It sounded quite enjoyable until the heat seeking missiles came into play. Now, not so sure. It would be hard to beat Sid Meier's Pirates! though.
We get our first look at this not completely historically accurate, not completely serious pirate-themed game at GDC 2011.
Something magical happens each year in San Francisco, during springtime. Every March, in fact. Specifically, huge masses of pollen clog the air, causing hay fever sufferers no end of bronchial distress. On an unrelated note, the 2011 Game Developers Conference is under way, and many new and upcoming games on are display at the event, including Paradox's upcoming Pirates of Black Cove. This hybrid strategy/role-playing game draws upon elements of developer Nitro Games' previous sea-trade projects (Commander: Conquest of the Americas and East India Company), which were themselves inspired by the classic Sid Meier's Pirates, but this time around, there's no firm historical accuracy, nor much in the way of geographical accuracy (Jamaica has been deleted from the Caribbean Sea for faster sailing times, for instance). Instead, there's a more-lighthearted sense of humor. You can expect to trade verbal barbs with grumpy sailors who tell you to bug off, and if you're lucky, you might even get quests from a lonely mermaid looking for seamen. Get it? Get it? (If not, ask someone for help.)
The game will involve equal parts land-based exploration and seafaring. The land-based exploration will take place primarily in massive port towns controlled by the game's three primary friendly pirate factions. And you, as an up-and-coming pirate captain, must eventually unite these three factions to challenge the dominance of the dreaded Pirates of Black Cove, who are so great and terrible that their name is right in the game's title. To do this, you'll play as one of several different characters, including the charming rapscallion Walker de Planc (again, get it?), who possesses decent ability scores in the game's three hero statistics of damage, speed, and toughness.
When exploring on land, you'll view your character from an isometric overhead perspective as you talk to various pirates, picking up quests from key characters and picking the odd treasure map out of the even odder bystander's pocket. Our character picked up a quest to rescue a local pirate captain's daughter. The lass was being held across the ocean in hostile territory, so we set about hiring some stout men from the faction's town. To hire an army, you can construct unit-generating buildings in any friendly faction's home port--in this case, we chose to place a building that spat out low-level, cutlass-swinging corsairs by choosing a location and plunking down the structure, which built itself instantaneously. Each faction has different types of units, and each one also has a single unique unit--in the case of this faction, a sturdy pirate swab who carried an entire ship's cannon on his shoulder like a bazooka. We took our band of stout men and hopped aboard our ship to travel across the sea to our destination--an enemy camp where scurvy Black Cove forces guarded the pirate princess. We controlled our forces by band-boxing them and giving them simple move and attack orders, similar to those of a conventional real-time strategy game, and hacked our way through the camp to rescue the young lass. We then hightailed it out of there, bypassing an enemy treasure house that could have been destroyed and looted to gain extra experience.
However, we were in too much of a hurry to get to friendly waters to trouble ourselves, though we did also take a brief tour of the open seas to find the aforementioned mermaid as well as to take on a different mission to save a beleaguered ally from the Spanish fleet. Using the game's handy onscreen compass, we navigated the open seas and quickly found our harried comrade and the hostile ships attacking him. Pirates of Black Cove has simple, fast-paced naval combat that lets you simply press the space bar to fire all your guns in a single fusillade, so combat is primarily a matter of maneuvering your ship into position so the majority of your cannonballs will hit home. And cannonballs are your primary ammunition at sea--there's no chainshot to attack enemy rigging or grapeshot to attack enemy crew. Instead, you'll be able to equip your ships with a variety of experimental sci-fi weapons built by the weapons expert known as "Q." Different versions of Q reside in different friendly ports, and if you're a copyright lawyer, the character has nothing at all to do with the top-secret armorer who supplies Ian Fleming's James Bond with all those wonderful toys. No, these Qs outfit your pirate ships with weapons like heat-seeking missiles that make short work of enemy galleons. Once enemy ships are severely damaged, you can finish them off, or you can grapple them, tow them back to port, and repair them, at which point you'll have a brand-new ship of your own.
Given Nitro Games' record of historically accurate naval trading strategy games, this one seems like a bit of a surprise. Pirates of Black Cove is a refreshing change of pace from the deep strategy of most sea-trading games. The game is scheduled to ship out (please tell us you at least got this one) later this year.