Video Game Rentals Delivered

Age of Booty (PSN)

David Yun (PSN Gamertag - Vawce) David Yun (PSN Gamertag - Vawce): (contact-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2009-04-15 12:23:54

Age of Booty (PSN) - Rank C


Developer: Certain Affinity
Publisher: Capcom
Date: 10/16/08

Also available for Xbox 360 (XBLA)

Pirates aren't as cool as postmodern sensibilities make them out to be. Their image is predicated on a thin veneer of personality that revolves around grog, beards, and bad idiomatic jokes. At least zombies or ninjas provide more satisfying action-orientated grist for videogames. Games about pirates ought to play up the shallow romance of freebooting and pillaging and missing body parts as much as possible, especially one as simple as this. Age of Booty is what you get when you take the Real Time Strategy genre and strip it all the way down to a pick-up-and-play party game. Controlling just one unit, a pirate ship, the goal is to conquer a set number of coastal towns before your fellow buccaneer rivals do so. Sadly, aside from this setup, there just isn't enough pirate-ness in the game.

The game takes place on a hex-based map. You simply click on the hexagon you want your ship to sail to, and if an enemy ship or town is in a neighboring hex, they start pounding each other with cannon fire. Capturing towns provides resources, as do smashing floating crates and razing smaller villages. Those resources can be used to upgrade your ship's combat ability or mobility, or upgrade your towns to be more resistant to enemy takeover. Sinking merchant ships give you "curses", like whirlpools and bombs, to unleash on enemy vessels. That's the entire game.

Which is fine. Simple and elegant gameplay has its place. Unfortunately, the A.I. is also simple. And by "simple", I mean "retarded". I intend no untoward malice with that word usage. When I was a kid, my mother worked in a hospital ward treating the mentally challenged, and playing Age of Booty singleplayer reminds me of playing board games with them. They'd freak out about entering the Peppermint Stick Forest, or just keep spinning around the same chute and ladder. Likewise, the Age of Booty A.I. will wander off distracted by supply crates while their towns burn. Resources are shared across your team, and they might spend those on upgrading strategically unimportant towns, when your ship badly needs better cannons.

Multiplayer is where Age of Booty exhibits flashes of merit. Impromptu alliances between wary rivals are quickly forged and broken. Battle weary ships and towns can be pounced upon after they've borne the brunt of conflict. Large maps with multiple teams carry the potential for player generated strategic depth. Sadly, you'll run into players online that behave as if they're, well, mentally retarded. A common occurrence is a single selfish player bogarting all the ship upgrades. That player becomes a powerful juggernaut at the cost of their teammates, and of course, they can only be in one place at any given time. The ideal situation is to play with friends so you can validate their lack of retardation ahead of time.

Age of Booty is almost preposterously simple. The game's concepts can be fully grasped within minutes, and the minimal mechanics allow players to focus on performing grandiose acts of treacherous stratagem. The problem isn't so much the game itself, as it is the difficulty of arranging a proper number of not retarded combatants. For that much logistical trouble, I want a deeper, more sophisticated game experience, like the board game Diplomacy. Also, I want more piratey stuff in my pirate games.

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