You know how PSN games have that little trailer in the XMB? I still find myself lingering over the icon for Age of Booty, just to hear that wonderful, piratey music loop. I love it. But I almost didn’t love the game. Oh, sure, I wanted it to be great--after all, I bought and downloaded it simply because it looked suitably piratey in the screenshots--but when I played it, I was initially disappointed. Ah, but then I gave it a second chance… and it was awesome. That’ll learn me.
The game is a real-time strategy offering from Capcom. It’s got a piratey theme, with tongue firmly in cheek. For instance, one of the pirates is called ‘Ol’ Two-Patch’, which would obviously be very sad in reality, but is clearly very silly from a comedic point of view. Especially is he has 20/20 vision in both eyes and is just wearing two eye patches as a statement of his extreme pirate badassery. But even he is no match for the Dread Pirate Spork, who has a spork (spoon/fork hybrid) in place of the traditional pirate hook.
The game is very simple. You can move in real-time across the map, with the aim being to become the first to control three ports at the same time. This simplicity is carried over into your ship upgrades and the resource-collecting you require in order to perform them. All the usual dull stuff that puts off non-RTS fans is condensed down to clearly-defined necessities. Wood plus gunpowder builds ships. Tiles with gold coins on them will yield money. Anyone can grasp that.
However, it’s the game’s real-time nature that makes this so consistently entertaining. You need to think on the fly, to work out whether your ship is fast enough to intercept the enemy or better spent defending the town you’ve spent loads on upgrading. Or maybe you should wait until the perfect moment to drop a whirlpool on someone, just when they’re about to capture a town, instead leaving it wide open for you to finish off, while said foe emerges from the ocean halfway across the map. Priceless.
The single-player is so good, I played through it twice – once on PSN and again on 360 to gather the achievements. The final level is ridiculously hard, but the game’s difficulty curve overall is excellently weighted, allowing you to constantly feel challenged as you learn the ropes, without leaving you ever feeling out of your depth. And if you do fail, you can start again and use your initial free stat points differently to give you a better chance at prevailing.
Then there’s the multiplayer, which is undoubtedly excellent, but sadly remains a mystery even to me. Why? Because nobody I know wants to play the bloody thing. Why? Who knows! There is undeniably something blocking people from getting into the game and discovering its brilliance. I don’t know what it is. Maybe the 'RTS' label that really doesn't convey how exciting it is to play. But it’s a crying shame because Backbone Entertainment did everything so well, there’s literally nothing here to dislike.
Which is why you--yes, YOU--should play it. And even if the unthinkable happens and you still can’t get into it, you’ll always have that awesome music right there on your PS3’s XMB, for those moments where you wish you drunk nothing but rum and had an arch-enemy in the shape of a bearded man with two eye patches.
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