Ahoy mates – we close with the enemy – bring all guns to bear! Prepare to engage!
Covering the period from the Seven Year’s War through the Napoleonic Era, Age of Sail II brings to you the heart of the Age of Sail. You can do battle as the British High Seas Commander against those upstart Americans in 1776 or fight for the Americans against the Imperialistic British in the War of 1812. You can play from the decks of a Ship of War or the decks of a Privateer just out for the booty. The choice is yours.
My computer runs on Windows XP Professional and I needed to do a bit of research before finding that I had to switch the game to run in "98/ME Compatibility Mode" before it would boot up on my machine.
Upon loading the game I was mildly annoyed by the distinct lack of a progress indicator to know if the game was actually getting loaded or just sitting there doing nothing. Getting into the game I found no tutorial and the manual was only marginally helpful in getting the feel of the game. So it was trial and error that got me to the point of being able to play. This was further hindered by the lack of any kind of indication, while selecting the battle to run, of the complexity of the scenario picked. But being a stubborn type and having heard pretty good stuff regarding this game I persevered and was able to play pretty well.
What I found was a well designed depiction of the fine art of waging war on the high seas. The scenarios (battle mode) ran the gamut from single ships on either side to most any configuration you could think of. It was particularly satisfying to be in a three on one scenario (as the one) and leave the game with all three enemy vessels having been sunk or surrendered. Control of the larger numbers of ships became a problem so I just played the battles where the ships to command were of reasonable number for me.
The graphics were very nice and the detail in the ships and firing sequences was quite visually pleasing. I have read reviews that tell of the ships looking like they really did, but not being a student of war on the high seas I could not vouch for this. Just that they looked darn good to this player. The ability to toggle on and off the various game aides (like arc of fire), the mini screen for setting the sails and setting gunnery priorities etc was very useful. The firing arc graphics also contained an indication of the progress for firing the next broadside so became a permanent part of my sea battles, unless I wanted to take a screen shot.
Another mainstay, for me, became the wind and ship direction sub screen. This showed all the information you needed to decide which direction to turn the wheel to perform the maneuver you wanted or to head in the direction desired. As is common these days, this direction control followed the physical laws of wind and sail so directional changes took time to complete and that time varied based on your ships design, direction, the set of the sails and the wind direction – all the factors of the equation. So it was a bit frustrating to order a change of direction to bring your guns to bear on an enemy ship only to see you ship sail into the firing arc of one or more of the enemy and get blasted. On the plus side, this will not happen very often as you learn the ins and outs of managing a ship under sail and in battle.
Now I mentioned that there was no in game tutorial and that the manual was less than useful in getting us land lubbers to the point where we can actually make maneuvers and successfully bring our guns to bear on desired targets. The learning curve was nowhere near what I expected it to be. Now I may be getting better at the fine art of trial and error, but I think the design of the game and the various screens available from the main play area has a bit to do with this as well.
So bottom line is that I thoroughly enjoyed my gaming sessions in Age of Sail II and I think it would be a fine addition to any gamer’s collection. The overall rating of 4 GiN gems is well deserved by this title and shows that in some cases, even without a detailed tutorial or a complete and descriptive game manual, games can be quite enjoyable to play.