Buccaneer: The Pursuit of Infamy PC Review
Pirates have been making somewhat of a comeback in recent years. This is largely thanks to the Pirates of the Caribbean films, but Sid Meier has been getting in on the act, and even the Somalians are getting stuck in now. It’s no surprise then to a see a pirate-themed game sailing onto our PCs in the shape of Buccaneer – The Pursuit of Infamy.
The main quest sees you captaining a ship within the Golden Buccaneers, a pirate faction with ambitions of gold, grog and infamy on the high seas. It’s a run of the mill plot, but nothing deeper is needed as it sets up a reason for plundering and pillaging, and that’s all that’s needed. There’s no venturing outside of your ship in Buccaneer – it’s purely a sea-faring adventure, taking place exclusively in the balmy waters and surrounding seas of Cutlass Bay.
The single player campaign consists of an impressively sized list of missions, which can be attempted in any order, regardless of their perceived difficulty. Starting off with a slightly shoddy ship, low funds and a crew with some self-esteem issues, at first it’s all about building up your morale and getting some gold. Crew morale is boosted by succeeding in missions, giving them some grog or sharing any goods that have been snagged from a mission. Let the crew’s morale fall though, and it’s the end of your days as captain.
A typical mission involves finding a rival ship, destroying it, and then sailing home. It’s not a game that gives you complicated and deep quests or missions – they’re very much designed to be short, simple and accessible. While this is good for introducing you to the game and providing an arcade style pick up and play game, it does mean missions suffer from a lack of variety, and as mentioned earlier, there are a good number of them. Repetition is certainly an issue.
And the missions are where the game falls down slightly. Controlling the ship is as simple as using WASD for navigation and the left and right mouse buttons for the port and starboard cannons. Spacebar lowers the anchor, and that’s all there is to it. It’s great that it’s so simple, but the bulk of what makes up a mission – fighting other ships and vying for position to shoot and not be shot at – is hindered by the control scheme. Manoeuvring the ship in close proximity to another can be a nightmare in terms of the huge turning circles involved, imprecise positioning and the fact you’re both constantly moving. Obviously this is an accurate reflection of the problems an actual ship would face, but in gaming terms, it doesn’t make for an enjoyable time.
Aiming – or rather the lack of it – is frustrating too. The cannons seem to fire in any direction they feel, with seemingly no consistency in terms of trajectory, angle or accuracy. Of course, ships moving and firing will always alter the direction of a cannonball, but when your valuable ammunition is wasted on so many fire-and-hope-for-the-best shots with no clear way of improving the hit ratio, annoyance levels soon increase. Battles can all too easily descend into two ships circling each other endlessly, constantly clicking the appropriate mouse button to fire and hope that a cannonball connects.
A solution is available in the shape of anchoring your ship and firing in a straight line from either port or starboard, but this leaves you as a sitting duck and only allows for a very small window of opportunity regarding hitting the other ship.
That being said though, you do get accustomed to these issues, and the allure of buying upgrades, along with bigger and better ships, is a compelling reason to keep playing. Multiplayer games provide a nice distraction from the main campaign with capture the flag style matches, although the same control issues dog this as well. If you had issues with the single player game, don’t expect your mind to be changed in multiplayer. The extremely pretty water effects and detailed ships provide some good eye candy, and while the soundtrack is slightly non-existent, the odd tune that fades in and out is pleasant enough, and sound effects are passable.
Buccaneer is very much a ‘love it’ or ‘hate it’ game. At best it’s an entertaining and strangely compelling shooter with simple but fun gameplay. At worst it’s repetitive and fiddly with no real draw. Downloading the demo before forking out the £13.99 for it is certainly advised, but this is an admirable effort from indie developer Stickman Studios. Try before you buy, Captain.