Friday, January 05, 2007

A Joyful Surprise

My brother gave me the PC game "AGE OF PIRATES: CARIBBEAN TALES" as a Christmas present. Never heard of it. Has one of those awful "designed by a committee" hyphenated titles that plague the PC. The box is kind of uninspiring and the screenshots on the back make the game look a bit dull.

He knew he had been foolish in buying it for me in the first place. It's rarely a good idea to buy a computer game on a whim, knowing nothing whatsoever about it. Doubly so if you're buying it as a gift. When you've never heard of something it is often because it is rubbish not worth hearing of. And there are so many bad PC games around. He was embarrassed and apologetic as he handed it over and I unwrapped it.

I did my best to look pleased. He knows I love Age of Sail stuff. Unfortunately there are no more convenient Paddy O'Brians to get as gifts for me. Got the lot now. I put the game to one side and forgot all about it. But just the other day I thought I'd better fire it up, in case he started asking if I liked it. Next problem would be to convince him that I actually did like this pile of crap: I'm not a good liar.

I needn't have worried: I LOVE IT! How come I've never heard of a game that is this much fun? (and SO pretty?) I read the computer game magazines. Oh well, not to worry. Suffice it to say that this was an excellent present, so I thought I'd share some screenshots of my exploits, in case anyone else out there might be interested in it too (and who also hasn't heard of it).

(Click on the pics for a bigger version)

I started grabbing screenshots just after taking a 16 gun Brig. I'll keep her, I think. Time I had a little squadron.

Surveying the damage to the prize from the deck of my little ship, the Compass Rose.

Now to sail somewhere friendly to make repairs and hire some new crew.

The Compass Rose, with Barbados in the background.

WHOAH! I'm going to Barbados
WHOAH! Back to the Palm Trees
WHOAH! I'm going to see my Girlfriend
WHOAH! In the sunny Caribbean Sea

I don't wanna be Bus Driver all my life
Seen too much of Brixton Town in the night
Fly away on Coconut Airways
Fly me high, Barbados Sky

Um, that one's actually St. Kitts. Still, never mind, eh?

The fort at St. Kitts.

St. Kitts. Thought I'd be a lady privateer, as you have to look at your own arse the whole time when in "3rd Person" mode. So I might as well look at a shapely one, rather than one belonging to a hairy, sweaty male pirate.

Admiring the architecture and scenery of St. Kitts.

I've taken on a mission for a merchant: Escort the delightfully-named Flirt to uhh, somewhere. Where did I put that log book?

Tackling some pirate scum off the coast of Barbados. I'm playing as a privateer with a Letter of Marque from the British Crown, but you can serve France, Spain or Holland, too. Or none of them and be a pirate yourself. It's all free-form and up to you.

Fire as she bears!

I blame the sun being in my eyes for our woeful shooting.

They're making little holes in my sails, the rotters!

The character sheet, where you manage your skills, equipment and such. You gain experience points during play which can be spent to improve yourself. It's quite like a role-playing game in that respect.

Notice the stupid name of your character. You can either be Blaze or his sister Beatrice Shark. You can call your ships anything you like, even The Happy Enema if you've a mind to, but you're stuck with the character name they give you. Grrr. Stupid names for people is a recurring theme in this game.

The Ship Sheet, where you handle everything to do with your ships.

Yikes! A nasty-looking storm.

Oh dear, I'm really starting to think it was a bad idea to have the Kedgeree earlier.

I think I prefer Halle Berry's Storm, myself.

They sure have big moths here in the West Indies.

The map screen. For the benefit of those who don't have the inclination to manually sail all the way from Bridgetown to Port Royal in real time.

More pirates, damn them!

A sharp fight develops.

A pirate lugger, foolishly messing with me.

Um, perhaps not so foolish. I was standing there just a minute ago...

It's cool how you have bow and stern chasers, unlike in Sid Meier's Pirates.

Fighting the enemy captain in his cabin. Bad form of me to bring a pistol to a sword fight, really.

My other ship, the Fortune. Commanded by Coppe Suzman? What sort of a name is that? He's supposed to be English, I think.

The lubberly lot are running! After them!


Later: Me running around like an idiot on the deck of an enemy ship. The apparent lack of foes means the boarding party must be doing well.

My new toy! I managed to capture a Dutch Frigate with my little Schooner. Just ran at them and boarded them. My fearsome crew managed to carry the day somehow. They're tough bastards led by a fanatical bitch of a Lady Pirate Captain, that's how.

Unfortunately I was so caught up in the action that I neglected to take any pictures of it. Sorry about that. The above pic shows the two ships side by side after the action was over.

I've renamed her the Joyful Surprise.

I love my shiny new frigate! I've kept the Compass Rose to use as a sort of tender, though. That way we can carry loads of provisions without impairing the speedy performance of the frigate.

The view from one of the tops. Look at those lubberly idlers! They're just milling about trying to look busy, not actually doing any work.

Now we need somebody big to pick on, to try out our new 44 gun baby. Ah, perfect. A couple of Spanish Galleons.

Eat this, you greasy Papish scum! (Sorry, only joking. Getting a bit too much into character there for a minute.)

One opts to run, the other decides to slug it out.

Viewing the action from the deck.

She's a-burnin'.

Just a couple more broadsides ought to be enough. We'll board her in a minute or two.

Oh dear.

She's gone. Must remember I'm firing 20-gun broadsides now. Don't know me own strength. Oh well, at least I get the experience points.

Notice another stupid name. That fellow is supposed to be a Spanish Captain. What self-respecting Spaniard goes about calling himself Warnaer Woelffs? I get the distinct impression that this game was made by Eastern Europeans who have no idea what Western European names are supposed to sound like.

Anyhoo, after that other one. She's put miles between us while I was dallying with her mate.

But fear not, there ain't a ship built that can outpace the Joyful Surprise when she's running before the wind. We'll catch 'em.


Now, just to make sure. A little chain shot...




She ain't going anywhere now.

Now to swing around,

Give 'em some grape up close, and board in the confusion.

One swift fight later, we've taken her, plundered her five ways from sunday, and then holed her. I'm in a hurry, and can't be bothered with nursing that shambles into a safe port for repairs.

So there we are, the least impressive present turns out to be one of the best. I whole-heartedly recommend this game. Apart from the fact that it has stolen all my painting time from me over the last few days. Ain't got nothing done since before Christmas. Grrr....

So, where to next, lads?

WHOAH! We're going to Ibiza
WHOAH! Back to the island
WHOAH! We're gonna have a party
WHOAH! In the Mediterranean Sea


Flashy said...

I had a beta of this game and loved it, but I avoided it when I saw the full version because of the box and write ups. Looks like I missed a good one. Thanks for the heads up!


Anonymous said...

I skipped this one for the same reasons flashy did. Looks like I'll have to give it another look.