reviews\ Sep 27, 2006 at 8:00 pm

Age of Pirates: Caribbean Tales - PC - Review

Over the years, we’ve seen lots and lots of games based around the life of pirates or enabling you to choose to play as one, and why not? With the success of movies like Pirates of the Caribbean (of course) and a few others, it’s interesting living the life of thievery, fear, and murder to many, and what better way to do all of that legally than in a video game? Well, here we are sailing the seven seas once more with the new PC game entitled Age of Pirates : Caribbean Tales (which will be referred to as AoP going forwards due to my laziness) which manages to pull off a decent piracy game, regardless of some issues found on deck.

AoP casts you in the role of a pirate … plain and simple. That’s right, no sailing around buying stuff and just being a merchant here. Instead, it focuses on a variety of things ranging from following a bizarre storyline in which you receive a mysterious note from a mysterious stranger from your father who passed away years ago in which you can follow, or you can simply sail the seas, terrorize the merchants, and try to build a fleet manned by your own handpicked crew and just cause as much mayhem as possible. The game is presented in third person, with W,A,S,D moving the character and the mouse looking around (similar to FPS controls), and most everything from a control aspect is pretty simple to figure out even without a tutorial in the beginning.

The game takes place in two different formats, one being on foot whether it be on land or on the deck of the ship, and the other (and more prevalent one) is sailing out on the high seas. Most of the time, you will be in port towns when on foot, walking around and getting information or game tips from residents (which also give experience points to level up your character in RPG-style format). It is here that you will also visit shops to get food and supplies for your ship, drop into taverns to get side quests (escort seems to be a favorite with these) or drop into the local Governor’s mansion to pick up jobs or to cause problems. You will also be able to choose an alliance with a country which assures side quests to be given, but this will also lead into bad relations with rival countries which can cause issues when not in a safe harbor.

After hanging out in town for a bit, it’s time to load up and exit port to go and find adventure or try to complete a task. The controls to the ship were fortunately made extremely simple, and doing everything from putting up or down the sails to reloading are easy to get into. While at sea, you will also encounter various weather conditions which will effect how the ship maneuvers, and it will effect combat due to pitching or difficulty steering if in a storm. The developers also made sure to think of everything you will need when on the high seas, so a variety of cannon ammo is available (cannonballs for hull damage, grapes for sail damage, knipples for mast and sail damage, and bombs for explosive punch) and you will also be able to communicate with other ships in your fleet or that you come across or even quickly launch into defend mode if escorting.

OK, so all sounds really good so far here, but the game is far from perfect. For starters, interactions in the town are really pretty pointless for the most part if not relating to a quest, and the villagers apparently have nothing better to do than just walk around in clusters giving you tips on everything from upgrading your ship to buying more supplies. For most of you, you’ll probably spend as little time as possible here and instead just try to hit the high seas.

Secondly, the controls don’t seem to respond as well as they sound many times, and there were instances where I had to hit the spacebar 2 or 3 times to get a conversation going when I was standing right next to them. I also had a couple of issues with getting into a port and trying to raise or lower the sails manually by the keyboard, but they worked fine if I brought the menu up and did it from there.

Lastly, the overall combat and AI just didn’t seem to work like I thought it should, or really it wasn’t as good as what I thought it could have been. Fights on the decks of ships weren’t very exciting, and while there is a variety of weapons to purchase and use from swords and cutlasses to blunderbusses, combat was simply slash and lunge or shoot which felt way too clunky. Another AI problem that I ran into was trying to have decent ship-to-ship communication, and trying to position your ship to talk to another friendly ship that you were escorting or sailing with just caused issues. You have to sail within hearing distance of your allies obviously, but they wouldn’t ever sit still to let you do that. Usually I wound up having to chase them and narrowly avoid a collision to try and set up tactics or something, which just proved to be too cumbersome.

Overall, AoP isn’t a bad game … and really I had a good time with it despite the issues that I ran across. Honestly, if your looking for a new pirate game that will satisfy some time for you, or you have a teenager who enjoyed the Disney films and wants to give the pirate’s life a try, this one isn’t a bad game to look into. If your looking for a game that is a little deeper in options or in game “goings on,” you may want to look elsewhere before committing.

Review Scoring Details for Age of Pirates: Caribbean Tales

Gameplay: 7.0
The controls are easy to get into and figure out, and the option to play the story or just do whatever you want to do makes it a definite that there are lots of hours of gameplay to be found here. The controls were clunky, in my opinion, whether on land or at sea, and good ship-to-ship battles can be hindered by trying to chase your allies around.  

Graphics: 7.9 
The world looks great, from flat mirrored seascapes complete with shadows of sharks or whales below to rolling and tossing waves that crash around your ship. In addition the crew running around on the docks and scaling the masts looked great and really added to the game.

Sound: 7.1
The music sounds good in AoP, as do the sounds of town buzzing and ship battles, but the character dialogue is robotic most of the time and doesn’t go with what’s being said, like “Get away from me” while giving you a tip on how to make your ship better. 

Difficulty: Medium
The controls are easy, but it will take some learning to figure out who and when to pick fights or how to position your ship during battles in order to avoid a quick end to your game, especially at the beginning. Before you begin, you can change difficulty options, which will allow for a harder or easier game.  

Concept: 7.5
Again I thought that this was good addition to a Pirate library, and a little polish and work to something like this would really make it stand out.   

Multiplayer: N/A
There is a multiplayer mode, but every time I logged on there wasn’t more than one or two games going that were password protected and didn’t allow me access, and every time I tried to make a game no one would log on.

Overall: 7.2
Age of Pirates again is a good title to look at if you are into the lifestyle and are looking for something new to get into, and outside of the above mentioned issues it is a fun game that will provide a lot of hours for you to just have fun with provided you can look past the imperfections.



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