The Pirate Queen: A Forgotten Legend Review – Low Tide

The Pirate Queen: A Forgotten Legend Review

Despite the seeming dominance of men in the swashbuckling pirate domain, there were actually plenty of women pirates. Anne Bonney and Mary Read hung out with Blackbeard in the Caribbean. Irish pirate Grace O’Malley tormented the British fleet and in China, Cheng Shih became an almost mythic character of naval power. To say that she has been “forgotten” is probably misleading. It’s more like people in the West have never heard of her. In any case, The Pirate Queen: A Forgotten Legend aims to introduce Cheng Shih to a wider population via a new VR game.

Tempered Expectations

Thanks to big-budget VR games like Assassin’s Creed and Asgard’s Wrath 2, we’re starting to expect our VR adventures to have substance. It’s probably an unfair comparison, but The Pirate Queen feels like a throwback to the demo-length games that early VR was known for. The Pirate Queen: A Forgotten Legend clocks in at a couple of hours, tops. While it doesn’t look low-rent, The Pirate Queen feels fairly lean in terms of gameplay and content.

The Pirate Queen: A Forgotten Legend takes place over the course of one night. You play as the titular Cheng Shih, whose pirate husband Zhang Bao has recently died. You have inherited his pirate empire and you are on your way to pirate ascendancy. Only Guo Podai — a near equal in the pirate trade — stands in your way, so you attempt to poison his tea. The British launch a surprise attack, so suddenly your path to pirate leadership means defending your leadership on several fronts. 

A Pirate’s Life for Me

This capsule summary hints at swashbuckling adventure, exciting naval combat, interpersonal struggles, and more. Unfortunately, none of these promises are kept. Instead, The Pirate Queen is more akin to a rowing and climbing simulator with lots of escape-room type puzzles.

The Pirate Queen: A Forgotten Legend is an entirely linear game, so even though, for example, you are rowing from ship to ship, you’re on rails. There is no free exploration on the ships either. You’re either climbing the rigging to reach a specific goal or solving object-manipulation puzzles to move forward in the narrative. Combat consists of firing below-deck canons but you don’t really see the impact of your actions. 

The puzzles are definitely the highlight of the game and they can be approached via an “easy mode” where clues are highlighted or a more challenging mode where hints are on demand. Still, the challenge in this case is relative and only puzzle game novices will struggle with putting objects together.

Veteran actor Lucy Liu provides the majority of narrative exposition and voices the main character but her performance, while professional, is also a bit dispassionate. There are no other rendered characters, but we do hear the occasional voice and see shadowy silhouettes behind curtained windows. It’s a reasonably successful solution to a low-budget situation. The Pirate Queen: A Forgotten Legend is more in “the spirit of” historical events, rather than an accurate representation of them. It conflates or re-orders several real conflicts and situations. That’s probably irrelevant to anyone but diehard fans of Chinese naval history.

Sail Away

Exteriors, outdoor environments, and close-up textures are pretty typical of budget VR games. The Pirate Queen’s use of Chinese iconography and authentic ship design is a bit more distinctive. The art direction inside the cabins shows excellent attention to detail. The game’s lighting provides an evocative atmosphere.

I can see the value of The Pirate Queen: A Forgotten Legend as a great introduction to a specific slice of cultural history. After all, what young person doesn’t like pirates? Though they might be disappointed by the absence of Jack Sparrow, Cheng Shih was a formidable character and leader. For older, more experienced gamers spoiled by the likes of Asgard’s Wrath 2, The Pirate Queen will probably feel like an action-adventure downgrade.

***Meta Quest 3 code provided by the publisher for review***

The Good

  • Interesting setting
  • Detailed attention to ships
  • Some non-frustrating puzzles

The Bad

  • Very short
  • A bit dull overall
  • Linear