Under the Jolly Roger Review

Either something is seriously wrong with this game, or I just suck. Clunky controls combined with clunky menus make this game damn near unplayable. I typically don’t slam a game too hard because I’m a nice guy and want the development team to put forth their best efforts, but right from the get-go Under the Jolly Roger made me want to strap myself to an anchor and pay a visit to Davy Jones. This was the first game that made we wish there was a tutorial to get through the tutorial. Everything about this game comes across as cumbersome and tedious.

Under the Jolly Roger has a solid concept but is poorly executed on console. Coming to Xbox long after mobile and Switch releases, it seems little has been done to make use of the more powerful hardware. There has also been a bit of a glut of pirate themed games on Xbox as of late what with backwards compatibility and all so that may have spoiled me a bit. Anyhoo.

Visually the game is just okay. The water effects remind me of some older OG Xbox games and much of the graphical style reminds of many mobile games. On the sound side if things you have some dramatic music mixed in with some pirate melodies. Cannon fire is nice and bassy on my home theater system as is the foul weather sounds.

Gameplay is where Under the Jolly Roger suffers the most. There are a lot of menus to learn. A lot of management options as well. You will spend a lot of time in various menu screens. Unfortunately the sailing doesn’t do much to bolster the action. Even the ship to ship battles can be brutally tedious. While you can navigate the world by sailing in real time I found it much easier to use the map as it saved time and that there just wasn’t much to look at out on the open sea.

All in all if you’re looking for a quick bit of fun I’m sorry to say that this particular treasure chest is pretty empty. You might find a gold doubloon or two if you you have the perseverance to dig deep but even mechanics that sound exciting such as boarding an enemy galleon and engaging in hand to hand combat comes across as lacklustre due to some very basic animations. There are whole ships to fight on but it seems like the characters would rather stay in a tight cluster to engage. If damage from friendlies is an option your crew would hurt themselves as much as the enemy and it just isn’t a good look. 

Conclusion

With the gameplay in its current state there isn’t much that would compel me to play this game for any length of time let alone keep coming back for more. I won’t say that a $17.99 price tag isn’t justifiable but if I paid cash for this game I’d have some serious buyers remorse.  If you’re positive that Under the Jolly Roger floats your boat than by all means have at it, as this review is just one man’s opinion. But if you have doubts as to whether or not you want to set sail on this adventure I suggest waiting for a sale.

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This game was reviewed based on Xbox One review code, using an Xbox One console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.
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Good
  • Passable visuals and audio
  • Lots to dig in to...
Bad
  • ...but little in the way of help to learn
  • Execution doesn't match the promising setting
4.4
Poor
Gameplay - 3
Graphics - 6
Audio - 7.5
Longevity - 1
Written by
Born in New Jersey across the Hudson from Manhattan, I've been playing games for over 30 years. I can confidently say that I've played at least one game on every console ever made. An accomplished Forza artist, I enjoy racing games, platformer/puzzlers, adventure/RPG's, sports titles, and arcade shooters, although I have been known to play some FPS's on occasion. Pep AMG on Xbox and Pep_AMG on Twitch, feel free to add or give me a follow.

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