Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Age of Pirates II - City of Abandoned Ships

One For Davy Jones' Locker

Avast, me hearties! Do ye land-lovers want to find fortune while becoming the scourge of the seven seas? De ye want to drink grog and woo buxom wenches? Then join the crew and live the life of a pirate. Yarr!

Right, that’s the generic pirate clich├ęs out of the way and there will be no more because Age of Pirates II: City of Abandoned Ships is average at best and frankly doesn’t deserve any cheerful pirate stereotypes. When it comes to competent sea-farers, this one is less Captain Jack Sparrow and more The Sea Captain from The Simpsons. (“Yarr, I don’t know what I’m doing.”)

We were all taught as youngsters not to judge a book by its cover... but you know that’s rubbish because you’ve met people at parties and formed a lifelong opinion of them almost instantly. Yes, he may have cured world hunger but to you he’s still the douche who totally walked over and stopped you from chatting up that really amazing girl that things were starting to go well with. (Of course, change this specific example to fit your gender and/or sexual preferences... or just ignore it entirely and move on)

Anyway, you can probably guess that AoP II doesn’t exactly give the player an outstanding first impression. It’s not pretty at all, the textures are awful, the resolution can’t be much more than 640 x 480 and you can actually see how unsmooth your character is just by looking at their arms. We’re in 2010 now but looking at this will make you think we’re much nearer to the start of the century. Unfortunately the game play isn’t much better than the graphics.

Age of Pirates II features action on both land and sea but don’t expect to get too much enjoyment out of either. While you’re on land its mainly a quest based affair that is slightly remnant of Mount And Blade in that you wander into taverns, shops and the like accepting tasks from whoever may offer them. Once you have a goal, don’t expect much assistance when it comes to completing it. AoP II doesn’t offer any clues as to what needs to be done. The non-existence of a map means you’ll get very used to walking around entire areas, talking to each one of the boring, repetitive NPC’s, and looking inside every building in order to find whatever it is you’re looking for. It’s more frustrating than fun which isn’t something a game should be.

Combat isn’t much more enjoyable and feels rather underdeveloped. It’s mainly sword based and you’ll stab, thrust, parry and block in attempt to vanquish your foes. Unfortunately the controls aren’t great – it’s difficult to move while in battle – and you’ll meet an untimely end if you can’t block at exactly the right moment. Even on the easiest game setting you’ll learn to save often while playingAge of Pirates II. Sadly, heading out to sea on a boat just makes combat even less enjoyable with an even steeper learning curve – and as with so much of this game you won’t get any helpful tutorial to tell you what’s needed.

One example springs to mind here. While playing as Peter Blood I could not for the life of me figure out how to reload the cannons, and as I was playing with the digital download I didn’t have access to manual. My first thought was to visit the he Age of Pirates II Official forum which, just resulted in a dead link. Professional ay? After scouring the internet the only advice I could find was to either ‘Look in the Manual’ (The one that doesn’t appear to come with the download) or wait FIFTEEN minutes to reload the cannons automatically. Here’s some advice, if you do decide to play AoP II, you should definitely get yourself a book for the sea journeys. Not only will you need one for the cannons but also for any travelling on the high seas. The ships move very, very slowly, which is a shame because you can travel anywhere – if you have the patience to get there.

This game had so much potential. The basic elements of taking quests, and hand to hand combat are, as mentioned, very much like Mount And Blade. However, not much has been executed well the poor controls, directionless quest structure and terrible graphics make this a rather forgettable experience which isn't worth the £19.99 asking price. Perhaps with Age of Pirates: Captain Blood due to be released later this year there’s a chance for massive improvements, but based on this outing I wouldn’t recommend holding your breath.Age of Pirates II, I command you to walk the plank!

(Review originally written for Game-Debate)


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