old, and how they dealt in such times. When Blackbeard had to let the Queen Anne’s Revenge sail without him while he stayed behind for jury duty, did he mope around the docks, morosely stabbing strangers with a sad little “yar”? Probably. But it didn’t help his sour mood—that could only be remedied with a pirate spa night. Continue reading

Coming Soon: Pirate Emojis

Pirate fans rejoice! It’s tough out there, what with no good pirate movies on the horizon, Black Sails done and done, and half the country awash in sub-zero temps. But on the bright side, the new Emoji’s have just been announced, and two of them are quite piratey:

Three, if you’re generous:

So yes, you can now text your mates with a little extra swagger, wrapping up your threats or drunken ravings with a jolly roger, parrot or—er, bone—to show them you mean business. So that’s something.

What’s the Deal with Bilgemunky Radio?

From July 2007 through May 2012, Bilgemunky Radio featured the most diverse collection of pirate-themed songs fit for human consumption. Sadly, we’ve closed up shop, but more than 200 podcasts are still available.

Bilgemunky Radio – The Complete Collection
also available in iTunes

If you’re still hungry for more, then check out Scoundrel’s Inn, who’ve taken up the banner and done the devil’s best to keep the dream alive.

FAQ

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Review: On the Scalding Sea

On the Scalding Sea
Buy Now from Amazon

Genre: Contemporary Pirate Folk
Rating: PG

For seeming so mellow, Marooned has always been a band willing to stir sh!t up, albeit in their own, off-kilter and generally understated ways. Their early albums, Marooned and Better than Live, were upbeat releases that covertly delighted in songs of death and misery. Dance McCaw took a more cheerful approach in tone and content alike before sinking deeply into full on depression with the darkest version of The Mermaid known to mankind. And now they truly shake things up with On the Scalding Sea – because where most pirate albums take place in the mythological world of the “Caribbean,” this album takes place in the mythological world of “Elfwood,” complete with Dwargs (dwarves), M’raak (orcs), and Drey (bee people, apparently. Not bee keepers, but actual bee people. I think.)

The album begins with Revels of the M’raak. The song begins slow and deep. As is their usual style, Marooned comes across authentic and clear with measured male vocals before the ladies chime in to add a more melodious (and decidedly less orc-like) overtone. This song is a tale of longing and wandering, although it also contains a line about “refusing elvish revisions” which I assume is a dig on AD&D 4th Edition. Continue reading

Review: Bail Money

cd-bmI’ll never forget my first meeting with the Bilge Pumps. It was in a seedy back alley pub – more of a shack, really – in the red light district of the Philippines. These were the closing days of the cold war, and the Bilge Pumps had made quite the name for themselves amongst the covert circuit as NATO’s very best choice for freelance maritime demolitions. Their preferred method was to infiltrate targeted boats from beneath, hence the team’s codename, The Bilge Pumps.

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