User review spotlight: Carmageddon (DOS). Released in 1997.

Cutthroats: Terror on the High Seas (Windows)

62
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
...
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Raphael (1160)
Written on  :  Jul 15, 2000
Rating  :  0.86 Stars0.86 Stars0.86 Stars0.86 Stars0.86 Stars

3 out of 4 people found this review helpful

write a review of this game
read more reviews by Raphael
read more reviews for this game

Summary

Forget Battlecruiser 3000 AD. Cutthroats is the worst game ever made.

The Good

The only redeeming qualities of the game are some of the graphics (menus, sea battles, ships), and the music is pretty good.

The Bad

How many pages do I have here?

"Cutthroats: Terror on the High Seas" (it should be "Cutthroats: Terror on the Hard Drive") is THE most bug filled, poorly programmed piece of garbage to ever be released commercially. I caution anyone against ever buying anything released by Hothouse Creations or Eidos Interactive.

There are so many things wrong with this game on so many levels it's difficult to know where to begin. First, it is unstable. It crashes a lot. Most of the basic functions of any game (saving, loading, etc.) don't work. For example, if you're playing a game and you have the Trade Menu open and start a new game, it doesn't clear out all the variables/data, and things you had done in the old game will carry over to the new game. It will crash immediately. This type of bug occurs for other things. Like if you have a mission from a governor and start a new game, the mission is still in effect and you can get penalized in the new game if you had failed the mission previously. The only choice is to restart the computer (not just the game!) to clear it out. This is really basic stuff.

When you sail to a port a menu is supposed to appear asking if you want to dock in the harbor, land at the beach, cruise, or anchor. Sometimes this message doesn't appear, and when it doesn't you're stuck (it's crashed).

The whole issue of transferring items is another thing. If you've bought cargo it's transferred to the dock where you have to put each item on a ship. The word "Cargo" is highlighted if there are items on the dock. The problem is, the word stays hilighted if all the items are removed (a very basic problem). Things are bought and sold with a slider bar or a left/right arrow. Unfortunately, there's no way to cancel a transaction, so if you just accidentally sold an item for 20$ you'll have to buy it back for more. All because of an accidental mouse click.

To transfer an item to a ship, you have to click on the down arrow next to the ship ("off the dock"). To put it on the dock, you click the up arrow ("on the dock"). However, you can only see 1 item at a time. This is a very poor interface. For example, each cannon needs 3 men to operate. So you have to switch between the cannon and gunner item on the left-hand side menu. If you move all the Gunners off the dock (onto a ship) and click on another ship and think you can move some of them to the dock, you'll be frustrated to find out that it deselected the Gunners item. Then you have to move the mouse back over, select Gunners, then move back to the ship and figure out which arrow to press. This is crazy. If they had at least not made it deselect the item that would've saved a lot of frustration.

It would've also been nice if they'd included a counter that showed how many more gunners you need, or how many cannons you could add for the amount of gunners you have. The way it is, you have to always find how many gunners you have and divide by 3. This would take a step out of the game that the user shouldn't have to bother with.

When you hire an officer and put him on a ship, even though there is a scroller on the ship's display, it won't scroll to see the other officers.

There are 5 nationalities represented: England, France, Spain, Holland, and Denmark. I went through the voice files for the governors on the hard drive, and the guy is reading from a script. Every nationality uses the same phrases, and the voice acting is terrible (I think all the governors' voices are done by the same person). The accents do not sound like the accents of the different languages represented, and they all sound similar. Because all the phrases are the same, this is very inefficient as far as hard drive space. They probably could've just figured out some slight flange effect to use for each accent and used one set of the phrases and just mixed them with the flange. This would've saved about 40MB of HD space.

There are also some audio files, the exact same files, that appear in more than one directory. They could've probably saved at least 10MB of hard drive space if they'd just used the one file.

The sea battles are the only moderately fun part of the game. However, sometimes winning a battle is next to impossible. I've outnumbered enemy ships 4-1 and lost them all. Part of this is due to the horrific pathfinding, which I will go into more detail when I talk about land battles. In the 4-1 battle, I ordered my ships to fire at the enemy Frigate. My ships all just ran into each other and never fired a shot, unable to get out of the internal loop that could never figure out a path for them around each other. In frustration I just sat there and watched. I'm not going to order each individual ship to move in a certain direction to get into firing position. The damn game is supposed to move them.

The only hope is that the enemy ships will surrender when you raise the Jolly Roger. Sometimes you'll encounter a fleet with a 32-gun Galleon, a 16-gun Frigate, and a 10-gun Brig and they'll surrender to your fleet of 2 slow, heavily laden, 10-gun Brigs. Next encounter your ships will all be sunk by a single Frigate. Completely pointless...

You're supposed to be able to sail under any of the flags of the 5 countries by clicking on the flag. Sometimes when you click on one flag it shows another. Very basic...

