When I did my First Person Spotlight on Pirate Doom, I was fairly certain it was the only pirate-themed FPS in existence. I had done tons of research for this series, scouring far and wide, and I never found another pirate FPS. That was, until I accidentally stumbled upon Plunder and Pillage, a 2001 Build Engine game that I still can’t believe even exists. But alas, it does, and I played it. And it’s not very good.
Plunder and Pillage stars Captain Jess Murdock, “a lone pirate who has lost everything.” Jess’ brief adventure kicks off on a small island, armed with nothing but a rapid-fire flintlock pistol and a cutlass. Throughout the game’s three missions, you’ll eventually pick up a shotgun (blunderbuss), and an explosive-tipped crossbow (rocket launcher), allowing you to cut down anything in your path—mostly wildlife or rival pirates.
Something to note about Plunder and Pillage is that there are lots of assets ripped straight from Duke Nukem 3D. I knew something was up when an enemy exploded and instead of one of Jess’ bad pirate “arrs,” I was graced with Duke Nukem quipping “Your face, your ass, what’s the difference?” It was around then that I realized the textures for surfaces looked mighty familiar, and that I’m 99% sure the use of A Pirate’s Life For Me wasn’t authorized.
And the familiarity isn’t just for the presentation. Anyone familiar with Build Engine titles such as Blood, Shadow Warrior, or Duke Nukem 3D should know exactly what to expect. Walk around a large map, kill a bunch of hitscanning enemies, collect keys, and get to the exit. Curiously, I couldn’t find any way to enable mouselook, so if you’re not used to the good ol’ days of rotating the camera with left and right or using control to fire off a shot, you might be in for a tough time.
And yes, when I say hitscanning enemies, I mean it. Throughout the levels, you’ll only be fighting melee enemies, such as sharks or villagers, or hitscanning pirates. There are no projectiles to dodge, really removing any reason for you to keep mobile. Stick to cover, blast an enemy until they fall over, rinse and repeat. Pillage and Plunder has a lot going against it, but I’d argue that these enemies are the biggest thing weighing this game down.
While the gameplay itself is rather unremarkable, I must say that I fell in love with the pirate theme on display. The three missions build up into an eventual siege on a small town, where you’ll be mowing down civilians left and right in your quest for infamy. It really was nice to feel like a scoundrel. Some of the level geometry is quite nice as well, and I was genuinely impressed by a vaguely Aztec pyramid found during the second mission.
However, once the three missions came to a close, I couldn’t help but feel puzzled. There are three episodes available, but all of them just send you to E1M1, and each of them end when you finish mission 3. There was clearly meant to be more, but something got in the way of the development. And in a curious twist, that “something” happened to be 9/11.
The year after Plunder and Pillage, the game’s developer Jesse Petrilla released Quest for Al-Qa’eda: The Hunt for Bin Laden, another Build engine game that is exactly what it sounds like. It seems that after this, all work on Build engine games would be halted, and Jesse would go on to create a sequel for Quest for Al-Qa’eda titled Quest for Saddam, which would give birth to quite a controversy in the form of a modification.
However, despite the crazy path that Petrilla’s game development career may have taken, Plunder and Pillage is still a fascinating shooter—and despite all of its flaws—solid proof that a pirate FPS isn’t an impossible dream.