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Age of Sail 2 Review

GAME INFO
publisher: TalonSoft
developer: Akella
genre: Strategy

MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS
PII 233, 64MB RAM, 8MB Video Card, 200MB HD
ESRB rating: E
homepage:
www.talonsoft.com/ageofsail2

release date: Jan 01, 01
» All About Age of Sail 2 on ActionTrip


February 20, 2001
Branislav "Bane" Babovic

Many game developers tried to capture the true atmosphere of sea combat over the last couple of years. Regardless of the time and place they chose for their games, those games turned out to be failures, with the possible exception of Silent Hunter serial.

The first part of Age of Sail used a real-time strategy engine, which reduced this game to a bunch of ambiguous controls and monotonous battles. The development of the sequel was entrusted to the Russian "Akella Software" (who developed the recent hit - Sea Dogs), and the renowned "Talonsoft" published it. I have to admit that this is the first game of this kind that got my full attention.

AoS II will give you a realistic insight into the historical battles that took place between 1775 and 1820. Apart from the historical battles, the game also includes a large number of hypothetical scenarios. I personally found the battles taking place in the Black Sea between the Russian and Turkish fleet most interesting.

This game features about 120 scenarios, which will vary from single ship fights to glorious battles with entire fleets. The missions are relatively short. You will hardly ever get to play a mission for more than an hour, primarily due to the extremely convenient "time-compression" option. The AI enemies did not prove to be too smart (although patch v1.1 fixes this problem). It is quite easy to develop a functional strategy and beat your opponent even in the hardest scenarios. The fight lasts until the enemy vessels strike their banners, or go for some scuba diving; or indeed, vice-versa Some scenarios on higher levels feature well-fortified harbors that will bombard your armada. I did not like the fact that the missions are linearly tied into a campaign. I would appreciate it much more if the players' actions actually influenced the course of the game like in Sea Dogs. Open and dynamic campaigns would be far more appealing. The scenarios are based on historical facts, which made this feature impossible. Your captain can achieve higher rank, command wide formations, repair ships, equip them and man them. Yet, these features will in no way influence the campaign itself. In some cases, your superior will take away some ships from you as "they are needed elsewhere" Conspiracy theory or what?

The in-game atmosphere is fantastic. The background music is flawless, and it greatly improves the overall atmosphere. The sound effects do not fall far behind, as they include all you can expect from a game of this type: sails being ripped, wood being broken, the sound of the waves, gushing of water into a sinking ship... The graphic design is impressive and can only be compared to Sea Dogs. All the visuals are astonishing, but I was most surprised by the animations of the tiny sailors running around on decks.

Playability is sure an interesting issue here. At first, you're bound to have a hard time with the plethora of moveable tool-bars, which comprise the interface. They are ambiguous and blurry and I have really no idea why the programmers decided to use this approach instead of the far more convenient drop-down menus. The controls will, as I said, give you a couple of nasty surprises if you miss the desired control in a crucial moment (like you raise the sails instead of changing them to full sails). The controls of the ships seems interesting enough, as you will have a virtual rudder at your disposal. There's also the weather vane, and the cannons (you can choose between grain, chains, ordinary balls and so on). Controlling your fleet will be easy enough, as it will only take group selecting your ships just like in any RTS. Once you have them group-selected, they will all move and act the same; you can assign them the desired formation using the "formations" toolbar. This made assigning formations a bit more difficult as you will have to go through two menus before actually issuing the order, which is less than convenient in a quick battle (if all else fails though, you can pause the game and then issue the correct orders - kinda like a turn-based break). Apart from that, the rest of the controls are relatively elegant. This is highly commendable, especially if we compare these controls to the controls from the original Age Of Sail, which required you to be a real naval officer in order to be able to cope with them. This doesn't mean that the sequel has been over-simplified - it's simply more approachable and playable.

Finally, I have to mention that the game is loaded with bugs. Fortunately, the developer published a patch even before the game hit the stores. Age of Sail II is truly an interesting piece of work, not only because it is currently the only naval sim, but also because the gameplay and the brilliant atmosphere.

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7.8   Good


HIGHS
Great ship models, perfect atmosphere and sound effects;

LOWS
Bugs, formation controls and the interface outlooks.

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