For the life of us, we just can't figure out why it's so difficult to make a great video game based on pirates. With the exception of Sid Meier's Pirates!, we have difficulty thinking of solid games based on the legendary buccaneers; those thieves of the sea that have adopted an almost mythical status in modern folklore. Pirates of the Caribbean made for a top-notch concept, but as those were games based on movies, they already had no hope of becoming excellent. Well, Certain Affinity and Capcom are about to take a shot at bringing the invigorating world of pirates to life, and their effort is called Plunder. It's headed to next-gen consoles and the PC some time later this year, and it's an accessible real-time strategy title that should appeal to a wide variety of gamers. Basically, all you have to do is maneuver your pirate ship through a series of hexagonal maps, all the while attempting to conquer as many towns as possible. Once you capture the preset number of towns - it's a goal for each map - you win the campaign.
But perhaps most interesting of all is that this particular RTS is specifically designed for multiple players. The game will support up to eight players online and four players locally; you will split yourselves into teams and go at it on any one of the 25 maps available. Before you start, you'll be able to upgrade three major traits: armor, speed (for your boat), and cannon power. Know how you have some points to allocate to your skills before you start certain RPGs? This is the same idea, except you only have three "abilities" to allocate to, and we're not entirely certain if you can continue to upgrade those skills as you progress in the game. Once you start your adventure, the premise is relatively simple- locate a free town and head on over to pay a visit...with overtly hostile intentions, of course. You're pirates! The town won't just roll over and play dead, though, so make sure you go in with the skull Ďn crossbones flying high, cutlasses brandished, and cannons a-firin'. The town will attempt to repel your attack, and the respective health bars will begin to deplete. If theirs hits 0 first, you've won the battle and successfully captured the town; if not, your ship sinks and you have to restart from your base of operations.
Like most strategy games, you'll have to maintain your base with some care and attention, but it's not nearly as in-depth as other RTS titles. You will have the basic resources (and that includes rum!) to keep your base flush, and we expect you'll have to handle the day-to-day operations of any town you capture, too. Obviously, the bigger the empire, the more work involved, even if you are just a bunch of scurvy seadogs. As you build your ever-expanding dominion, you will probably encounter other ships on the ocean; merchant ships, in fact, that are well worth fighting. If you can manage to conquer a merchant vessel, you'll be able to obtain one of several special abilities that will give you the edge in future battles. For instance, you can even make your ship invisible for a short period of time, which we assume is good for getting close to unprotected towns without setting off any "incoming" alarms. Could we be seeing an element of stealth in this game? Even if we don't, we're definitely looking forward to battling on the high seas and attempting to take over quiet, peaceful little towns. We are playing as villains, right?
Plunder is scheduled to drop during the third quarter of 2008, and we like how this RTS is shaping up. It won't be deep enough to turn away the more casual gamer, and if you're a fan of pirates - who isn't? - this one should be right up your alley. Not only do we have great multiplayer potential and 25 different maps, but if you really want to get into it, you can create maps from scratch on your own. There's certainly plenty to be excited about, and we're hoping that Certain Affinity manages to produce something both engaging and entertaining. As we said at the start, whenever you use pirates as a central theme, you're already taking a step in the right direction...
3/27/2008 Ben Dutka