Pirates of Black Cove is an action / strategy / RPG hybrid from Nitro Games, a Finnish developer which specializes in seafaring games, including Commander: Conquest of the Americas and East India Company. In this title, you take on the role of a lowly pirate, and after gaining control of your own ship, you work your way through a series of quests to become the pirate king -- which allows you to discover the secrets behind the evil Black Cove pirates and the mysterious Forgotten Island.
At the start of the game, you choose one of three characters to control: the rifle-toting Longshot Jack, the heavy melee specialist Walker de Planc, or the dual-knife-wielding Jolie Rogers. Each character has a different fighting style, and also a different voice actor, but otherwise the choice doesn't appear to have any effect on the campaign. You also don't get to make many choices for your character. All of the quests in the game have exactly one way to solve them, and the character's upgrades each level are handled automatically, except for a badge (a passive bonus) that you select every three levels.
Gameplay comes in two flavors: sea battles and land battles. When you're in your ship, you can attack any other ship that you come across (pressing the alt key first to see how powerful they are). You don't really capture enemy ships (there's a "human catapult" for this purpose but it doesn't work very well); you just shoot at enemy ships until you sink them, and then they leave behind some pieces of eight for you to collect. You use the WASD keys to drive your ship, the QE keys or the left mouse button to fire your guns, and the spacebar to shoot a special weapon (such as the aforementioned human catapult). Sea battles are generally quick and entertaining, but lightweight.
Land battles on the other hand are just the opposite. For these battles you get three armies with your character, each of which can have one to five pirates in them (these armies are balanced so they're all roughly as powerful). As you make your way through the campaign, you also gain the services of three hero pirates, and these pirates each get three armies as well, meaning that by the end of the game you might be in control of 40-50 pirates for each battle. To control these battles, you use the left mouse button to select pirates (including box-selecting all of your pirates) and the right mouse button to move and attack. You can also use the WASD keys to move the camera, or press the F key to have the camera follow a particular pirate.
Unfortunately, the land battles are slow and tedious. The cities and other locations that you visit are way too big and take forever to explore, and you're not given any sort of map (not even a mini-map) to help you see where you've been. Worse, the battles are a joke. Despite the size of your force, you almost never come under attack by more than 3-4 pirates at once, and so there's no challenge to the battles. They're just slow, boring slogs. The only funny part of land battles is that you use grog to heal your pirates, but if you drink too much then they get woozy and stop fighting for a while.
Your goal in Pirates of Black Cove is to unify the three pirate factions and become the pirate king -- and then take on the dreaded Black Cove pirates. To do this, you must complete a series of quests for each faction. These quests are about what you'd expect. Defeat a ship here, invade a town there, and find a quest item somewhere else. Nitro Games tried to make the game funny, and so your objectives involve things like rescuing a teddy bear and defeating a chain of "shrimpbucks" bistros, but for me the humor almost always fell flat, and I was much more likely to roll my eyes than laugh or even chuckle. Perhaps the worst part of the humor is the pirate jokes you find while sailing. These jokes can be summarized as 1001 ways to put "arrr" in an answer. For example, a pirate's favorite instrument? Guitarrr. If you think that's funny, and if you want to see an excessive number of similar jokes, then this game might be for you. Otherwise, not so much.
Overall, Pirates of Black Cove is a difficult game to recommend. It looks nice enough, and the voice acting is better -- and more prevalent -- than you might expect from a budget title, but everything else is second rate. Plus, the game gets seriously easy by the end (to the point where I just rolled over the Black Cove pirates when I finally got to them), and there isn't any way to change the difficulty other than to intentionally hamstring yourself by choosing weaker pirates or weaker ships. If you were hoping for a newer, snazzier version of Pirates! (or even Tropico 2: Pirate Cove), then Pirates of Black Cove is definitely the wrong game for you. But if you don't play many games, and if a casual pirate game sounds fun, then it might be worthwhile.