Pirate Games

It was a while ago now, but I suspect we all remember Air Bucanneers, and the discussions around a pirate/steam-punk game that could come off it.

Seems like in teh next year there may be three, all with different takes on the concept.

Skull and Bones

This is an offshoot from Assassins Creed:Black Flag. IT looks like, to all intents and purposes, you play as the ship, rather than an individual onboard a ship. The combat, and sailing, however, looks pretty sweet...you can see wind direction on the mini-map, and there is ramming, broadsides and boarding. From what I've seen, this is the best-looking of the games...it differs to Air Bucanneers in that you control the entire ship, rather than being part of a team...however it looks like there will be PvP and Co-op, with fleet battles.

Sea of Thieves

This one looks more like an adventure game, though it's supposed to have naval combat in there as well, which could be interesting, as you play the pirate, not the ship. This one has the potential to have combat more like Air Bucanneers, where co-ordination on-board is key...however it could also suffer the downside to that in that small player numbers could be an issue, especially if thereis little/no AI support, or crap-bot-syndrome (I'm looking at you Battlefield 1942).

Abandon Ship

now this one is a bit left-field...it's touted as "FTL meets Pirates", and is being developer by a single guy. FTL is probably one of my favourite games, hits a real sweet-spot between turn-based, real-time and complexity/time commitment for me. Here it looks like rather than controlling the ship in combat, it's about worker allocation as you direct the crew to manage the actions. There is also an open-world map that screams Sid Meiers Pirates! (which was also a good laugh, even if it was a series of dancing mini-games, and weird noble-women who blinked one eye at a time...)

I think the combat in Skull and Bones looks the best, which is to be expected really, with a big developer like Ubisoft behind it, and I love the idea of massive naval battles (I once terrorised a big wargame of naval combat, after being given control of a small escort ship and immediately heading off solo into enemy lines, rather than the beautiful formation sailing everyone else was intent on...obviously I died, but I caused enough confusion in the enemy ranks that the rest of our fleet were able to fragment and destroy them...). That said, I have a feeling that Abandno Ship, if done well, could be amazingly addictive.


AAAAARRRRR! I love me a pirate game. Even though Sid Meier's Pirates was a bit daft and grindy, it was good fun. There was another airship pirate game we tried but I can't remember the name of it. It had airship unlocks and classes and was fabulously hard.

What made ABU so superb was the fact that if you all worked together on the same ship, you could obliterate everything in your path. Add some sneaky cleverness to it (the really small ones) and it was ace. In that vein, I think Sea of Thieves looks like the best fit.

brainwipe's picture

I think that there are challenges with "Co-op" only games such as Sea of Thieves seems to be, which I've never really seen adequately dealt with...and it's why I suspect that Ubisoft went down the "be the ship" route.

First up is minimum numbers...Most co-op games are built around a fixed number of players/roles (think Left 4 Dead, Artemis/Star Trek, Gauntlet etc). Having a player missing or an AI replacement doesn't work well...mainly down to their inability to communicate with the other players (thinking specifically about L4D and Artemis, 99% of team organisation is verbal, and not having a working mike in L4D is basically a suicide note). If anything, game AI has been deprecated in recent years, and "online" is the future, and bot's are rarer and rarer. Great, unless you don't want randoms, and you're a couple short (or, one over...)

Second issue is uneven involvement. You saw this in Artemis and Air Bucanneers, as well as other co-op games. Some roles are simply more interesting/involved than others. Typically helm, weapons etc. Some players get less interesting roles, and job rotation working never quite seems to happen. There is still only a couple of games I can think of where all player roles were evenly rewarded (my gold standard for role reward is U2-XMP, with Tribes a close second). A classic example in many class-based games is that you struggle to get someone to play a healer (going back many years I did very well in Guild Wars simply by playing a healer...it was the only class I got to the end of all campaigns, as it was incredibly simple to get a PUG team, as there were so few non-guild healers around). A lot of people simply want to kill stuff and drive fast...

babychaos's picture