Imagine a game where you're surrounded by pirate ships bombarding you with cannons, the ocean is swirling angrily around you, and the music plays ominously in the background. That's Age of Pirates in a nutshell. In this role-playing pirate game, your character can explore the Caribbean taking on every ship that's foolish enough to cross your path, and no story is needed to keep you busy for hours on end. However, newcomers might be a little miffed at the absence of any sailing tutorial levels, particularly given the number of keys involved, and it has a flimsy story that doesn't quite keep you enthralled. But if it's a pirate's life for you, then a few hours a day of this game won't be all bad. Savvy?
The game offers you the choice of two characters - the roguishly handsome Blaze or the beautiful and busty Beatrice. A variety of missions are available, ranging from escorting a ship to another port, carrying food or equipment to another destination, or sailing the high seas in search of booty. There's also a storyline that slowly unfolds as you play - if you choose to follow it - which has you making good on your deceased father's wish of creating an armada.
Starting off at port, you can walk around a tiny town with very little to do other than talk to the people who will give you hints and tips on how to play the game. Perhaps if they'd been a little more informative, I wouldn't have died in the first few minutes. (I was beset by pirates the moment I left port, and hadn't a clue how to sail the ship. Bloody pirates.)
As much of the gameplay will be based on learning from your mistakes while figuring out the controls and weaponry, the only way to get better at it is to just keep on playing. For example, I discovered cannonballs which explode on impact. Shortly after, I also discovered that they can also explode before they're fired, taking out adjacent crew members.
What Age of Pirates has working in its favour are the many views you have when you're out at sea. There's the 3-D view that lets you move the camera at any angle around the ship when you set sail, a map to plot your course, and first-person view from the deck with a scope to view out to sea.
If you're a fan of Monkey Island or Sid Meier's Pirates, you may find this game a little lacking in character. It's more for those who enjoy combat and trading sims, and battling the elements or other ships to get your booty safely home to port.
To view a screenshot, click here.
Verdict: A slightly above-average seafaring game with engrossing music and unique character views. But you'll need to be a committed fan of piratical endeavours to get any real joy out of this product.
Score: 3 1/2 out of 5