Being a fan of both pirates and strategy games I was looking forward to Age of Booty, and was hoping not to be disappointed. I decided to start off in single player mode believing it would set me in the best stead before unleashing all my pirate cunning onto the online community.
The game is spilt into easy, medium and hard modes each with 7 levels (seas) and my adventure began with the mandatory tutorial level. The whole game is controlled with the mouse, click where you want to go, click who you want to attack etc, and to be honest it’s all you need and works well.
You start with your ship and pirate lair on a hexagonal board and the goal is to capture the required number of towns before your opponent. These towns provide you with a steady stream of ale, gold or wood resources which you can use to upgrade your ships speed, cannon or armour or the towns themselves, making them more difficult for the enemy to capture back. They also provide you with invaluable healing if you leave yourself anchored next to them.
You also get resources from destroying villages, the enemy’s boats and crates floating around sea. There also a number of merchant ships sailing around which once destroyed will drop special items for use in battle such as bombs and whirlpools.
You can also obtain resources from destroying the numerous villages scattered around the map, the enemy’s boats and by grabbing the crates floating around the sea. There also a number of merchant ships sailing around which once destroyed will drop special items for use in battle such whirlpools which allow you to trap/block enemy ships before laying them to waste with your guns, and bombs, which do exactly what they say on the tin.
Now onto my main problem with the game, the AI, not the enemy AI but rather your own allied ships that are supposed to assist you. If you attack a village it’s down to the flip of the coin as to whether they will help you or not. Numerous times I have been attacking a town, being ganged up on by enemy ships only to watch my so called allies sail right on past without a care in the world. The only way I can see to get around this is to follow your allies and assist them with whatever they get up to, but I’ll be dammed if I’m going to play and RTS without the S and basically just be the games helper while it plays out the battles.
I can see the need for having allies, as the game just wouldn’t work in single player without them, but why they couldn’t have included a means for you to be able to direct them, or even just set general orders (such as attack towns, defend towns, collect items, attack ships etc.) completely mystifies me.
You can tell that this game is really designed for multiplayer play, there are 29 maps allowing up to 4 teams of 2, but unfortunately is was unable to test out any or these features as I could find no opponents to play against. The game uses the Gamespy client to match against fellow gamers but I was never able to find anyone online. I'm unsure whether this was due to the fact there was actually nobody online playing the game or everyone was set to private so only allowing there friends to find them. This was a real shame as I can imagine a 2vs2vs2vs2 game to be bordering on the insane(ly fun).
There is also a map editor, which is quick and easy to use and allows an almost infinite numbers of maps to play against your fellow pirates, but alas I was also unable to test out my map building skills due to the lack of online players.
I find it difficult to recommend solely for the single player game (the AI is just too frustrating for my tastes), but if you have some friends with a copy and you were able to experience the multiplayer I'm sure you could while away many hours in your quest to conquer the sea's.