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Videogame Preview: Age of Pirates - Caribbean Tales

Let me start off this review by saying I very rarely play PC videogames. In the past, I tended to have nothing but trouble with them, and so I swore off PC games in favor using home console systems, where you can just put in a game and are pretty much guaranteed that it's going to work without crashing your system or requiring various hardware and/or software updates. Therefore, because I am not used to PC games, I am not used to using a keyboard as a controller. So please keep that in mind as you read this review.

As expected, I didn't care for the controls. In third person character mode, you use the W, S, A, and D keys to move forward, backwards, left, and right respectively, and then the mouse controls the camera view, pitch and yaw, with the mouse buttons used to attack. Apparently, though, these are the standard controls for computer games, and so I got used to them as best I could. I really didn't have a choice, as although I own a USB controller, the game didn't recognize it... or at least I couldn't figure out any way to tell the game that I even had another controller that I wanted to use.

I hated this game, and surprisingly enough, it wasn't because of the controls. The first problem I had when installing it was the resolution. I selected the highest resolution, which my monitor can handle easily, and the full-screen option. Unfortunately, the selecting the full-screen option actually cut off the top and bottom portions of game, since my monitor is widescreen. I eventually figured out that, in order to change the full screen option, I had to not run the game, but run a separate executable options file. Once I figured that out, I unchecked the full screen option so that the game would just run in a window, and that fixed the problem.

The next, and most common problem I encountered was the game crashing. Usually it brought up a little window telling me it crashed (or more specifically, "ENGINE.EXE has encountered a problem and needs to close"), but there were other times when the game would just disappear without warning, and I would find myself all of a sudden looking at the Windows Desktop. I'm sure you can imagine how frustrating this would be, especially since the game won't auto-save right before a crash. And my computer isn't very old or out-of-date. I have a 2.0 GHz AMD Turion with 1 GB RAM running Windows XP. The System Requirements for the game are Windows XP, a Pentium 4 1.8 GHz or AMD Athlon 1.8 GHz (2.5 GHz recommended), and 256 MB RAM (1 GB recommended). So I pretty much exceed the minimum requirements, except that I have a Turion instead of an Athlon.

Due to these constant crashes, I wasn't able to get hardly anywhere in the game, but I'll go ahead and tell you about what I did get through. So it starts out with a choice of two characters, male and female. I selected the male, and then found myself in a town. I walked around a little, and tried talking to people. At first nobody would talk to me, but then I figured that I had accidentally taken out my sword, so when I put it away people would then respond when I went up to them and pressed the space bar. Unfortunately, nobody actually had anything to say. Everybody would just tell me to go away, using the same dialog over and over. Talk about boring. That caused me to giving up on talking to the townsfolk.

Then I found that I could hit the F3 key and select a destination in a town. So I did, and made my way to the Tavern, which is where the manual says is a good place to pick up jobs. And sure enough some dude hired me to escort him to some town. Of course, the other people still told me to go away. Now, I know that coming up with the insignificant dialog is a drag, but it's really kind of necessary in order to keep the player interested. If everyone says the same thing, the player is going to do exactly what I did, give up on talking to people. Anyway, now that I had a job, I headed to my ship.

Once in the ship, the view switches. Now I am looking at my ship in 3rd person, rather than my character. The water here was really cool looking. It had a nice fluidity to it, like it should, and was lit by the ambient light of the sun. And I would discover later that, as time passes, the sun rises and falls just like in real life. The color and reflection of this on the water was also kept realistic. Unfortunately, that's one of the few good things I can say about this game. The other good thing is that when you get far enough away from an island, you can switch into map mode, which is a broad overhead view of your ship, and this makes it much easier and quicker to navigate between islands.

Now, once I hit the open ocean and switched to map mode, I started sailing around looking for that town that I was supposed to escort that dude to... and as of this writing, I still haven't found it. I did, however, have a mutiny on board my ship as I was looking for it because I was unable to pay my crew. Unfortunately, the mutiny ended with my dead body. Can't say I blame them though. Anyway, so I used the wonderful power of "Load" to try again. Again I failed, this time due to the "ENGINE.EXE has encountered a problem and needs to close" crash. My next try ended in exactly the same way. The fourth try ended in a similar fashion, but without any warning or message.

On my fifth try, I eventually found myself in the middle of storm. If you wander into one of those babies, the view changes from map back to 3rd person so you can navigate yourself safely through the storm. And boy does it look cool! It's dark, with rough seas, high waves, and constantly lighting! Well, apparently I'm not a very good navigator, because my ship got struck by lighting, causing it to catch fire. It took forever for my peeps to extinguish the blaze, and by the time they did my ship was in horrible condition, just barely clinging to life. Still, I faired better than the ship I was escorting, which sank. I'm not really sure how, as I didn't see them get hit by lighting. Probably just capsized I guess. I was too busy trying to keep my own ship afloat to worry about them.

On my next try, I had already pretty much just given up, so I just decided to go find some ships and try kill some people... some people other than my crew. I wasn't hard to find them, but once I did I couldn't figure out how to take them down. The manual says all you have to do is get close and it will auto-aim your cannons, then just press the space bar to fire. So I did that, and maybe I was firing, but honestly, it sure didn't look like it. I know I was close enough and I definitely had plenty of cannonballs on boards, but since that didn't seem to be working I changed strategies and tried to ram them. That seemed to hurt me way more than it hurt them. I then tried to board them, but couldn't get my ship into position before good old "ENGINE.EXE has encountered a problem and needs to close" reared its ugly head.

And that's when I just said the hell with it, I've got way better things to do than spend hours making zero progress in a game that isn't even interesting.

Age of Pirates - Caribbean Tales was released on September 12, 2006 by Atari. The official Age of Pirates - Caribbean Tales website has a feature called Pimp MY Ship which you might be interested in checking out for a couple minutes.

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