Preview – Age of Booty

September 21, 2008 — Leave a comment

Originally published in The Daily Toreador.

Ahoy, me hearties! While “Talk Like a Pirate Day” may have been last week, the folks at Capcom are hoping to give gamers another reason to shout “Arr!” at in the very near future.

“Age of Booty”, formerly known as “Plunder”, is a downloadable real-time strategy game coming soon for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC. Unlike most RTS games that make their way to game consoles, “Age of Booty” was developed with a controller in mind.

It’s partly for that reason that the game feels very different from most strategy games of the past. You essentially control only one unit – a pirate ship – and move that unit around a hex-based map. Along the way, you want to collect resources. Gold, wood, and the most essential of pirate resources, rum.

You collect these resources by picking up crates (which may be dropped by defeated enemies), destroying villages, or capturing cities. The latter of these is the primary goal in any match of the game. You want to capture more cities than your opponents, period. On top of being the method of scoring points, captured cities will constantly supply you with more resources, with which you can upgrade your ship or upgrade your towns themselves.

Ship upgrades take place at your home base (appropriately enough, a cove), and you can spruce up your ship’s speed, armor, and cannons. Upgrading these is essential to surviving in combat.

Combat is extremely simplistic. Enemy towns and ships will automatically fire upon any opposing unit in an adjacent hex, and your ship will do the same. In other words, all you have to do is move up next to something you want to attack, and a battle ensues. The victor will be the result of many factors, including health, the quality and abilities of your ship, and whether or not either side has backup from a friendly town or ally.

Pirate curses add another element of the game. By this I don’t mean swashbucklers who need to soap their mouths, but rather cards obtained by destroying merchant ships. These cards have a number of different effects when used, such as bombing an area of the map, summoning a whirlpool underneath an enemy ship, or sending a monkey to pilfer an enemy’s resources.

For hardcore fans of strategy titles, this may sound rather simplistic compared to what they’re used to. Truth be told, it is. But that’s a very good thing in this case. The simple controls, objectives, and resource management make for a fast paced game that can easily be enjoyed by a wide audience. It shouldn’t be very difficult for even casual gamers to pick up a controller and figure out the game’s mechanics.

This is fortunate, as the game sports a variety of multiplayer options. Up to four players can duke it out on one console, or up to eight can wage war online. Multiplayer matches are split up in a variety of ways, most of which being team based affairs for teams of two, three, and four.

The game will come ready with twenty five unique maps, as well as a map maker to create your own battlefields in dangerous waters.

This preview was based off of an unfinished build of the PC version of the game. The full game will be downloadable for the PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 later this year. Fans of strategy games or pirates in general should look into it, lest they be scallywags.

Britton Peele

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Freelance video game critic for sites like GameSpot and GamesRadar. Amateur fantasy author.

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