Sometimes the most successful formula for creating an addictive strategy game is simplicity. Capcom’s latest downloadable title Age of Booty takes this concept and runs with it creating a game that manages to be both extremely addictive and easy enough for anyone to pick up and play. The premise behind this pirate-themed adventure is simple; take over more cities before the opposition and then celebrate. Of course there is more involved than simply steering your vessel from point A to point B and pressing a button, but you get the general idea. The best part of all of this though is that you can take a swig of rum in between taking over cities which quickly became a must in our rounds of Age of Booty online.
Much like the premise the controls of AoB are about as simplistic as you can imagine. The levels are broken down into hexagonal spaces and moving between them is as easy as pointing and tapping the button. In fact the majority of actions performed in AoB are achieved with only one button. Much like any other hex-based strategy game you can easily see your range of fire, targets and objectives strewn across the map. Knowing when and where to attack will be the key to victory and with such a simple control scheme you can focus more on where to move as opposed to wrestling with a complex set of commands on the controller.
Offline the game is broken down into three difficulties, each of which contains seven levels. These are basically objective based maps played with computer AI partners and enemies. You will likely breeze through the easy difficulty but in some of the more challenging stages the AI will frustrate. It is no secret that Capcom designed this game with multi-player in mind (they even offer free online play in the demo), which probably explains why there isn’t even a “single-player” option at the title screen. However, blasting through the quick challenges by yourself will prepare you for the addictive online modes.
Online is where this game really shines, especially when you get a group of your friends together. Everything in the game works around a cooperative mentality, meaning you really have to rely on your teammates if you intend to win. Unfortunately substituting friends with AI or even the quality random users found on Xbox Live or PSN may prove to be more challenging than playing alone. However, when you do get a good group of people playing the matches are quick, fun and amazingly satisfying. The online match-making system is actually quite unique and instead of player/ranked matches you have the option to browse standardized playlists or simply set up your own private match and substitute empty slots with AI controlled bots.
To keep things fresh online the developers have also included a map editor that allows you to make your own custom creations and share them with friends online. You can use any item available in the single player and creating complex maps is just as easy as the playing the game itself, with just the click of a button. The promise of future DLC and consistent updates to the online playlists will keep players coming back for more, but as I mentioned already it would be wise to find three friends and stick with them as pairing up with random strangers is a recipe for frustration.
Visually the game has a charming look that coincides with the pirate theme. Everything has a pastel overlay that meshes into the game with a muted assortment of colors and some outlandish character artwork. The animations on your ship are impressive as you will see wood splinter and cannons firing, in fact overall the game gives the vibe of Civilization Revolution with a pirate theme. Everything runs smooth including online play which rarely hit a snag even with eight players in the same room.
Age of Booty is a multi-player affair so much in fact that you should not look at the challenges in the game as a single-player component. This game shines its brightest when you manage to get a solid team of three of your friends together online. The controls are simple, the map maker is appreciated and the presentation is charming, but if you don’t plan on taking this title online I would recommend checking out the demo before laying down the purchase. However, if you are in need of a new online team game and have ten bucks (or 800 Microsoft Space Bucks) to spare then Age of Booty is definitely worth checking out.