Age of Pirates 2: City of Abandoned ShipsESRB:
Platform: PC Games
Category: Action Games, RPG
Windows XP / Vista
1.5GHz Intel Pentium IV or equivalent (3.0GHz or equivalent recommended)
256MB RAM for XP / 1GB for Vista (1GB GB recommended for XP / 2GB for Vista)
8.5GB HDD Space
nVidia GeForce 4 or equivalent DirectX 9 compatible Graphics Card (nVidia GeForce 6600 or equivalent recommended)
DirectSound compatible Sound Card
I was quite excited to get a chance to play Age Of Pirates 2: City of Abandoned Ships - the promises of fixed bugs and extended gameplay from the original had me anticipating hours of swashbuckling fun. I was also eagerly anticipating newer, faster weapons and ships and a greater variety of mission objectives. The idea of exploring through the wild jungles and waters of South America, uncovering treasure and adventure in equal parts, held huge appeal for me.
Overall, the graphics aren't too bad, just unimaginative. It seemed like there were a few good ideas then everybody got tired of creating new ones and just re-used the old. On the plus side some of the ships you encounter are pretty cool looking. As well, being under the sea is well done too, as evidenced by the screenshot of such attatched to this review. On the negative side, many of the background characters were identical, and the ports used many of the same buildings and such over and over, just in different formats and configurations. The P.I.R.A.T.E. system was well laid out, and added lots of new dimensions to the gameplay. There were also 'short cut, go to' buttons that saved lots of walking around. At the end of the day, I think there were some neat things, visually speaking, but there was definitely room for improvement.
The soundtrack to the game provided nice background ambiance without being distracting or overwhelming; however, it literally was background music – think pleasant elevator listening. It didn't seem to particularly relate to the gameplay at hand and there wasn't a lot of variety to it. It would have been great if, while wandering through one of the taverns looking for crew, the music could have picked up a little when you spotted a serving wench or got dealt into a game of cards. Even swordplay/cannon soundtracks get pretty old quickly – mostly because of the lengthy battles.
Voice acting is one of the major downfalls of Pirates. It is quite limited and actually seems at odds at times with the character dialogue – which is all scripted in a text box at the bottom of the screen. The few audible statements from the characters are standard and generic and have little to nothing to do with the scenario at hand. The game would have stood better without the limited sound that it offers as it distracts from reading the lengthy text (provided of course that more – and appropriate - voice dialogue isn’t an option).
Sounds effects again tended to be somewhat limited and repetitive. Eventually, I turned off the sound to avoid listening to any more gasps and grunts. They didn’t particularly add to the game and did in fact become somewhat annoying. The main enjoyment of the game comes from the planning and open ended game options - to trade or not to trade, to conquer or slowly build net worth, to explore or plunder - none of which are particularly enhanced by the limited sound that is offered.
This is not a game for the faint of heart!! Much like the brigands of yore, a stout heart and an adventurous soul are required – not to mention a commitment to adventure and a bloodthirsty desire for supremacy.
Age of Pirates 2 begins with your choice of three heroes - Peter Blood, Ian Stance or Diego Espinoza (sadly there are no Anne Bonnys, Grace O’Malleys or Mary Reads). Yo then assign them a different career – corsair, adventurer or merchant. You can also provide your character with a nationality (you have four to choose from). Each of the men has a different back story; however, while Peter is a medic and begins his career on a plantation providing medical aid, both Diego and Ian are a little too similar. Both begin on ship suffering from amnesia, and then they disembark at the nearby port to procure supplies and crew for their ships. Though both seaside towns are in different locations, they are eerily similar as well.
While you are reading the initial script for Ian and Diego (sad lack of voice dialogue here) there are options to learn a variety of information. This would have been an ideal place to insert a tutorial, and indeed, I kept expecting to learn the rudiments of swordplay and trade. However, there is simply box after box of dialogue, which I had to force myself to actually read and not skim past. It quickly becomes apparent though, how crucial these text boxes are to your play as you are provided a number of options, all of which affect the path that your story will take.
Each of these initial choices impacts future decisions and tweaks your eventual outcomes. The dashing adventurer fairs far differently than the swashbuckling corsair. This adds a level of personal choice to the game, which in the long run makes for highly entertaining and long lasting enjoyment. However, in the short term, it can be intensely frustrating and requires a pretty high level of commitment to get past the unbelievably steep learning curve.
One of the more interesting areas of the game is the P.I.R.A.T.E. system. Each letter stands for a different attribute, whose level can be raised or lowered at willd. Depending on the career choices that you make, you can increase your skill in different areas which can dramatically alter your chances of success. Despite the lengthy manual that comes with the game, this does require a lot of trial and error to determine what style of gameplay suits you best, and what is ultimately most effective in building your empire/fame/fortune.
The game itself can be very convoluted, with seemingly simple choices impacting the final outcome. For example, you can be rifling through a trunk looking for valuables and suddenly you are dead. There is no warning music, no fun battle, no possibility of sneaking or bribing your way out of it, there is just simply a script on a blah background that tells you it was all a trap. Thus, it becomes imperative to constantly save - giving you the opportunity to reload moments before a unexpected poor choice was made.
Saving constantly is also critical due to the number of battles that you face. No matter where you turn, there are pirates lurking behind every barrel and every wave. I found that for some reason, no matter what areas of your P.I.R.A.T.E. system you plump up with experience, you almost always get defeated. It becomes a matter of simply slogging through and re-loading to key moments.
One of the things that would make Age of Pirates 2 more user friendly is the keyboard controls. The default layout is terrible and very difficult to overcome for the new user, unless you remap the keys. In order to move, you need to use the standard a,w,s,d keys, plus the left mouse button for direction. (Though for some reason, only the forward button – w – seemed to work for me, combined with the left mouse button for directions). The frustrating part comes in the form of the constant use of the ‘enter’ button. You need to hit ‘enter’ to choose from a variety of options such as opening and closing doors, choosing your talk options, or travelling to different locations. These options need to be selected from an in screen menu using the arrow keys, and then the ‘enter’ button again. This becomes really difficult if you are trying to evade capture or chase down someone to talk to. The buttons are finicky and if you are not correctly lined up with another character you don’t get the ‘talk’ option, meanwhile while you are messing with the keys the person that you are trying to talk to has wandered away again.
Another difficulty is presented when you begin your battles. They take forever both on land and at sea. Add to this that they seem to be totally unavoidable, and generally unwinnable, even if you choose the ‘easy’ mode to play in. Hand to hand combat can often take over a minute to complete, with you constantly hitting the buttons to try and speed things up (after ever swipe, Peter was tucking his sword back into his sheath). Battles at sea are far worse! Again, the importance of constantly saving can’t be stressed enough.
Personally, I didn't like the game nearly as much as I had hoped. I found it incredibly slow moving, overwhelmingly frustrating to figure out and tedious to read - all that dialogue is ridiculous! I would have been happy putting it on 'auto pilot' if it existed, especially during the fights and battles. However, I really did like the concept of the game. I would be first in line for it, if it could be massively sped up, had way more integrative graphics, better sound (surround, catchy music), a more user friendly interface and was a MMORPG. There is so much promise for this game it is really somewhat mind bending.
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