The Pirate Queen Review: Intriguing Story But Lacking Execution

The Pirate Queen: A Forgotten Legend delivers an intriguing VR narrative adventure lacking in its execution. Read on for our full review:

VR's immersive nature gives it a unique advantage over flatscreen games, and across the last decade, we've seen developers deliver compelling narratives. Between revisiting familiar worlds like in Half-Life: Alyx, new adventures like Lone Echo, or more experimental experiences, I've always enjoyed a story-focused adventure. By looking at one of history's more infamous pirates, The Pirate Queen had me curious.

The Pirate Queen: A Forgotten Legend - The Facts

What is it?: A narrative adventure based on Cheng Shih, a famous 19th-century Chinese pirate.
Platforms: PC VR, Quest 2Quest ProQuest 3 (reviewed on Quest 3)
Release Date: Out now
Developer: Singer Studios
Price: $16.99
The Pirate Queen Review - Screenshot

Taking creative liberties with the accepted history, The Pirate Queen focuses on Cheng Shih (A.K.A Zheng Yi Sao), a 19th-century leader who commanded the Red Flag Fleet with 70,000 pirates across the South China Sea. Set in 1807, during one eventful evening, an entertaining premise surrounding female empowerment follows. After being recently widowed, an internal power struggle arises across the pirate alliance.

Without spoiling this 13-chapter story, I enjoyed the journey but expected the high stakes to lead to a more dramatic conclusion; the ending doesn't feel wholly earned. Still, this two-hour story never overstays its welcome. Most chapters contain three hidden collectibles, likely designed to increase replayability, though I didn't feel compelled to find them all.

Refreshingly, The Pirate Queen doesn't include combat and focuses on exploration. Cheng Shih's journey involves traveling between different ships, navigating traps like swinging cargo, and avoiding bells used to catch intruders. Combined with environments filled with interactable objects, decent physicality shows a VR-first approach, though restricting this to simple motions like turning a key makes it hard to get excited about that. Several moments get slightly trickier, such as sneaking past guards while rowing a canoe, but it's never a major challenge.

The Pirate Queen Review - Screenshot

I would say this straightforward approach makes The Pirate Queen a good starting adventure for any VR newcomers. However, it only features minimal comfort options. I've detailed those below, but vignettes aren't included, so anyone prone to motion sickness should use teleportation movement. I also wish you could adjust the smooth camera's slow turning speed.

Comfort

The Pirate Queen offers two types of movement - artificial stick-based locomotion and teleportation. Snap turning and smooth camera turning are both available, though you can't change the turning speed or snap angle. Seated play is also supported with adjustable height settings. While you can't swap your dominant hand, it's not an issue since button inputs are mirrored across both controllers. Haptic feedback can also be switched off.

While I can’t speak for the Steam version, The Pirate Queen gives a decent visual presentation on Quest 3. Cheng Shih is represented via floating hands, and while this overall is relatively subtle, I appreciated the dirty fingernails. Piracy isn't a clean living in any sense of the word, and that sense is boosted by Lucy Liu's enjoyable performance as the main character.

Several issues leave this project feeling unpolished, though a post-launch patch has improved this since my initial review. The depth has been corrected with some environmental scenery, though I still encountered technical glitches like being unable to add incense to an offering or the screen blacking out when placing spices near me to "smell" them in chapter 4. There's still some jank where items will clip through environments or other items and that continues hampering immersion.

The Pirate Queen Review - Screenshot

The Pirate Queen Review - Final Thoughts

The Pirate Queen: A Forgotten Legend is an entertaining debut title from Singer Studios, delivering an intriguing premise that held my interest with a convincing performance from Lucy Liu. Unfortunately, that's frustrated by minimal comfort settings and jank, while the ending could be stronger. Still, if you're looking for a short VR narrative adventure, The Pirate Queen is a decent choice.


UploadVR uses a 5-Star rating system for our game reviews – you can read a breakdown of each star rating in our review guidelines.

Notice: This review was initially published on March 7, 2024, when The Pirate Queen: A Forgotten Legend first launched on Quest & SteamVR. We re-visited the game in April to assess updates and made minor changes to this review. 


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