Age of Sail II
- Naval strategy game set in the golden years of tall ships, 1775 to 1812
- Over 1,200 historical warships are represented
- Over 100 historical scenarios
- 3-D coastal landscapes provide tactical obstacles and defensive havens
- Multiplayer games on the Internet or a LAN
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Age of Sail II simulates naval warfare from 1775 to 1820 with a real-time 3D sailing and combat model. Over 1,200 historical ships and 100 historical American and British scenarios are available, including Copenhagen, the Battle of the Nile, Trafalgar, Cape St Vincent and Camperdown. A full, floating 3D camera allows complete control of your fleet, and the accelerated graphics reveal accurately rendered ships and beautiful landscapes.
The original Age of Sail was released in 1996, as one of the first Windows 95 games. The latest incarnation of this 18th-century realtime naval wargame has many improvements over the original, from beautiful high-res graphics and fluid ship movement to more realistic crew assignments. This game is trying to set the new standard for the genre, with over 100 historical scenarios, campaign play, and multiplayer options. Sadly though, all these accomplishments are marred by the fact that the game was forced out the door far too soon and contains crippling bugs.
After a long drought, Age of Sail II from Talonsoft is a new realtime wargame set in the historic 18th century, simulating the great naval crashes of 11 different nations. From the established nations such as England, France and Spain to the fledgling America, players are offered a wide array of historical or hypothetical scenarios as 16-person multiplayer LAN or Internet games or single-player campaigns. Once the game starts, the player is placed in charge of anywhere from one to more than 30 ships, ranging from lithe 16-gunners to massive 150-gun man-of-wars, all in eye-popping realtime 3D.
The first thought upon firing up the game is simply how good it looks and sounds. The music is a series of rousing "High Seas" orchestral pieces and the menus are appropriate to the age in question. After choosing the mode of play, a detailed list of ships and historical background is shown, and one last click starts the engagement. The battle takes place from 800x600 to 1600x1200 resolution, with a free-roaming camera looking upon an ocean with bucking ships and a rising sun. The ships themselves show detail down to the crew walking along the top decks and the deteriorating sails.
The interface consists of a series of pop-up windows, which can be moved around freely or hidden. An overhead map gives you the layout, a ship menu shows the combatants with a thumbnail of their statistics, and another small window allows the player to set different sails and call up the formation window. Game speed can be set by means of a slider on another window that also helps with several overlays like gun arcs and range. Primary control of your ship is accomplished through a detailed window called the helm. On the helm is a circle showing the present direction of the ship in relation to wind direction, and a rotating arrow that is the direction the ship is trying to reach. As one would expect, smaller ships can turn a lot faster than large ones.
As a ship becomes damaged, the hull, sails and guns also take damage. The surviving crew can be set to work fixing the damage and assisting in putting out fires and unfouling a ship that got too close to another. For ships that get too close and have their rigging foul or use grappling hooks, boarding parties may be formed so marines can try and take an enemy ship by force. Once a ship gets down to a critical level in hull integrity, it will strike its colors and surrender. Though ships will lose masts, it's rare for them to take so much damage that they actually sink.
To assist in dealing with many ships, the player can assign waypoints for ships to follow, either singly or in groups, and formations to maintain their relative positions. Ships can easily be added in or taken out of hot-keyed groups. Also, three levels of posture can be set, from aggressive to defensive, so the player can concentrate on matters elsewhere.
With all this going for game, it has serious problems. The first and most glaring of these setbacks is the state of the manual. Weighing in at 32 pages, only about two-thirds of the small booklet actually describes the game, most of which is merely covering the basics of the interface. No sense of the history is included, and there are no notes on period tactics to help players new to the genre. Of course, there is the ad for the official strategy guide taking up a page in the back.
Once the game starts up, another problem becomes apparent; the game was rushed out the door before it was finished. From random lockups when loading to a litany of missing features too numerous to list completely, it's obvious that Age of Sail II was released in a beta state. A few of the more annoying bugs are the inability to fix guns, the inability to board another ship even if snared and grappled, and questionable formations that only sometimes work as advertised. After a certain point, the missing features begin to drag down gameplay.
To add to that mess, the computer AI is weak and has no problem firing through friendly ships to get at an enemy. The AI will gladly pour fire into surrendered ships that are effectively out of the fight, and has a blind spot for land. Since many of the scenarios take place along exotic coasts, this shortsightedness on the part of the computer normally spells disaster. Turning both sides to AI control, one can watch two neat lines of ships sail right into the coast, as if trying to stop off at a nearby town.
It must be noted that Talonsoft and developer Akella are making great strides in order to fix the game up, and one major patch has already been issued. Until the game works as advertised, though, only the most dedicated fans of the scene need apply.
The Bottom Line: Until the game is at least one more major patch from Version 1.01, the gameplay has very glaring problems, and the title is best passed over. --From DailyRadar.com -- DailyRadar.com
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There is also a virtual fleet(Sea Lords) supporting the game for those interested in role-playing.