by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
Adding it on
While I enjoyed playing East India Company, the game received a lot of flak from critics who played the game either as a trading game or as a 17th century ship battle simulation. The game did not excel in either of these roles but that didn't make it a bad game. Blending world conquest, sea combat and establishing a trading empire, East India Company offered more than enough gameplay to be a pleasurable experience. East India Company: Privateer is a whole different beast entirely. The world conquest has been removed and the trading element has been downplayed. Suddenly, East India Company turns into the 17th century ship battle simulation after all. The question is, did Nitro Games add enough back into the game to make it enjoyable?
In Privateer, you are no longer aligned to any specific nation. You are your own man and prey on the riches of the companies trading with the East Indies. Well, perhaps not quite your own man. A man for hire may be a more accurate description. Both nations and companies may approach you to undertake missions ranging from escorting fleets friendly to your employer to sinking or capturing the ships of his enemies. In missions of the latter type, your employer usually doesn't care much for the spoils so cargo and ship are yours to sell or add to your fleet.
Your captains can hire specialists that will join your crew bringing along skills such as mending sails, repairing hulls and improving crew morale. Initially your captains can hire only a single specialist but as they level up, additional specialists can be recruited. If you have played the original game, these specialists will feel very much the same as the skills that you could pick for your captains when leveling up. Not much new here but they do serve a purpose: make room for the new skills that you get to pick for your captains. The new skills reflect your pirating ways with illustrious names such as "False Colors" that will hide your ship's identity and flag and "Critical Hit" which adds a 10% chance for a shot to detonate an enemy ship's powder storage with a big "boom" as a result.
Oddly enough, ships in Privateer seem to behave somewhat differently. I must have started close to a dozen battles with ships that were by their lonesome but all these had mercenaries for cargo. Did no one sail single ships just for trading in the days of the East India Companies? I think not.
The ship's AI captains also appeared to have lost their smarts. I have installed the "Directors Cut" patch which introduces sea battles situated near islands. During my first battle I saw my target sail towards a narrow opening between two islands and thought to myself "You're not really going to attempt to go through that are you mate?". Yet he did, losing nearly 500 hull points in the process. My own ships also would not lay still. I had destroyed my quarry's sails and was taking pot shots at its crew. Thinking it would be a good idea, I had two ships lower their anchor at a favorable angle and distance and then proceeded to prepare my third ship for a boarding action. I was well on my way when I got the message that one my ships had taken so much damage that it had sunk. When I went looking, I saw my ship had run aground on the island that had been twenty-odd ship lengths away when it laid anchor.
Similarly frustrating was the fact that 2 of my warships surrendered without having taken even a single volley from an enemy ship. At that point, the battle was still tied with me outnumbering the enemy crew with 1.5 to 1. This in itself sounds implausible at best, but I had a specialist in my fleet that added 20 morale points and my ships were war ships against trading flutes that were ill-equipped for combat. Why on Earth would the crew give up?
I started this review asking the question if Nitro Games added enough into Privateer to make it an enjoyable game. The short answer is no.
The long answer is that while Privateer is not a standalone add-on, it is very much a standalone game. Rather than inserting the new pirating elements into the main game, the player is condemned to three campaigns that are devoid of much of the gameplay that made the original game so much fun. It doesn't take long for the add-on to reveal its true colors and to show that the developers made a fatal mistake. As I mentioned in my introduction, the game just doesn't fare well solely as a sea combat simulation but that is what Privateer is all about. It is a pity because I am certain that the game would have been a great deal of fun had it been integrated into the normal game, allowing you to turn chosen ships into Privateers. Alas, that is not the way.
None to be found here.
There’s just not enough here to enjoy unless you loved micromanaging the sea battles in the original game.