We finally got a chance to play High Seize, the new pirate-themed real-time strategy game from RedLynx, makers of the Pathway to Glory games. High Seize is a combination of rich strategic gameplay and a casual-gamer-friendly interface for fans of RTS games that might not have the time or patience for more complicated games. RedLynx likens High Seize to Advance Wars gameplay with a Pirates of the Caribbean-theme filter, and from our brief experience with the demo, it seems to offer just that.
There are three elements to the game, a prerendered story sequence, a world exploration mode, and turn-based strategy combat. The story sequence consists of animated slide-show-esque cutscenes, with a uniquely drawn visual style. From what we've seen of the story so far, it's apparent that the game's protagonist is on a quest of hereditary importance, as it seems his father placed him in charge of a portion of a treasure map, and so the hero has taken it upon himself to complete this quest and unveil its mysteries.
The treasure map is used to guide you through the exploration mode. An interesting detail is that, until you find its other pieces, your world map consists of only the fragment that you have at the time. As you find other pieces of the map, you'll be able to see and thus visit the towns contained within it, but until then, you're limited to only the area that you have unlocked. The first portion of the map contains three towns, but the game will consist of 37 single-player and 34 multiplayer missions in total, which presumably will be divided up between towns and other pirate ships that you encounter along the way.
After settling upon a town or enemy ship, you're treated to a brief cinema and explanation of the level and how it factors into the big picture for you. In the demo version we played, the objective was to capture a fortress currently under the command of a pirate named Crimson Rob in order to bolster your troops and finances. Although most of the levels are dominantly land- or sea-based levels, they all promise to have a little bit of both types of combat. The land-based objectives are all on peninsulas or near the water, and if you encounter a pirate ship, it will often be conveniently located near a small island. One of the reasons for this is that depending on the commander you've selected for the game, you'll have different "perks," meaning that you might be naturally more skillful at sea- or land-based combat. The perks of your particular fleet might affect how you choose to play through the game, which opens up the possibility of multiple play-throughs with different commanders, although it's not entirely clear yet how much impact the commander variations have on how you play the game.
The gameplay is quite similar to that of Advance Wars, but is by no means a carbon copy. When it's your turn, you can move as often as you can within the time limit, without moving a single member of your infantry more than once. You're also able to create different types of ships and soldiers. The skills of each ship and soldier vary, and it will be strategically important for you to pay attention to their skills in order to complete the level. Although we did not see this in action, apparently there are certain features, like heavy fog or shallow water in the ocean, which necessitate a certain type of boat. Otherwise you must work within a more limited environment.
One of the most impressive aspects of High Seize is the sound. With over half an hour of orchestrated music and 1000 recorded bits of dialogue, this game promises one of the deepest sounds libraries to reach the N-Gage platform. Combine this with the complex strategic elements and compelling storyline, and High Seize seems to be one of the games to look out for on the N-Gage this year.
High Seize is scheduled for release in late October.