Let me be clear, I am not a particularly subtle person, and I do not do stealth well. Frigato: Shadows of the Caribbean is all about stealth, sneaking, and piracy. That piracy isn’t going to be the friendly piracy of Pirates of the Caribbean either. Frigato: Shadows of the Caribbean is all about stabbing enemies from behind while avoiding their sightlines and occasionally murdering soldiers with barrels.
In Frigato, players are a pirate captain who must lead a crew of disheveled rogues in a race against the British Royal Navy to recover a great treasure. That’s really it. However, the big challenge here is that you’re outmanned and outgunned. Ergo, you must take advantage of the sneak mechanic. With the sneak function also comes a distract function, and it is up to you to decide how best to use the environmental elements in your quest for treasure.
I’d love to be more specific here, but the opening cut scene didn’t really explain what it was players were meant to do. One of the characters mentions a job, and then, you’re transported into the tutorial mission.
Before going too deeply into gameplay, I should note that Frigato is an Early Access game on Steam, and as such, it is prone to many of the problems one would expect. However, before we get there, let’s talk about the good. First off, I like the aesthetic. The graphics are neat and clean, if repetitive, and there’s been a lot of detail added to the setting to give you the sense that you really are engaged in piracy. By detail, I mean blood splatter. Yes, the title is pretty graphic for what it is. Frigato’s voice acting is about par for the course, and the soundtrack does a good job of creating a tense mood.
I really enjoyed being able to direct my parrot to go wherever I needed it to go in order to distract wandering or stationary patrols. It would be great if that’s what actually happened all the time. Sometimes, attempting to send the parrot sent the character walking to his doom. While death results mostly in respawning, it gets old after about the billionth time, as you might imagine.
The devs clearly envisioned a high level of interaction with the physical items spread throughout the mission, and that’s a really great idea, playing into the tactical use of the space. Similarly, the game ensures that you won’t be guessing where the patrol’s lines of sight are as the cones are well demarcated when you come close enough potentially to trigger the soldier’s attention. The cone shifts color based on the threat of detection level, going from green to red, sometimes in very short order. The broken lines at the end of the cone indicate a lesser ability for the soldier to see you, so you can, if you move quickly, skirt along that area without alerting the soldier.
Frigato’s camera is top down, which should be fine, and generally it is. However, you’ll find even as early as the tutorial mission that you frequently cannot see the soldier until you’ve alerted him to your presence, resulting in your demise. Much as in life, gunshots tend to be fatal in Frigato. Also note, that depending on how many soldiers are stacked in an area, you can alert them all, prompting them to mob you, and there’s not all that much you can do about it. Running is an option and sometimes works but generally really doesn’t. The title seems to want you to find a hiding spot to wait out the mob, which would be fine if it didn’t glitch occasionally, allowing the soldiers to see you through walls.
Frigato will remind you to save at various intervals, and frankly, that becomes a bit of a strategy as you’ll restart from your last save point whenever you die. The soldiers that you killed before saving remain dead, and at times, that was the best way to whittle down their numbers. The problem is that if you use a throwing knife to kill an enemy, you do have to retrieve it in order for it to remain in your inventory. There are no magic respawning knives here, folks. We’re going for realism! Thus, you have to search the body of your victim to retrieve your weapon, and that dagger is your only ranged weapon. Ergo, if the soldier fell in a high traffic location, you may never successfully retrieve that dagger, which severely hampers your ability to complete the level.
Frigato also offers you the opportunity to play as other characters that have different special abilities, but I didn’t find that they helped a great deal. Charlie’s ability to force enemies to dance is fun, but I don’t really know how these characters should be used. I suppose that’s in keeping with Frigato’s dedication to keeping the objective mysterious.
Frigato: Shadows of the Caribbean is a great example of a great premise that’s undermined by the execution. Even when taking into account its status as an Early Access game on Steam, it has some very real problems that need to be addressed in the final version. The idea of Frigato: Shadows of the Caribbean is great, but I’d really like to see it offer enough alternate routes to avoid having to kill anyone and possibly add more polish in terms of the controls, sound design, and mechanics. Credit where it’s due, the devs are really good about pushing out patches and updates, so I have hopes that the title will grow into its premise.
Frigato: Shadows of the Caribbean retails for $11.99 on Steam.
- Frigato offers you play tips on the loading screen, and one of them very cheerfully tells you to be careful around enemies. At a certain point, that felt less like a helpful tidbit of advice and more like it was mocking its player.
- The title lets you move the bodies of fallen soldiers, but I’m not sure why. Soldiers don’t aggro when they see their fallen compatriots.
- I don’t know what the raccoon with the earring is all about either.
- I do think that with a bit more work, Frigato could become a more enjoyable addition to the tactical stealth genre, but it has a ways to go.