In fact, the added focus on realism felt like a heavy anchor dragging ship combat down to the locker of failed ideas. Yes, there are four different types of ammunition to fire from your cannons, but you can't fire unless the game says you can. Guess how clear the game is at letting you know that? Pressing the space bar furiously hoping your long guns are ready to fire is about as much fun smacking yourself in the face to make that beard grow faster.
While graphically rich, ship combat in the third-person feels completely random. Want to fire your left side cannons at that big ship passing by? Nope, the game decided to fire the right side at that small ship fleeing the battle! Switching over to the first person "on-deck" view point yields an aiming cursor, but then you have to deal with steering a moving vessel bouncing up and down on the ocean while your opponent sails around like a crazy Ivan.
When odd AI behavior is combined with the slow sailing-model and control issues over your armaments you have a recipe for total awesome fun. This is if you find watching snails get it on the highlight of your day. I daresay that only fans of the realistic-vibe found in Sea Dogs will like the slow-paced battle simulation found in Age of Pirates. The rest of us will keep searching for that "speed up combat" button (luckily, like Pirates of the Caribbean, AoP offers two).
If you can get past my issues with sluggish and imprecise ship-to-ship combat then Age of Pirates has a lot to offer you with its "smuggling, trading, and port raiding" gameplay. There's strong dose of that open-world gameplay you find in a game like Grand Theft Auto or Oblivion. The problem for me is that at some point, you're going to want to trade cannon-balls with an annoying captain.
Age of Pirates' create-your-own-adventure gameplay was so compelling that I was willing to forgive the clunky on-foot portions of the game, the archaic keyboard driven interface, and even the snore inducing ship combat... but then the sun set on the Caribbean for the day.
When I say, "the sun set," I don't mean "Oh, I just kept going by moonlight" or "Yeah, I popped out a torch." I mean, the sun set and the game world went pitch black. Adjusting my contrast brought back familiar shapes, but there's a serious lack of light sources at night. It was at this point that I decided to make the dark look permanent and closed down the game.
If you the loved the wealth of options in Sea Dogs and you're ready to struggle at first, then AoP is definitely your game. However, if you're looking for quick-easy fun with a heavy dash of "wink, wink" charm, then this is not your game landlover. 'Tis a shame, this was looking to be a banner year for pirates, but like Jack Sparrow, I guess we'll have to wait till another day to see the real show.
Second Opinion: I got to spend some time with Age of Pirates as well, and, while I didn't find the game particularly more fun than Ross did, I was more impressed with it than he was. This is a game narrowly targeted at hardcore sim-heads and as such it's probably the deepest pirate sim going. While taking over the Caribbean in AoP is probably about as daunting as it would be in real life, watching outposts become cities, building a massive fleet, and actually taking over ports like a high-seas Heroes of Might and Magic is very cool. This is the sort of game a dedicated player could chip away at for months and never see the end of.
That said, like Morrowind before it, the freedom comes at the cost of tight play testing, and the experience is marred by script glitches that will cost you numerous objectives. This adds an additional trial to a game that already required superhuman patience, further cementing its status as a "hardcore only" game.
··· Travis Fahs