Sweeps Age Of Booty Review
I don't usually write reviews or impressions or anything like that, but I feel this game deserves my over-valued attention. So here we go;
After booting up the game I hopped straight into a 4vs4 multiplayer match (there was 1vs1 and 2vs2 options also available). Finding a group was painless. Thankfully there was no "Ranked or Player?" decisions to be made (the option to choose didn't feature on the menu) so there will be no messing about with finding decent ranked games for achievements. In the pre-match screen players could leave and join seamlessly - none of this Castle Crasher nonsense of random D/C's and freeze screens. I didnt have any connection issues or problems getting into a group. The online mode doesn't feature a lobby system, it just walks you off the plank and into a random game. However once in a game groups are carried over, which means if you form a decent little team you will be kept together from one game to the next.
The gameplay is initially a little confusing. I didn't try out the single player stuff so I didn't do any tutorials (Manuals are for girls!) - but fortunately the gameplay is easy enough to grasp and I was rushing about like a pro by the end of my first game. The game is split into a hexagonal grid and each hexagon can only contain one ship at a time. There is no turn based system, so players can sail about as they see fit by clicking on the section they want to go to with the A button.
The battle system is also very simple. Ships each start out with one cannon. The number of cannons a ship or town has is represented by a dot shown underneath the name. The max cannons a ship has is 4. The more cannons you have, the faster your ship will fire. To attack something, you must position your ship on the hexagon adjacent to it. Your ship will then fire upon it automatically - no button tapping required. If your ship is adjacent to 2 enemies, for example a ship and a town - your cannon fire will alternate between the two.
There is a basic upgrade system in place which allows you to upgrade the Speed, Armour and Cannons of your ship (each can be upgraded 3 times). Towns, once captured, can also be upgraded with extra cannons and defensive walls - making them harder for the enemies to destroy. To upgrade stuff you need resources Lumber, Gold and Rum. Capturing a town will give you a steady income of a certain resource, but single units can also be found floating in boxes in the sea, on neutral ships or in the small villages alongside the coast (which disappear once they have been destroyed). Killing an enemy ship will cause them to drop a box - which will either contain booty or a curse. Curses are special weapons - like the Ghost Ship curse which turns you briefly invisible. Once you have gained enough resources you can sail back to your home town and upgrade your ship, or upgrade another town from anywhere on the map. Clicking LT will cycle through towns, whilst RT will center the camera on your ship. You can use the right stick to zoom the camera closer to the action, but you cannot rotate the camera around at all, which can be a little annoying - although because of the elevated viewpoint you aren't going to miss anything.
Te depth of the battle system extends to the location of your ship in relation to an enemy. If a ship is next to a town occupied by its own team then the ship will receive a slow health regeneration - meaning attacking ships will have a much harder time destroying them. It sounds simple but it can get really intense when you have all 8 ships at various stages of being upgraded fighting over the only consistent source of wood on the map.
One of the main issues I have with Age Of Booty is the fact that resources are shared. When you get some loot it goes into the pot which anyone on the team can access. This means if you have spent ages racking up enough Rum to upgrade your ship, if someone else gets back to the base before you they can upgrade first, using up your hard earned loot. Some people on Xbox live didnt even bother to leave the base, they just sat there while everyone else did all the work and hogged all the upgrades - which lost us the game because we were just getting killed by the opposition who shared their upgrades and were much more effective. However, if you can find 3 other players who are willing to work as a team then this game becomes a lot of fun, and the strategy involved is great. Assigning upgrades to weaker team players and deciding which towns and ships to target with your mini fleet is fantastic and feels really rewarding.
Victory is dependant on holding a certain amount of Towns depending on the size of the map. If you hold the maximum amount of towns then you will win (usually about 5 or 6). Alternatively the countdown timer will run down and whichever team has the most Towns at the end of the game will win.
The graphics in Age Of Booty are great for an XBLA game - bright and colourful - very similar to Civilization Revolution. The hex grid really isn't as restrictive as you think its going to be and actually works really well. I'm very impressed with the sound as well, which has managed to get some great pirate lines recorded - "Get to work, ye handsome devils!" was particularly inspiring.
The single player is composed of several challenges which I couldn't really be bothered to mess around with. There is also a map maker - and due to the simplistic design of the maps it has a lot of potential. User created maps can be saved and then shared and played online.
The framerate is perfect - my Xbox can be very laggy online sometimes but I didn't have any problems with Age Of Booty, even with a match full of players from around the world.The only real problem is if someone drops out of the game halfway through a match - people cannot rejoin if a match is already in progress, and a team with only 3 ships is usually destined to lose.
For anyone who needs a solid arcade multiplayer game, with a decent chunk of strategy elements thrown in for good measure, Age Of Booty It is worth all your pieces of eight.
/end pirate metaphors
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