Corsairs: Conquest at Sea sails to your heart
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This is a real time strategy game at sea. You are a Corsair representing either France or England and there are four tutorials designed to give the player some hands on experience and instruction simultaneously. It is more like a naval version of WarCraft than anything else.
The player is responsible for completing each assigned mission, and this is no easy task. It is a lot of fun, but very linear in a way that the classic Pirates was not. While completing each mission you may also engage in trade, combat, whatever you deem necessary to complete the mission while adding to you and your nations wealth and prosperity. But the mission must be completed. And when you do, you might get a new mission in a totally different part of the world. So don't worry about building up an empire too much, cause you will most likely be starting from scratch each time anyway.
The graphics are good, though the game is entirely 2D. There are two main play areas. One is a large map showing your immediate playing area, and another smaller map of the total playing area.
The developers paid attention to detail when they designed this game. The wind direction changes throughout the game and that affects your ship handling directly. While crossing the deep blue you may see whales or seagulls too. With the exception of the sailor in the rigging and the cross bones, the pictures on the back of the box are what you can expect to see while playing the game.
While playing, icons will appear around the edges of the screen and you will hear an "alarm" from time to time such as the "port is under attack" or "naval combat engaged." You need to pay attention to these in order to keep up with what is going on around you. Not all these icons are bad things; some are indicators that you have placed a spy aboard an enemy ship. The information (what's in the ships hold, etc.) obtained from the spy is instantaneous, but you can't control the spy's ship.
The game plays well and is very challenging, especially in close combat. To execute a boarding maneuver you need to bump into another ship. After playing a while I realized that bumping into another ship was easier if I didn't click on the ship, but just past it, as if I was running it over on my way somewhere else. Taking a port is done the same way as boarding. This then zooms to a tactical screen where you move your men around the map, jumping from ship to ship or onto the fort you are attacking. But as neat as this is, generally he who has the most guys wins!
Be advised that killing the officers first can help you beat the odds if you are out numbered. And this is made easier because the corsair, captain, officer and sailor all look different. And sailors will surrender if all their officers are killed. But, if your personal corsair dies, the game is over!
I liked the fact that you have to stay on top of the markets. The buy and sell rates change with demand in real life"and in this game. After a while you really know the value of silk and coffee!
Eventually, you'll be repairing and building ships in your nations ports as well as maintaining the ports themselves. Speaking of the ships; there are twelve different types represented, which is quite a lot.
You do have some game setting options such as music, voices, sound effects and game difficulty. (easy, normal, and hard) There are 28 different primary missions with secondary possibilities thrown in to keep it interesting. England, France, Holland, Merchants, Pirates, and Spain all operate ships throughout the game. Merchants don't fight, but all others will.
I checked out the web sites: www.microids.com and www.ubisoft.com. The microids site deals more with promoting the company and all its games. The Ubisoft site is there for tech support and other related questions.
I spent many hours playing this game and getting frustrated by my not so great performance, BUT I really liked it. Between the tutorials, the manual, and perseverance, I was able to start getting my act together. Like all games, it has a few quirks. You get used to them and, some may even say, it builds character. This is a challenging and fairly accurate game that is sure to keep you entertained. Fair winds and calm seas to the designers of this great game. They earn 4 GiN Gems for their treasure chest.
Matt McCartney is an honest-to-god U.S. Navy chief. His sailing experience spans the globe, and he currently acts as GiN's Naval Warfare advisor (look out world) and game reviewer for anything that takes place on the high seas.