Global Star Software upgrades and reissues Akella's Age of Sail II, originally published by Talonsoft, with Privateer's Bounty, adding more than 20 new single-mission scenarios, five new units, and a comprehensive scenario editor. All scenarios from the original game are included, but with advanced ship damage modeling, improved graphics, floating 3D cameras, non-linear campaigns, new weather effects, revamped game interface, crew discipline levels, and more than 1200 historically rendered warships.
The new units featured in Age of Sail II: Privateer's Bounty include an air balloon, submarine, steam paddleboat, fire ship, and bomb vessel. Enhanced ship maneuverability (creating groups, wind direction, sail control, headings, waypoints, formations), four types of ammunition (ball, chain-shot, grapeshot, and double-ball), different caliber guns, and enemy confrontations (boarding, attacking) are but a part of the experience of navigating 19th century sailing ships.
Ships are separated into 13 levels of effectiveness, and crews are ranked by six efficiency ratings ranging from professional to inexperienced. Unique specifications attend each ship in terms of year, number of guns, power rating, hull, crew, mariners, mizzen mast, main mast, fore mast, speed, depth, freeboard, weight, and turn rates. Battles include ship-to-ship, forts, towns, and coastal batteries, with weather, islands and shoals impacting tactical decisions.
Up to 16 players can participate via LAN or the Internet with adjustable game settings like fog of war, the ability to lock the server, game speed and difficulty level. The scenario editor allows creation of new campaigns or editing of existing missions, with full control over nearly every aspect of gameplay from adjustments to weather conditions and scripts to inserting ships and landscapes.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, naval warfare evolved into a military institution. It was a time when heroic deeds, magnificent daring, and expanded technology influenced naval warfare. Tactics improved dramatically, and sea battles involved faster and more powerful ships designed from the hull to the mizzenmast with a myriad of technological innovations and advances. Navies that used more maneuverable frigates, fast paddleboats, submersible craft, larger cannons, short range cannonades, improved ball and shot, impregnable hulls, fleet tactics, and professional seamen and marines often ruled the seas. Naval prowess became so important that maritime policy often influenced a nation's warmaking capability. The bellicosity often displayed during this period became the stuff of legends.
Age of Sail II: Privateer's Bounty lives up to this expectation with a deft blend of real-time strategy, tactics, and simulation that brilliantly re-creates the greatest sea battles of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Fans of the Age of Sail series will find Privateer's Bounty a welcome addition to Akella's long list of seafaring games, and those who already play the original Age of Sail games will soon discover just how much better Privateer's Bounty is in comparison. With an improved AI, enhanced ship damage models, a beefed-up graphics engine, a fine-tuned interface, added weather effects, useful mission editor, and worthy multiplayer game, sea combat has never been this much fun.
I Have Not Yet Begun To Fight
Like the original games, Age of Sail II: Privateer's Bounty can be considered both a naval warfare simulation and a real-time strategy game. With exacting attention to detail, drawn from a hefty list of historical battles taking place from 1775-1820, Privateer's Bounty is every ounce a wargame. Each single-player battle re-creates a famous naval engagement during this period of naval history. However, with the addition of a story-driven campaign, players are able to build and manage their own fleet of ships, making Age of Sail II: Privateer's Bounty much more than a simulation.
Building on a campaign strategy element, players have the option of choosing from one of three scenarios, each with a distinctive set of naval engagements and objectives connected through a common plot or story. Objectives include combating enemy ships, assaulting forts, capturing the enemy flagships, and escaping blockades. Players can choose a campaign as one of three nations under the auspices of three distinct epochs: the US, British, or Privateer.
Players begin each campaign with a small fleet, and an even smaller purse. Later, as objectives are achieved through combat, the commander gains rank, awards, prestige, and (more importantly) gold. Gold allows players to build their fleet through upgrades and repairs, or they can buy more ships to bolster their fleet, or sell them. When upgrading ships, players determine a number of factors, such as the quality of rigging, sails, hull, cannons, sailors, marines, and crew ratings. Better quality obviously equates to a greater chance at defeating the enemy, and the same goes for rank and prestige.
