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Age of Pirates: Caribbean Tales

aka: Age of Pirates: Opowie┼Ťci z Karaib├│w, Sea Dogs: Caribbean Tales

Critic Reviews add missing review

Average score: 62% (based on 35 ratings)

Player Reviews

Average score: 3.1 out of 5 (based on 8 ratings with 1 reviews)

After a couple of days, I have Had Enough.

The Good
The "sailing around the ocean" graphics are quite pretty. And sailing through a tropical storm is a blast. And I'll always have a soft-spot in my heart for directionless sandbox games. The management aspects for your crew and officers was nice, but it's occasionally a double-edged sword.

The manual, despite complaints on various forums, is actually very instructive. Aside from one single typo (which confused me to no end, at first - free tip, the Paper Map option is "M", not "U" as the manual states), it's extremely useful and well-written. Rare, I think, for a Russian game translated to English. There is very little in the game that is not explained by the manual, and if you've got it handy, you'll not be surprised by anything the game throws at you.

Unfortunately, as you can imagine, me going on at length about how great the manual is should be a nice preview of "The Bad" section. So, moving on...

The Bad
I'm not even sure where to begin, honestly. I mean, "The Good" versus "The Bad" isn't really the right format for this, since it's very nearly all bad.

I'll split it up into sections.

Graphics: I've mentioned above that the "sailing around in the ocean" graphics were beautiful, and they are. Unfortunately, everything else feels as if it was tacked on at the last minute. When you moor your ship at a town, you wind up at the docks, and can run around the town in 3rd person mode. Unfortunately, these towns are rather maze-like in construction, and there are only four buildings of interest (the Tavern, the Store, the Governor's House, and the Shipyard). Everything else is just for show, and in some towns that "Store" sign above the door is very tiny and difficult to spot. As one can imagine, these buildings are usually (but not always) located near the dock.

Towns are populated by dozens of people, but unfortunately, they're all made up of two or three clones, wandering around aimlessly. On rare occasion, some of these people will offer you missions, indicated by an exclamation mark floating above their head.

So, while you can use the game's "Travel" command to go to one of the four important buildings instantly, you'll probably still be wandering all over the towns, getting lost, just trying to find someone who will give you something to do.

Interface: Once you do find someone who will talk to you, they'll give you a generic greeting ("Can you help me, Captain?"), and give you paragraphs of text.... displayed in a three or four line window at the bottom of the screen. Oddly, the mouse-wheel will not scroll these lines of text - pressing the spacebar will advance one page. But be careful, because once someone's done talking to you, and you can choose your response, the spacebar will also select whether or not you accept his mission. Bizarrely, choosing your response from a list is one point where the mouse's scrollwheel does work. However, you can't scroll back up again, so be sure to commit everything he's saying to memory. If you tell him "No, I don't want to do your silly mission" in hopes of being able to get him to repeat his text, think again - he'll never talk to you again. In some cases, he might fade from existence before your eyes. It's as if, having no luck at this particular colony finding a captain to do his mission, he calls the starship Enterprise beam him to another colony to try again.

Sea Combat: This reminds me a lot of Port Royale 2 in many ways. The basic gist of combat is this:

Point your guns at enemy ship. Give the "Fire!" command. Pray.

See, your command isn't executed immediately. And your gunners are very, very poor shots. (This, in fact, is influenced by a combination of your Gunnery Officer's Accuracy statistic, assuming you've hired such an officer, combined with your own). Needless to say, in the first few levels of the game, your gunners can't hit the broadside of a barn. You can hop onto the deck and fire the cannons personally, but... well, good luck with that. The less said about the weirdness of the "on-deck mode", the better, I think.

Oh yes - did I mention that cannons can randomly explode, damaging your ship and "killin ur doods"? Because they can, and quite often, will. Historically-accurate? Perhaps. Fun? No. You can alleviate this chance by upgrading your Gunnery skill, as well as buying newer, more expensive cannons. But I've never really seen the point in upgrading, since even with the best guns in the world, the average full compliment of gunnery crewmen has the combined IQ of a cactus.

The whole idea of Sea Combat is to do more damage to your opponent than he does to you. Your eventual goal is to sink him (impossible, with these doofuses manning the guns), or get close enough to him (without being sunk yourself) in order to board his ship. Which brings us to...

Land/Shipboard Combat: It starts off interestingly enough. Your gang of hired Soldiers (you did remember to pick up a full compliment last time you were in port, right? Otherwise it's just you against everyone) will rush the enemy ship's crew on the tilting, burning deck. You can run up and try to help them, but you'll more often than not end up stabbing your own guys in the back, since everyone tends to congregate into a large brawl. And, let's face it, a steel cutlass isn't exactly a precision instrument.

