Pirates, we love them don’t we? From kids favorite Captain Pugwash, to Tom Baker and his unforgettable turn as Captain Rum in Blackadder, it’s fair to say there’s a fair few salty sea-dogs out there that hold a special place in our hearts. Capcom has seen fit to add to this motley crew in the shape of Age of Booty for the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade.
Age of Booty isn’t a masterclass in backside shaking from US Rn’B star Beyoncé but is, in fact, a strategy game. Before most people click away from this review in disgust, it should be noted that this is one with heart and a great deal of character.
The player is charged with capturing towns within a set of challenges that are labelled Easy, Normal and of course, Hard. A clunky interface doesn’t initially do the game much in the way of favours, but once acclimatised to its quirks, navigation soon becomes a non-issue.
The aim is to plunder as many towns and resources as possible within a given area on each map (which is laid out along hexagonal grids) while attempting to fend off the attacks of rival, AI controlled pirates. To achieve this you attack hostile towns or take them over by first destroying, then capturing them. If an AI controlled pirate ventures towards any town that is in the midst of being captured this immediately becomes contested territory, with the victor gaining sole control. Gain control over a set amount of towns in an area and the player wins, but of course the same applies for the enemy, who need to win by the same margin.
A simple premise, but one that can become fraught with difficulty as it’s easy to become stretched trying to keep a tight rein on each captured town. To help with this, towns can be upgraded by collecting resources in the form of beach huts littered around the playing area.Collect enough and a town’s battlements can be strengthened, allowing the player to concentrate on upgrading their pirate vessel.
Finding the right balance between ship and town upgrades is the key to winning engagements in Age of Booty and its one that will punish the unwary. What starts out as a gentle introduction soon becomes full blown warfare on the high seas as the AI becomes ruthless on times, seemingly able to second guess the players’ every turn and move and providing a stern challenge. Thankfully as the game progresses there are AI teammates assigned to the player but unfortunately there isn’t any direct control over them, meaning you are at the vagaries of their whims, not your direct orders.
While it might sound like serious business, there’s a bright and breezy attitude throughout Age of Booty that works, in as much as it takes what could be a dry affair and injects a lot of fun. The random power-ups that can be collected by scuttling various merchant ships add a pinch of variety to the mix. Being able to unleash a whirlpool that will suck an opponent to a watery doom, or the ability to render the players’ boat invisible (perfect for surprise attacks on towns or rival vessels) is a nice touch that helps to liven up battles.
And this is no lone wolf experience with scope for multiplayer with up to four others which can soon disintegrate in a right royal stramash, as vindictive struggles vie with the more tactically astute players attempting to make sense of the initial engagements that occur.
While it won’t appeal to everyone, Age of Booty is a fun engaging little title that has certainly charm to spare and is well worth a look.