Now, the worst part of the game: the land battles. The graphics are mortifying 2D sprites, and are very hard to look at. The units move painfully slow. I timed it, and it took a pirate soldier 1:09 to move from one side of the window to the other. When you consider that the whole map is about 10-15 window-widths wide, you can see how long it'll take to take over a town (and you have to make numerous trips to and from the treasure chest on the beach your soldiers start at, which is usually very far from the town, to carry gold back from the town. Your soldiers can only carry so much gold at a time).

Getting the soldiers/cannons to fire or attack anything is incomprehensibly difficult. The first challenge you have is to select one of your units. This is hard because of several factors. The cursor isn't very accurate, so selecting a specific unit is hard. It's even harder if you want to pick a unit in the middle of other units, or if the unit is behind something (in which case there's no way to tell it's there, unlike a far superior game like Age of Empires II which shows an outline of things behind buildings). Unlike most RTS games, the strength bar is *below* the unit, so if it's in a group of other units the strength bars are covered up.

In Age of Empires II, at the bottom of the screen it has a window that shows what units are selected. C:TOTHS has nothing like this. It has several hotkey buttons which you can click to select one of several pre-defined groups, but if you select one the button doesn't give any indication that that it is selected. The only way you can know what units are selected is if you can see their power bar. This assumes they aren't covered by another group or a tree, building, etc.

If you can select the unit, then moving it is the next part. The programmers must've graduated last in their class, because these units are completely incapable of finding a path to the point you want them to go to if they have to go around a corner, and it's even worse if you're trying to move a cannon and you want it behind a building it can attack. It will either just sit there or fire at the building. Units also get stuck when there are other friendly units in the way of their path. They'll just move around in circles, unable to get around, and the only recourse is to manually move them around.

If you can get the unit to move, then the final challenge is getting it to fire at a target. You would think that cannons would have a long range, right? Well not so! They can only fire about 3 or 4 squares. Their range is about the same as muskets. Selecting an enemy unit to fire at is incredibly hard. As you can see from the screenshots the sprites are tiny, and if you want to fire at an enemy unit about the only thing you can do is wait till it stops moving.

Actually getting units to fire is next to impossible. Cannons, muskets, pistols... they all just SIT THERE and don't do anything no matter how many times you click on an enemy unit. Even if you order a cannon to fire at an immobile building it has to advance to within at least 4 squares to fire at it, and even then most of the time you have to order it to fire 8 or 10 times before it fires. And it will only fire one time per order! You have to keep ordering and keep ordering the cannons to fire! So frustrating! And if you select a group of cannons, forget it... only one will fire, and that's after it gets really close. The other cannons will move up behind the one that fires but will move around in circles and never into firing position, unable to find the path.

Just forget about ordering muskets or pistols to fire. If you select a pirate musketeer and click on an enemy unit to attack, he won't use the musket, he'll go out and use his cutlass. You're supposed to be able to select the weapon to use, but they never use it. The only time they fire muskets is when an enemy unit comes into range and you *don't* order them to attack it. And it takes an unbelievable amount of musket hits to kill an enemy unit. This is historically completely inaccurate.

In the game, you have 2 ratings: Fame and Infamy. For glorious things like capturing ships, completing missions, etc. you get fame. For killing civilians and murdering ship crews you get infamy. The more infamy you have, the more pirate hunters will search for you. The problem is, because of the unfathomably bad interface in land battles you always end up accidentally killing civilians. I mean, when a battle is going on, women and children are just wandering around the town and come up to your pirate gangs and raise their arms in surrender. Would this happen in real life? I would think the women and children would run and hide. This is ridiculous. There are so many women & children walking around amidst the gun and cannon fire you can't help but accidentally kill them. This increases your infamy and your chances of getting killed later in the game.

Getting units to cross bridges is an exercise in patience. They get part of the way across the bridge, and the only way to get them to cross it is to repeatedly click at the very end of the bridge.

I haven't convinced you already that this is a horrible game, SEVEN patches have been released. Most games only have 1 or 2, but as of 7/14/00, this one has had SEVEN! And all these bugs I described above are STILL in it. Look at this line from the Cutthroats official page under the patch section:

"Turrets no longer fire after being destroyed. (Honest, it is fixed this time)."

As you can see, there are problems that they claimed were fixed but really weren't. And look at this:

"You can now start the game in 1705, 1710, 1715 or 1720."

I really think they should concentrate on the fundamental problems and not adding more things which could cause even more bugs. This is insanity.

I recommend that you go to the Cutthroats page and just look at the list of bug fixes. That alone should turn you away. There are so many they only have the list back to Patch Version 4!

When you end a game, it shows a list of the credits. I would be embarrassed to be listed among them, and I would hide in shame.

The Bottom Line

Don't ever under any circumstances ever buy any Hothouse Creations or Eidos Interactive products. Trust me.

This is just another game full of empty promises and hours of frustration. It's a complete waste of money. They sucker you in with a colorful box, some wild claims ("Sophisticated real-time strategy engine", "intelligent non-player ships", etc.) and some nice screenshots. You pay for it and bring it home and *the game out of the box absolutely does not work*, and you have no recourse. Most stores won't let you return software, so you're stuck. Therefore, the only advice I can give you is to never buy this game or any other Hothouse/Eidos games.