Upcoming pirate RPG wants to break from cliché and show 'what piracy really was'

Golden age pirates: murderous villains or freedom fighters? It's the latter view that French studio Savage Level hopes to express with its first game, a tactical RPG that stars Captain Flint, the fictional pirate whose buried treasure is sought after in Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island.

"This game gives us the possibility of informing the general public about what piracy really was, often portrayed in a caricatured and wrong way," says the studio, which itself was inspired by pirates according to co-founder Maxime Josse, who created the company with brother Aurélien. 

Well, aspects of pirates, at least. "Real pirates"—not corsairs, or Hollywood's vision of them—were "freedom seekers" who took care of their crewmates, Maxime told me in a conversation at GDC a couple weeks ago. He wants Savage Level to be an inclusive studio where everyone feels ownership of the work they're doing, and where game development newcomers can gain experience under veteran leadership. Thinking of the studio like a band of pirates seeking financial freedom together while doing what they love "works pretty well," Maxime said, as long as you set aside the stuff about traitors and bloody battles.

That stuff is left to the game, which has a somewhat unique way of telling its story: As you explore Flint's top-down environments, comic book panels occasionally pop up to bring dialogue and action into the scene. The whole tale will be told in this illustrated way, without voice acting. 

"Flint: Treasure of Oblivion is the culmination of a rethinking process aimed at advancing the clichés of narration in videogames," say the Josse brothers. "With this title, we are proposing an original way of telling stories through the medium of comic book and take the opportunity to highlight the Franco-Belgian comics that have been making us dream since our childhood."

(Image credit: Savage Level)

The combat is turn-based and inspired by tabletop roleplaying—it simulates dice rolls—and the most interesting thing I learned about it at GDC was that fights can get big. Like, "15 vs 20," game director Johan Spielmann told me.

Characters will be grouped together, so "you won't just have 15 little little guys to play on the field," explained production director Saïda Mirzoeva, but I like the idea that you're gathering a real pirate force, not just a typical D&D adventuring party. 

The weapons and abilities will all be grounded in pirate reality—no magic—and leveling also involves pirate logic. Experience doesn't come from killing, but from collecting gold pieces. You can distribute gold pieces to your crew to level them up, but you might want to hold some back to purchase items, or to save for future crew members.

"As in real piracy, when do you share the wages with your crew?" asked Spielmann. "That will be really interesting, and merge [gameplay] with the story and narrative."

Work on Flint began in 2022, and it's set to release on PC and console in 2024—an impressive pace relative to the five-plus year projects we see so often today. There's no release date, but expect it near the end of the year. You can wishlist Flint on Steam for future reference.

Tyler Wilde
Executive Editor

Tyler grew up in Silicon Valley during the '80s and '90s, playing games like Zork and Arkanoid on early PCs. He was later captivated by Myst, SimCity, Civilization, Command & Conquer, all the shooters they call "boomer shooters" now, and PS1 classic Bushido Blade (that's right: he had Bleem!). Tyler joined PC Gamer in 2011, and today he's focused on the site's news coverage. His hobbies include amateur boxing and adding to his 1,200-plus hours in Rocket League.