Age of Pirates: Caribbean Tales, a sort of unofficial sequel to the recent Pirates of the Caribbean game (itself a renamed sequel to Sea Dogs ), is a Jack Sparrow of all trades. It just can't seem to get the individual elements up to the basic level even generic genre titles can manage, let alone master them.
Part island vacation, part RPG and part empire builder, it seems like the pirate's life could be reasonably fun for a while. Sure, the missions never get more interesting than bare bones escort and trading exercises, but you earn experience with each colorful trip across the sparkling sea, slowly building up stats like Leadership and Trading while adding special abilities like Windcatcher to improve your seafaring. Eventually you'll hire officers to help plunder wayward vessels and piss off entire nations.
Caribbean Tales seems like average amusement right up until that point, but then walks its own plank. Lining up your boat to get off a cannon shot, or steering into fire to minimize damage, could've been a strategic pleasure during battles. Instead, fights clobber you with an absurd and inaccurate targeting system and swashbuckling that amounts to nothing more than repeatedly clicking a mouse button until the rival captain is dead. There's a moment of glee as you plunder his cargo and decide whether to take over his ship, but getting there is so tedious that after a few battles it's hard to find the will to continue. Waiting a full minute while your cannons reload may be a realistic depiction of slow battles at sea, but it ain't fun.
Caribbean Tales isn't without appealing moments but the game keelhauls their potential at every turn, even against lag-plagued human opponents online. Things could've improved in the later parts of the remarkably minimal story when you start colonizing islands, but because every nation on the map will swiftly descend on your new outpost, even this is reduced to grinding out enough cash and crew to withstand the assault. Add to that a slew of irritating bugs (funny, we don't recall naming our ship "error" and killing off the crew) and the mandatory installation of draconian StarForce copy protection and it's hard to recommend this pegged leg for purchase.