Cutthroats: Terror on the High Seas

aka: Pavillon Noir, Unter schwarzer Flagge
Moby ID: 1956

Description official descriptions

You are a 17th Century pirate in the Caribbean. You can do all kinds of pirate things: rape, pillage, capture ships, receive letters of marque, burn towns, kill civilians, loot houses, recruit other pirates, look for buried treasure, sell stuff you capture for pieces of eight, etc. :)

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Credits (Windows version)

81 People (59 developers, 22 thanks) · View all



Average score: 63% (based on 20 ratings)


Average score: 2.0 out of 5 (based on 13 ratings with 4 reviews)

a great game

The Good
Great battles on land and sea and a very long play time

The Bad
Occasionally crashes, hard to steer more than one ship and marines move very slowly

The Bottom Line
Now unfortunately it's out of the shops but you can still buy it over the internet. It's a great game if you're into piracy and the caribbean and it's not directed at any general gamer. It has a large land and sea mass in the game with about 50 or more prots to plunder, loot and burn and thousands of different ships sailing, ranging from small merchant ships to convoys and galleons to the dreaded pirate hunters there are many to sink, capture and also avoid and runaway from :)

The ship's flags play a big part in this game as well and there are five nations all fighting over the Caribbean. Raise the same flag as the ship and you can put up a useful secondary flag like request food and truce but raise a rival country's flag and you may as well just hoist up the jolly roger.

When you decide to loot a port try to find the right one, don't attack a heavily fortified spanish port if you only have a couple of cannons and a handful of men look for a small port with only a few guards. The main goal of the battle is to either make the town surrender or loot the town (always try to get the treasury and governor's house) and/or burn it but beware the wind can carry smoke and alert the guards

The game did start off with alot of bugs and crashed basically all the time but all you need is the latest patch( 7.0) and nearly all the bugs are fixed.

The graphics on the land are not brilliant, but considering it is quite an old game this is acceptable.

After getting the patches and playing till I was a pirate king I would give this game a total of 9 out of 10.

Windows · by ruairidh dalglish (2) · 2004

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.

Windows · by Raphael (1245) · 2001

Worst pirate game ever.

The Good
The game concept is every bit as compelling as it was when Sid Meier introduced it with Pirates! way back in 1987. Cutthroats promises deep and open-ended gameplay combining action, real-time strategy, and role-playing, all in the undeniably romantic historical setting of the Golden Age of Piracy.

The production values are fairly high (for the time of release). The opening cinematic sequence sets the mood for plundering and pillaging very nicely, and some of the in-game graphics are quite attractive as well. Colors are bright and vivid. Ships are fairly detailed and authentic-looking; if you pay attention, you’ll notice that the big warships really do look like warships, with many sails and multiple gun decks. The Caribbean map you use to plot your course also looks good. Sound effects seem quite realistic, and the catchy musical score may actually be the highlight of the game (which is probably not a good sign).

The designers certainly had their hearts in the right place: give the fans of Pirates! what they love, only more of it. This translates into lots of options, particularly during ship battles. You can choose your kind of shot (ball, chain, grape), create fire ships, send out rowboats, and grapple and board enemy vessels. You can even disengage from a boarding action if you change your mind.

There are a lot of different kinds of goods available for sale (or theft) in Cutthroats. Some are necessary, like food and rum for your sailors, while others are mainly trading fodder. The economic model may actually be overly detailed, but it’s still pretty interesting. If Cutthroats were a playable game, then the trading sub-game would probably be the best part…

The Bad
…so it’s just a cryin’ shame that Hothouse/Eidos totally dropped the ball on this title. So many good ideas, and such a great blueprint to follow in Pirates!, with so little competition – how could it go wrong? In oh so many ways!

First of all, the game is a technical mess. It runs slower than molasses on older PCs, or even on a very fast Windows XP machine with the “Windows 98/ME” compatibility setting turned on. Load times are simply unbearable; you could be halfway across the Caribbean in Pirates! in the same time it takes just to get started in Cutthroats. You can just run it under XP, but then you get the opposite problem: it’s too fast to be really playable. Even if you do get it running, don’t get too happy, as it will probably just crash to the desktop in a few minutes. As usual, saving your game often is a very good idea.

The interface is a nightmare of clunky buttons and tiny little icons. Thank God for tool tips, or else you’d never know what half of those little pictures are supposed to represent. It’s all in keeping with the overall philosophy of the Cutthroats design: make even the simplest task dull and complicated.

Want to set sail? You’ll go to the big map, only to be told that you have a bunch of goods still sitting on the dock, so you have to go back to another screen and load your ship, since it was apparently not obvious that you were purchasing goods with the intention of carrying them elsewhere. Want to investigate that ship on the horizon? Ok, so you’ll go to the “crow’s nest” view, but you find out that it’s a friendly ship, so you want to go back to the big map and continue your voyage, but for some reason you can’t opt to do that with a command, you just have to sit there while your little ship slowly sails off the playing field. Sounds like fun, huh?

Should you get lucky enough to find prey (or accidently target a friendly ship, which is all too easy to do) you get to engage the enemy ship in battle. Finally we get to the fun part, right? Nope. Battles are shockingly boring. Once you’ve chosen your shot, the main thing left to do is click the mouse on the enemy ship in the hopes that your crew will respond and fire the cannons. As usual, information is too scarce to make any sound judgments about tactics. How many guns does the enemy ship have? How large is the crew? What condition is their vessel in? Who knows? You don’t know the number of enemy crew until you begin a boarding action, but of course, an estimate on that would be most helpful before you actually board. What’s worse is that boarding actions are also boring actions – there are no swordfights to engage in, no real-time tactical orders to be issued, just a tiny little animated icon showing the crew totals dwindle from the unseen battle.

As for the game’s audio-visual chrome, even that aspect manages to disappoint. Some of the graphics and sounds are just plain sub-par. Humans are drawn strangely, in a way that is hard to describe. They don’t look natural, even by 3D video game standards. It’s like a bunch of department store mannequins have been dressed up in pirate attire and brought to life. Creepy stuff. The voiceovers are not unnatural so much as annoying. The cheese factor is high, but more bothersome is that fact that the voices keep telling you the same darn thing over and over, every time you issue a routine command. “Ay cap’n, the men’ll follow ye all the way to Davy Jones’ locker!” is amusing to hear at first, but not for the umpteenth time in just a few hours of play.

I really can’t say too much more that’s negative about Cutthroats – not because it’s not bad, but because it’s so bad I can’t play it long enough to even experience certain parts of it. Land battles? Treasure hunting? Diplomacy? Retirement? I’m sure it’s all there, on paper at least, but may God have mercy on the souls of the poor buggers who are forced to play this game long enough to get involved with that stuff. The poor bastards could have been, and should have been, playing Pirates! instead.

The Bottom Line
It’s basically a remake of Sid Meier’s Pirates! – only without the elegant design, competent programming, and sense of fun.

Windows · by PCGamer77 (3158) · 2007

[ View all 4 player reviews ]



As of July 2000, seven patches have been released.


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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Raphael.

Additional contributors: jean-louis, Patrick Bregger.

Game added July 15, 2000. Last modified March 31, 2024.