Once your loyal crew has subdued the enemy crew, you've got some time to catch your breath (take as long as you like!) before entering the Captain's Cabin. Here, you duel the captain of the ship you've boarded. One on one is the best way to use this game's swordfight system, but unfortunately, it's a really stupid system. I've mentioned in the Sea Combat section that it can take a number of seconds for your cannons to actually fire when you give the order. Bizarrely, it sometimes takes your pirate a second or two to execute your mouse-click in swordfighting mode.

Much to my annoyance, there is a "trick" to swordfighting, where you can win every time. I haven't mastered it, so I die every time. Games like "Sid Meyer's Pirates" did swordfighting extremely well. But this game...I dunno; it seems that if I learn the "killer strategy", then all challenge will be lost. "Pirates!", on the other hand, is a reflex-based minigame that increases in difficulty (read: speed) as you progress. Seems like a lot of pirate-game developers these days try to seriously overengineer their swordfighting, when Pirates had it spot-on. Alas.

Missions: This game has random missions you can accept from people wandering about in towns, hanging around in Taverns, occasionally a Shopkeeper will want you to do a specific cargo run for him. Or, if you aquire a Letter of Marque from a Governor, you can start doing missions for him, too.

They're all pretty lame. So far as I can tell, random missions consist of three types: "Take me to (town)", "Escort my ship to (town)", and in the case of shopkeepers, "Move cargo from A to B". Governor missions are a little more complex, but I've only experimented briefly with them.

Now, I know that there are inherent limitations in the type of "mission" you can do, in such a game. But the developers have seen fit to only write two, perhaps three varieties of flavor-text for all mission types. And it's not even interesting flavor-text.

Still, I must grudgingly admit, taking on missions is the best way, early on, to earn experience points and gold. Especially when you can snag a number of missions at once, going to the same place. Or at least, in the same general direction.

But my beef is that there's no real variety. It doesn't feel like I'm "doing something" - it feels like I'm "earning experience points and gold".

Trading: You can be a trader if you like. Each colony imports 3 goods, and exports 3 goods. Amusingly, some of your better trade options are to ignore the colonies entirely, and buy and sell from random ships on the open sea. I mean, one profitable run is to buy Rum from a colony that exports it, and take it to a colony that's importing it. But don't sell it to the shopkeeper in town, though - instead, you should find a ship moored outside of town. They'll likely pay you twice as much as what the shopkeeper wanted. They'll even take as much cargo as you can throw at them, even when it (comically) exceeds their own cargo capacity.

I suspect that's actually a bug. But I won't tell if you won't.

Environment: Boy, I never knew the Caribbean was so... tiny. You've only got the small chain of islands to explore; no southeast coast of North America, or northeast coast of South America. (I'm thinking of Pirates, and Port Royale 2 again, here.) With only maybe a dozen towns to visit, the world feels ridiculously small.

RPG Aspect: Your pirate gains experience points whenever he does something.... piratey. Capturing a ship, doing missions for someone, even sailing through a storm grants experience (in fact, you gain chunks of experience, every 15-30 seconds, simply for surviving in a storm. Though your ship will take massive damage in the process.)

Gaining experience lets you gain levels (your Officers, if you have any, will shave off 10% of your experience for themselves. Just like you, they've got skills and levels and attributes, so it helps to train 'em up.)

Unfortunately, if you decide to eschew combat (which is, I feel, quite adviseable during the early levels), earning experience points can be very, very slow. All you've got are missions; completing NPC missions typically give you only a tenth of the experience that sinking or capturing a ship will give you.

Your crew will also suffer from morale loss. I once got a pop-up window while sailing at sea - "Mutiny on board!". My only available option was to hop onto the deck of the ship and try to quash the rebellion myself. Unfortunately, there was only one of Me, and dozens of Them.

Now, my question is - why did their morale drop? What are they complaining about? I'm making money - granted, not hand over fist, but it's more than enough to pay their salaries (you get a "bill" at the end of each month for your crew and officers). So... in short, what was their problem?

Only they know, and they aren't talkin'. I guess they just didn't like the cut of my jib.

Copy protection: This game uses Starforce. I personally don't care one way or the other, but there are a surprising number of people out there who wouldn't buy The Best Game Ever Made(tm) if it were protected by Starforce. So, just so y'all know.

The Bottom Line
Don't. Just don't. Try "Sid Meyer's Pirates" instead. Or, if you want something more in-depth, there's "Port Royale 2".

I've dissed Port Royale 2 in the past, even on this very site, but it's a gem compared to Age of Pirates.

I wanted to like this game. I really did. The manual describes, accurately, every single feature I've ever wanted in a pirate-themed game. But the implementation of these features is just horrendous.

Windows · by Dave Schenet (134) · 2006

Contributors to this Entry

Critic reviews added by Jeanne, Wizo, Tim Janssen, shphhd, Cantillon, Xoleras, COBRA-COBRETTI, gukker, Zhuzha, Patrick Bregger, Kimmo Lind, Emmanuel de Chezelles, Alaka.