Giant Bomb Review

30 Comments

Age of Booty Review

4
  • XBGS

Age of Booty's multiplayer is great fun that keeps you coming back, but you'll need a solid crew who wants to work together if you want to dominate the opposition.

Apparently the inspiration for Age of Booty came from the running "Pimps at Sea" gag that Bungie rolls out from time to time.
If you've been following the coverage we've done on the site, you've already seen that Age of Booty appears to be a fun game when played with friends and acquaintances in a local match. But those circumstances--hooking up multiple boxes in the same room to ensure that all trash-talking occurs in a face-to-face setting--aren't likely to be duplicated by most people out there. So I was left wondering how Age of Booty would hold up under more "normal" or "sober" settings. The answer remains mostly the same: Certain Affinity's single-unit real-time strategy game is a well-designed one, with plenty to offer players who want to team up and plunder towns over Xbox Live while fighting off rival pirates and occasionally shouting "yarr."

Age of Booty is, really, pretty simple. You control a pirate ship, usually on a team with other pirates, and you're up against one or more opposing teams. Your goal is to win the map, which is done by either capturing a set number of towns or holding the most towns when time expires. Towns are taken by force with the cannons on you and your teammates' ships. Taking towns can also get you resources, which are used to upgrade your ships or your towns, making them harder for the enemy to capture.

That's the back and forth of Age of Booty. While the towns start out neutral, all the teams are going to be scrambling to take and re-take them until a victor is declared. So deciding when to hang back and defend your existing towns and deciding when (and where) to push forward makes the game nicely strategic. But it's also fast-paced, so you don't have a ton of time to think before you act.

That's why it's nice that the controls are really simple to understand. You do most things using only one button that controls the movement of your ship. The hex-based map makes it easy to determine your attack range--you'll attack anything worth shooting at if you're one hex away from it. If you've got two targets next to you, you'll split your fire, which makes pinching your enemies between two pirate ships or a ship and a town or something like that a totally key strategy. The only time you'll use other buttons are if you need to quickly scroll around the map or spend your resources on an upgrade.

The game tries to give the AI characters a bit of... well... character, but they don't do a great job in practice.
When you look at Age of Booty's online setup, it's easy to see that Certain Affinity, the game's developer, was started by a group of ex-Bungie employees. Rather than the typical ranked/unranked split that most 360 games have, you can either jump into standardized playlists or set up a private game. You can get some friends together and all jump into a game as a party, as well. It's easy to pick up and makes getting into a game pretty fast.

You can also set up matches with AI-controlled bots, and the game has a set of single-player challenges that team you up with some AI guys, as well. This stuff is functional, but perhaps disappointing when compared to the multiplayer. Since there's an extreme need to cooperate with the other members of your team, you're sort of stuck following the AI teammates around, since you can't order them around and they rarely seem to come back you up or play with any sort of meaningful intelligence. Once you've gotten the hang of the controls in a few single-player games, you'll probably get online and never look back.

Age of Booty also has a well-implemented map editor that lets you create different sizes and fill up the maps with anything you find on the official levels. Once you create a map, you can take it online in private games. Any created maps that you encounter are automatically saved to a list of recent maps, where you can decide if you want to store them permanently or not. Also, Certain Affinity seems to have already released two new official maps, which download automatically when you fire up the editor. All things considered, it's a surprisingly deep feature to find in a downloadable game that seems to be implemented a bit better than the N+ custom levels were.

It's easy to hear the words "console" and "real-time strategy" in the same sentence and immediately determine that Age of Booty is not for you. But the game really feels like it was built with the constraints of the average gamepad in mind while simultaneously not feeling dumbed-down or stripped. If you've got some rowdy friends, or if you're willing to take a chance online and try to meet some rowdy strangers, Age of Booty's multiplayer is well worth checking out.
Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
30 Comments
Posted by Player1

You some it up perfectly in your opening statement Jeff. 

This game is a total blast when playing with a team of four, with headsets. Its the most frustrating thing in the world when your playing with silents strangers. 

I agree with the four stars. Its a very fun game. 
Posted by jakob187

Jeff, you sure it isn't 4 stars just because you guys went through a lot of rum on the video feature?  = D

Good to see that another quality game is on XBLA.
Posted by Scheds

A good review, I want to check this game out for sure.

Posted by majnuker

Huh, i would've thought this game would not do so well. I am thoroughly surprised. I'll have to check it out now.

I mean, with all the low game review scores lately, i was expecting more of the same 'suck'ness. Thanks for the refresher, Jeff.

Posted by zhinse

There's no PSN release?! D:

Posted by RHCPfan24

Good review. Spot on as always.

Posted by goldenmnk

@ jakob187 is online


 
Your comment frightens me... Lets hope not for our sake

Posted by banned8921
WHERES PRINCESS DEBUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Posted by Rowr

awesome, i'll pick this one up.

Posted by MeatSim

I played the trial version it seemed pretty fun I might buy it.

Posted by Destroyeron

How much is it?

Posted by Matches_Malone

I want Pimps at Sea.

Posted by Torb

Awesome review. You make a really strong case for the game and I really want to buy it now x.x

Posted by jakob187

LOL@golden

I'm just pickin' on Jeff.  lol
Posted by ImperiousRix

I definitely would love to get into all these Xbox Live arcade games, but I can't seem to sell myself!
This almost sold me, though.

Posted by GiantBomber

nice review that I totally agree with.

Posted by RobDaFunk

Score sounds about right Jeff.....been playing around with the Demo since Weds.  If it weren't for the bevee of games out the next 2 weeks I would pick the Full Version up.

Posted by Webby

I got this yesterday and Ive been having a blast with it. The multiplayer is really enjoyable.

Posted by Al3xand3r

So, players control one ship each, trying to use teamwork to defend their cities or take over the cities of the enemy team.

So why is this called a RTS by everyone? It sounds more like a team based multiplayer action game to me.

Posted by lvl10Wizard

I got bored playing the trial version of this, perhaps it only really takes shape when you take it online with friends. I'll pass on this one.

Posted by ahoodedfigure

At least you guys were up front about the rum party.  :)

Posted by giyanks22

I love age of booty.

Posted by EpicSteve

...but the singleplayer is totally worthless.

Posted by Kohe321

Together with friends it's damn fun.

Posted by fox01313

Overall I thought it was fun but while some of the single player stuff is either good or the whole mission is a mess with too many people on the map or the maps are too small so you don't park yourself at one of your towns for the whole game to let the ai try to capture the rest you will lose from all the other ships taking that one last town. Map editor is cool except for when you go to resize it, the thing acts as an eraser which will take out all your work when you are trying to just trim the extra parts of the map.

Posted by Gamer_152

I've been looking forward to this, I'll definitely download the trial version and most likely the full version as well. Solid review once again Jeff.

Moderator
Posted by Cousken

Hm i played the demo with a mate in split screen and neither of us was impressed.... I'll pass.

Posted by Media_Master

doesn't sound or look interesting but I can be wrong

Posted by ocdog45

the price is right so i am looking forward to playing this one.

Posted by Six

the trial is only a little taste.  get the full game for the real fun