reviews\ Sep 23, 2002 at 8:00 pm

Age of Sail II: Privateer's Bounty - PC - Review

Sir Moorhouse, his ship and crew are three months past due. Last reported in search of a mysterious archipelago in the North Sea, nothing has been heard or reported of him. Someone has to either find him or find out what happened to him.

Guess who?

Privateer’s Bounty: Age of Sail II is an engaging naval strategic combat game that is big on challenges. Global Star Software and Akella have joined forces to bring a PC game that looks good and has a terrific options package loaded with campaigns (the original Age of Sail II campaigns plus 20 new single player missions, as well as three open-ended campaigns).

The Sky Glider, all 44 guns primed and ready, encounters three ships off the coast of Sweden. They are not friendly and almost immediately open fire. A course is set, straight between two of them. As they enter the firing range, cannons on both the port and starboard sides open fire, breaching hulls and shredding sails. The wind favors you and the Sky Glider dances away before the wounded vessels and turn and return fire.

This is a game that is easy to jump into and play. It is a matter of simply entering one of the three modes of game styles ­ single player, multiplayer or campaign. The game does come with a campaign editor so you can create your own scenarios.

If you decide to pursue the single player scenarios, you will be treated to some of the historical naval battles of the late 18th/early 19th centuries. Each mission comes with an objective, whether it is full-fledged destruction of the enemy or just getting the opposing forces to surrender. You can grapple a ship, if necessary, to board it for a more personal attack. While engaged in cannon battle, you can instruct your crew to tend to tangled rigging or damaged sails. Without sails you are a sitting duck.

And don’t expect the same slow-witted AI featured in past titles of the series. The artificial intelligence of this product is vastly improved.

Of course, after each combat, you are rewarded and given the opportunity to repair the ships of your fleet, or to buy new ships.

The plot thickens. A wealthy naval captain has begun his own privateering career, but has engaged some of the top naval vessels off the coast of Sweden to help him. His eventual goal is to overthrow the Swedish government and return the country to a naval power. He is ruthless and his fleet of ships, patrolling coastal waters are aggressive. The English flag is all the warrant they need to attack. Your small fleet has two choices, run or fight.

Northern Star is one of three open-ended campaigns featured in this title. The evolving storyline allows players to experience the full measure of this game. Just about every conceivable obstacle is thrown at you, and you have the opportunity to explore the lands and waterways of the game’s mapboards fully.

Graphically this game is well done. The coasts are wonderful to look at, and the ship dynamics are solid.

The player interface is very user friendly. Almost every function of this game is a click away. However, that can be a double-edged sword. If the auto-fire is enabled, you are likely to shoot at anything that comes within range of your cannons ­ and that includes friendly ships.

Should players feel bogged down in the real-time character of the game, you can speed it up so that those laborious turns happen in seconds ­ however, what is the fun of that. The joy of this game lies in the real-time frame. If you keep it at the normal pace, you have the opportunity to see what the enemy is doing, and adjust accordingly ­ just like it must have really been. This is not just a naval combat game, this is a high-seas chess match with deadly consequences.

Privateer’s Bounty: Age of Sail II is a time-consuming strategy game is a pleasure to play. It is challenging, and features the elements of any good war-gaming experience.

It is rated for Everyone.


Gameplay: 8
The game does take time to play, simply because ships don’t turn on a dime, and you have to configure turns with gun range. Once in a scenario, the action moves well ­ and you can speed up the game so that a fight that could take hours only takes minutes. The game does have a few minor problems, but nothing that should daunt fans of this genre. However, you can, inadvertently, move out of a mission by hitting the wrong keys, and it is impossible to return.

Graphics: 8.5
The ocean does seem overly flat during even some tumultuous weather conditions, but overall this game looks very good. Smoke from the cannons, and ocean spray of cannon balls missing targets are all well rendered. The moveable camera allows players to get right on top of the action.

Sound: 7.8
The musical score and effects ­ such as weather, cannon fire and ship damage ­ are well done. However, the voice echoing orders is bland at best. Also, at times between battles, some echoing problems were experienced in the overall sound.

Difficulty: Medium
The player interface is well designed, and provides ease of access for the game. The game sports three difficulty levels and even newcomers to the genre and series ­ while given some latitude ­ will find this a challenge. You won’t sail through every naval battle unscathed. This game requires thought and planning, most often on the spur of the moment. That the game seems to have linear qualities makes replaying a scenario easier because you have an idea of what you face and where they are coming from.

Concept: 8
This game is well designed, with a solid AI, and a great options package. The multi-faceted campaign scenarios are an excellent adjunct to this release.

Multiplayer: 7.5
This game supports LAN or Internet play over the GameSpy network. Up to 16 players can compete in fleet-versus-fleet action. You can also go one-on-one, if that is more to your liking.

Overall: 8
Privateer’s Bounty: Age of Sail II is a solid game that sports all the elements of an enjoyable gaming experience. It looks good, plays well and is challenging. The game does have a few minor problems, but should appeal to anyone who enjoys naval strategic combat.


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