If there’s anything I’ve learned over the past 27 years of life, it’s that everyone loves pirates. You put pirates in anything and people are bound to take notice, mostly due to how popular the concept is. Disney’s “Pirates of The Caribbean” films are proof of just how much people love pirates. Of course, video-games are no strangers to pirate-centric themes either.
You have the Risen series, the Tales of Monkey Island games, as well as the very recent Sea of Thieves. These franchises/games are fairly well-known, but today I’m going to be talking about one of the more obscure pirate games of all time. Heck, it’s not even a full game, but rather an expansion pack! It’s time to discuss one of Neverwinter Nights’ “Premium Modules”, the often forgotten “Pirates of Sword Coast”.
For those of you don’t know what what a Premium Module is, allow me to explain. During Neverwinter Nights’ original release, members of the game’s fan community were given the chance to create their own modules for the game. The modules were then sold separate from the main game, resulting in the earliest form of “paid mods”.
However, unlike Bethesda’s attempts at paid mods, these Premium Modules were actually worth the price! You got entirely new adventures, new party members, new side-quests, and new bits of voice-acting. All of the modules were built with the intention of seeing how far they could push the game’s “Aurora Engine”, and Pirates of The Sword Coast was no exception to this rule.
The expansion pack revolved around the player working for a pirate crew aboard a ship called, “The Midnight Rose”. During a routine trip, the ship ends up being hijacked by an insane sorceress. You end up marooned on an island, while all your gear has been swept away by the waves. With only the ripped clothes on your back, a sassy parrot, and your own skills and abilities, it’s up to you to find a way off the island and get your ship and stuff back.
Pirates of The Sword Coast’s premise may seem generic at first glance, until you reach the halfpoint of the expansion and things start getting really crazy. I was honestly never bored with the story, even during the formulaic early parts. A lot of this came down to the witty dialogue, interesting characters, and fun quests.
POTC sets itself apart from the main quest of the base game by featuring an interesting plot, filled with twists and turns. There are tons of colorful characters to meet and recruit, as well as many giant beasts to topple. I don’t want to spoil too much of it, as it does have a lot of interesting plot developments.
The gameplay is identical to the base game, which involves a lot of leveling up and item management. Combat remains the same as well, still favoring strategy and planning. That’s not to say the game doesn’t offer anything new at all, because there are some things that do mix up the formula. I’m talking about the game’s “survival” elements, which only show up while you’re marooned on the island.
You see, gameplay on the island requires a lot of item management. You need to collect sticks and rocks that you can use to start campfires, or to help create makeshift weapons. At first, this is an interesting concept. Planning your survival tactics and making sure you have enough healing items is key to surviving the early portions of the island. The problem? It gets really tedious, really fast!
For one thing, you need to keep many of these supplies in your inventory at the same time. Since you can’t stack most of them, they’ll often clutter several inventory pages on their own. You also need certain items to start a campfire, which is necessary for healing. After you leave said island, you’ll no longer have a need for them at all. You will still happen across campfires that you can light later on in the game, but they’ll be far less useful at that point.
Another annoyance comes in the fact that the game does require you to do a fair bit of grinding and leveling, especially if you want to conquer the final boss. I tried fighting her at level 11, only to later discover that I needed to be level 13-14 and wearing good armor in order to stand a chance. To be fair, this complaint is more indicative of the RPG genre as a whole.
The last complaint I have is on how you achieve the game’s “good ending”. To get the good ending, you have to abandon your moral compass in order to forgive someone truly evil. This is kind of annoying, and I feel the moral ambiguity of both endings is used in a very odd way. Regardless, they do make for some interesting bookends to this expansion.
I feel like Pirates of The Sword Coast is a fine expansion to the Neverwinter Nights formula. It doesn’t really change up much, but the few additions it does add make it enjoyable. The pirate theme makes for some interesting dialogue and plot-threads, while giving the player some fun scenario in the process. If you can get past the tedious island section and its maddening item-management, then there’s certainly something fun and interesting for you here.