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Privateer's Bounty: Age of Sail 2 Review
publisher: GlobalStar Software
P266, 64MB RAM, 16MB 3D accelerator
|ESRB rating: E
release date: Aug 13, 02 (released)
|» All About Privateer's Bounty: Age of Sail 2 on ActionTrip|
I always wandered why there aren't more games dealing with sea battles. The entire end of the eighteenth and the beginning of nineteenth century were marked with a constant struggle for new territory both on land and sea. Some of the greatest battles in entire history took place in this period, and you must admit that these huge wooden battleships have a special aura about them.
Har, har, har! Shiver me stickin' sails this Laguna bites.
Wow, I think a nuke just went through that air balloon!
The Russian developers Akella seem to agree with this, as they specialize in naval strategies; just remember their Sea Dogs and Age of Sail 2. Their latest strategy: Age of Sail 2: Privateer's Bounty published by Global Star Software isn't just a collection of add-on missions for AoS2 (as it was conceived at first) but a full, stand-alone game, which resembles AoS2.
Privateer's Bounty: Age of Sail 2 gives you the opportunity to complete many missions, and three complete campaigns as a commander of a ship or the entire fleet, in three possible levels of difficulty: novice, medium and hard. The missions are set between 1777 and 1820, and each of them is supported by detailed historical clarifications. The missions usually last about one hour, but then again, if you start chasing each other around the map, you may spend at least half of the battle doing so before the actual fighting commences (they were chasing me once for half an hour, but they eventually got me...). The historical missions will put you in an authentic position (be it inferior or superior), and it will be up to you to choose the side you want to play. Before you start the mission, you will get to read several screens of data about the battle. You start each mission pretty far from the enemy, and it will usually take you about ten minutes to reach them. Spending half of the mission on finding your enemy may be realistic, but it is also quite frustrating at times. The course of the battle will depend on your navigation and strategic skills, as well as your capability to command several ships at the same time.
The crew has several levels of skill from A (elite) to G (worst), which will influence their intelligence and efficiency. Your crew will be capable of mending ails, hull and cannons and hence, making your ship last longer. The only problem here is that the crew keeps forgetting your order to repair the sails, so you'll have to keep issuing it, every ten second in order to do anything. Now imagine that you have some ten ships, all sails torn; you will have to keep clicking the crew to repair the sails, which leaves you no time to develop a strategy. The game features some interesting weapons, which were rarely ever (if ever) used in sea battles in that age - a wooden submarine firing projectiles on the deck, a hot-air balloon and a steam-boat. The cannons can fire several different types of projectiles, each of which has a special purpose (the so-called chain shot is ideal against sails and masts, and the grape shot can decimate the crew in no time.
Controlling ships is far easier than it was in AoS2; the Privateer's Bounty uses a simpler interface and control system which ironically, takes up a larger part of the screen than it used to. Just like in any RTS, you can select all your ships and set a uniform course and formation with a single click. Hot keys are incredibly useful thanks to the ridiculously small size of some command icons; for instance, you can easily click the "Lower Sails" in stead of "Raise Sails" icon, which will in hand, reduce your life expectancy. Anyway, if you never played AoS2, you'll need some time to get accustomed to all the icons. My favorite icon was the one that speeded time up, reducing the time needed to sail to your enemies.
Spend your summers at Patriot Castle!
Aye, aye, we're goin' down!
The game is powered by the STORM engine, which is also to blame for the good graphics; the ships all have beautiful and detailed textures, the torn sails look extremely realistic, and if you zoom in enough, you will even be able to see the crew running around the deck. The camera is a bit strange, but it can always be adjusted to a plausible position. Sea textures are not as good, but the great shadowing and fire and smoke effects make up for that. The game also features weather effects and very realistic damage models. Playing in a resolution less than 1024x768 is not advisable as half of your screen would probably be covered in icons (these can be removed, but still...). Smaller battles look great in 1600x1200; the frame-rate is stable even when you turn all effects to maximum. BUT, if there happen to be more than four ships in the battle, the frame-rate drops substantially; you can imagine what battle of Trafalgar runs like. Reducing image quality can partially solve this problem.
The sound effects are decent, but few. The explosions are effective, yet the sailors' replies will start to annoy you after some time... especially if you increase game speed and command several ships, you'll hear "...starboard guns ready!" after each shot, just like in Age of Sail 2. The music is repetitive, but it still becomes the atmosphere, and reminds me of movies like "The Mutiny on Bounty", "1492: Columbus" etc.
This game is literally tailored for the multiplayer mode, and it allows up to sixteen players to compete over LAN or Internet. The game ships with a campaign editor, which lets you create new missions or alter existing ones.
Privateer's Bounty: Age of Sail 2 is an interesting game and if you happen to like historical sea battles, it will sure take your attention. The large number of missions, the three campaigns, authentic ships and weapons and historical battles are bound to thrill any fan of naval RTS games. On the other hand, if you are a typical gamer (whatever that means - ed), you might get a bit annoyed by the low frame-rate during battles, the weird camera, and the seemingly monotonous battles. If you played AoS2, definitely get this game for its new set of missions and improved gameplay. Akella has finally gotten around to ironing out all those annoying bugs, so this semi-sequel presents a far more polished product than its predecessor. And as for the rest of you, this would be the right (and incidentally, one of the rare) choices if you're looking for a decent naval strategy game.
Versatile missions, historical authenticity, polished up gameplay;
Repetitive music, low frame-rate in bigger clashes. The gameplay still isn't quite as intuitive as it should be.
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