Buccaneer: The Pursuit of Infamy (PC)
Games based around pirates are surprisingly few and far between. When you look at those that live in memory, the list becomes even slimmer, with only Sid Meier’s Pirates and Monkey Island the only two that immediately spring to mind. One of the main reasons for the lack of titles in the genre is, presumably, due to the fact that seafaring just isn’t all that exciting – something Monkey Island overcame by having very little seaborne action at all.
Attempting to gatecrash what has traditionally been a very exclusive party are independent developers Stickman Studios with the release of Buccaneer: The Pursuit of Infamy. The title has been touted as an arcade-style game that concentrates on the key element of pirates – their ships. There’s no one-on-one sabre-rattling encounters with Blackbeard to be found here, just good old ruling of the waves. But with the lack of sex appeal that a life on the ocean waves brings, how can a two-man outfit possibly succeed where so many others have failed? And how can they at least match the ‘close but no cigar’ efforts of so many larger development houses?
The graphic artist background of the two developers behind Stickman seemingly gave them a good starting block. From the moment you set sail aboard Buccaneer you get the immediate sense of quality thanks to a deliciously crafted gameworld, where beautifully sculpted islands nestle amongst the oceans, themselves as visually impressive as anything else you’ll likely find in any big-budget equivalent. Similarly, the ships actually sail through the sea rather than looking like they’ve just been dropped on top of it; a nice touch that enhances the feel of life aboard the ocean waves. But graphics only account for a portion of any game’s quality – a nice look can only get a game so far. To succeed where others have failed the developers needed to be brave.
The first noticeable bold move in Buccaneer is the decision to adopt a non-linear progression system. Rather than become embroiled with a single mission in order to move on, you can instead take on different challenges at your own pace. So, if you want to ease yourself in then the simpler missions are there, but if you’re a belt and braces gamer then there’s the chance to challenge the tougher tests the game has to offer right from the word go. In a world where gamers are increasingly used to playing games the way they want to, this method of giving the power of direction to the user is a well-thought out ploy.
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