In the single-player games, players may choose from more than 75 historical sea battles (most from the original Age of Sails) covering 11 nations, as well as 21 single-player naval engagements with various objectives and victory conditions. Some of the historical battles include the USS Constitution vs. the HMS Gurriera, the Amelia vs. Vengeance, along with plenty of sea battles taken from the French Revolution.
Broadsides and Boarding Parties
In addition to the regular composition of frigates and various fighting ships from Age of Sail II, Privateer's Bounty adds five new seafaring craft. The steam paddle, submarine, air balloons, bomb, and fire ships are welcome additions to an already decent collection of sailing ships. The submarine, for example, secretly lays mines in the path of approaching enemy vessels, while the steam paddle outpaces most ships. The bomb and fire ships are used solely for the purpose of ramming into enemy vessels and destroying them.
Of course, players must become proficient at using cannons in order to gain the upper hand during battle. Range is important, and is dictated by the types of gun caliber used on the ship. Cannons can also be moved from the sides to the bow or stern, allowing for more firepower during maneuvers. There are four types of shot a crew can fire from cannons: ball shot (for firing at hulls and fortifications), chain-shot (for taking out rigging and sails), double-ball (for short but powerful damage), and grapeshot (for taking out crews). Depending on the objective, determining which ammo is best to utilize can be vital to overcoming the opposition.
In addition, ship damage has been separated into three distinct categories: hull, sails, and crew. This allows for more detail and bolsters specific combat strategies. If a player is interested in boarding a ship for capture, for example, whittling down their crew with grapeshot before grappling is tactically sound. Privateer's Bounty also includes ship grappling and land-based combat, so be prepared to board a few ships while taking out enemy fortresses guarding the port of entry.
The game's enhanced interface is also noteworthy. Aside from the introduction of basic features, such as window resizing and hot keys, ships now sport additional controls for detailed combat and crew management. Thankfully, the enhanced crew and ship management features provide more tactical play. Windows for the ship control, ship's list, and ship's heading control have all been modified for easier access during battle. In addition, maneuvering groups of ships is made easier through specifying waypoints and formations. Combining ships into small groups allows sending multiple ships into battle much easier to control.
The Age of Sail graphics engine gets a nice overhaul, too. Not only do the ships look more detailed, but tiny sailors can be seen moving along the ship's deck. Weather effects, such as fog and rain, have also been added for increased realism.
The real charm of Age of Sail II: Privateer's Bounty lies in its multiplayer game where up to 16 players can broadside one another either across a LAN or via GameSpy Arcade. All single-player battles are available, so armchair admirals can face the ultimate challenge of a human opponent. The addition of a scenario editor allows players to customize ships, build scenarios, or just tweak current battles to their liking. It's really a powerful tool.
As intriguing as this game is, the learning curve is quite steep. The game assumes you already know how to play Age of Sail, and the lack of a tutorial really hamstrings the ability to jump right into battle. Controlling one ship during the frenzy of battle can be an overwhelming task, let alone an entire fleet. Toggling between the various ships for putting out fires, changing cannon shot, maneuvering for a broadside, or just escaping an onslaught can get tedious if players don't know what they're doing. Even though ships are labeled on screen, the mini-map should have provided additional labeling for a macro perspective, so aspiring admirals know which ships are where at any given glance. The repetitive music and crew dialogue can get annoying as well. Fortunately, none of these problems hamstring the solid gameplay.
Age of Sail II: Privateer's Bounty is an excellent marriage of naval strategy, tactics, and history. For those interested in warring on the high seas, this game is a must-have. So, sharpen your cutlass, load the cannons, hoist the mizzenmast, and ready your boarding pikes -- the enemy fleet looms on the horizon.
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