Age of Sail II is a real time-naval combat game set during the era of the great fighting ships from 1775 to 1820. Steeped in military history, the game offers over 100 single player scenarios, a battle campaign, and multiplayer games over a LAN or the Internet for up to 16 people. More than 1200 historical ships, primarily from British, American and French fleets, are depicted in painstaking detail. A floating 3D camera allows you to oversee large battles encompassing numerous ships.
Installation of the one-CD game is uneventful and quick, followed by the now-typical opening animation sequence, which, in this case, is unimpressive with its fuzzy look and non-representative impression of gameplay. Fortunately, once the animation is over, the graphics improve. Conversely, many scenario briefings are poorly written, and do little to either elucidate the goal of the battle or induce any excitement.
You begin the main campaign as a captain of an American ship with the task of subduing five British vessels. The task seems difficult for a first scenario, but in actuality it appears to be the closest thing the game has to a training mission, and the goals are accomplished rather easily. Battle takes place through the use of cannons and a targeting overlay helps in planning an effective strategy. Damaged ships from either side may choose to strike their colors and fly a white flag in surrender. During battle, ships may also catch on fire, go aground in shallow water, be boarded, or, if they get too close, get their riggings entangled (or fouled).
At the end of the scenario, victory points are awarded to both sides based on how many ships sink or surrender during the battle, and the number of points determines how much prize money is awarded for a scenario. Prize money is used to buy crew, repair ships or even buy new ships. Each scenario also provides a certain number of prestige points that may be awarded, which serve as the "score." As the campaign continues, a successful player may receive awards in the form of promotions, gifts from other nations, and even public approval.
The undeniable focus in the game is on the ships, with variability determined by a number of factors including hull strength, decks, sails, maneuverability and speed. As ships are damaged by cannon fire, rips appear in sails and holes materialize in hulls. The background can be adjusted with the game controls, but at its highest setting, the seas, sky and coastline are beautifully rendered. Backround sounds include what one would expect from a naval game: waves, cannon blasts, and creaking rigging, and sinking ships make a satisfying gurgling noise as they go down. The soundtrack is composed of wonderful period-inspired marches that sound like they'd fit into a Hollywood film.
The game interface is not easy to understand or utilize. The tiny icons are difficult to make out and the small written cues that pop up at the bottom of the screen are in a thematic naval font that is impossible to read. In addition, the small buttons are simply difficult to click on with the sluggish mouse. The game manual, a measly 28 pages, offers little in the way of instruction, gameplay, or strategy hints. Despite gaming community complaints about glitches, few of signficance were experienced during the review of the game.
Graphics: Sea and sky backgrounds are brilliantly executed and ships are amazingly detailed, but the interface graphics are difficult to comprehend and manage.
Sound: The soundtrack is awe-inspiring and background noises are satisfying and realistic.
Enjoyment: Naval battle aficionados and those who enjoy slow, strategic games will have a fondness for the details, but the casual player will be uninterested.
Replay Value: The more than 100 historical battles and main campaign offer a significant amount of replay potential. LAN and Internet play offers the ability to wage naval war against friends, though finding online matches can be difficult.
Age of Sail II is a sequel to the popular naval strategy game Age of Sail from Talonsoft. The game covers naval combat from 1775 to 1812. The game offers English-French and English-American campaigns, more than 100 standalone scenarios of most famous battles: Copenhagen, the Battle of the Nile, Trafalgar etc, the complete information about more than 2,000 historical ships from 11 countries (England, France, Denmark, Naples, Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, and the United States), detailed reconstruction of famous battles, old drawing used to create 3D models of ships and fortifications, full floating 3D camera that allows you to zoom, rotate and pinpoint exact locations. The game graphics are well done, each ship is exquisitely detailed, as ships take damage, a multiskin effect lets you see more holes in the sails, also fire will break out on deck and entire masts will go over the side as the enemy continues to pump iron into your hull. Alike the original Age of Sail game, Age of Sail II lets you control each ship's sail configuration, speed, course, ammo, and weapon aiming. The interface in game is at once functional, informative, and easy to use. In addition the game includes an all-important time-acceleration option - game speed can be accelerated to either 2x, 4x, 8x, 16x or 32x, or it can be paused. Age of Sail II is very good looking strategy game, if you liked original Age of Sail you will more than satisfied.
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