Buccaneer: Pursuit of Infamy
Developer: Stickman Studios
Publisher: Blitz Arcade
Buccaneer: Pursuit of Infamy Review
Arggh, grarr and so forth. Buccaneer: Pursuit of Infamy is, as you might expect, pirate related. Does this Steam title's hardcore veneer cover up enjoyable casual leanings?
Steam is a tricky beast with all things considered. Whilst it provides a platform for unique, independently developed titles it is perhaps too much of a “geek thing” for some of those titles to reach their target audience. This is the case with Buccaneer: Pursuit of Infamy, a pirate version of Elite that appears to be a far more serious and deep than it actually is. It's nature, casual to the bone, may even be unintentional but it is anything but regrettable.
You take the place of a nameless ship captain tasked with becoming the most infamous pirate in the seven seas. This involves buying ships, upgrading them and taking on a wide range of jobs offered through the games hub port. Starting with a weak ship and grumpy crew members the missions afford you gold coins, booty and reputation points to help you on your way to the “Hall of Infamy”. There's plenty of them too, with over 50 missions the game is a surprisingly healthy package for it's RRP.
Direct control of your ship is offered with a straightforward WASD control scheme. The movement physics themselves are catered to easy play rather than detailed simulation. Once you've upgraded your ship a little you'll find yourself weaving through islands or ducking around the back of enemies to take them out without frustration. Aiming is also kept as simple as possible. Right or left clicks fire either starboard or port cannons without need to adjust their trajectory. This works well whilst attacking sea-borne enemies but buildings, battlements and other land loving targets are trickier to hit. If general destruction was the call of the day then the cannons of a pirate ship would be perfectly suited, these specific little structures are often a little more difficult to nail.
The easiest way to understand the mission structure is to imagine an open-world pirate game without the miles of empty sea between destinations. Your choices are broken down by, first, a larger area and then a specific grouping of islands or dangerous stretch of sea. As you carry out more tasks for your pirate overlords more areas of the map, and therefore more jobs, are opened up to your motley crew. It's a good structure namely because it allows you to hop between missions quickly, without arduous journeying but with a satisfying immediacy. It's never long before your punching holes in the sides of other vessels.
The missions themselves cater to this structure. None of them are particularly lengthy but are all concentrated blasts of pirate action. Typically involving a few ship to ship battles, taking out some land-based targets, collecting booty or escorting other ships they all take place in unique battlefields. So, whilst the missions themselves are familiar and somewhat repetitive, the different land masses that act as your arenas make sure the game offers plenty of variety. The best missions are those where item collection is mixed with plenty of fighting with other ships. Some don't quite capture the same tense action – the game's strongest point.
Not all of the missions are great then? No, I'm afraid not. Escort missions are least enjoyable and not just because it is a cliché task but also because you are not always entirely sure where you are escorting the boat to. Given that your path alters that of your burden you may find yourself turning in circles. They come across as filler, missions to ensure that the games content doesn't revolve entirely around blasting away targets. Let's be honest though folks, if I'm getting ready to attach my wooden leg and buy a parrot it's a fair bet to say I'm ready to enjoy the more destructive side of life.
The infamy and upgrade system works well once your a few missions in. At the start it may well seem like missions offer too little reward to properly allow for the products of the hub world to be really explored. Stick with it, after the first tier of missions the coins begin to pile up and the crew morale with it. Your infamy level ticks down during idle time at sea, good pirates don't waste time admiring the view. The key to a successful pirate career is, as the mission structure and style may suggest, momentum. Taking on a group of jobs and burning up your reserves on new cannons and sails is the best way to play the Buccaneer. It's a nice change for reckless behaviour to be rewarded.
Visuals are pleasing. The ship models are well-done but the scale of the view doesn't allow for a great amount of detail. The water effect is excellent although a few waves wouldn't have gone amiss. Everything has a distinct Caribbean glow to it making the life of a pirate seem pretty appealing as I sit in dull January weather. The art direction is strong, nothing feels out of place or cheap with quality consistent throughout. A lot of love has gone into it and the game is, for such a small development team, exceptionally well put together. Bugs don't plague the game, graphical glitches are basically non-existent and even the music is pretty good. There are plenty of big-budget titles that don't manage the same standards and kudos should be given to Stickman.
I'm really happy we are doing a giveaway for Buccaneer. The online game lists are empty at the moment and it's a real shame. The multiplayer mode consists of trying to out-infamy the opposing side by gathering up small ships, taking out land-based targets and, of course, blowing each other to bits. Without actually getting to play with a few people it's difficult to make a fair assessment of how this would actually play out over a full length match. I strongly suspect that it may well be even more enjoyable than the single-player game.
The game's public presentation does it a bit of a disservice. Front-end graphics, promotional writings and trailers build the game up to be a deep exploration of pirate life. Being straight to the point, it's not. Buccaneer is perfect for those times when you just want to jump in and receive that warm feeling of reward after a few missions. Upgrading, purchasing ships and the few other trappings of the games underlying mechanics are enjoyable sidelines to encourage continued play. They succeed in doing so but the real fun is in setting out to sea to do some pillaging and destruction. Do not be fooled, the game is perfect for quick pirate relief. Garrr!
Score: 3.5 out of 5
- Very nice visuals and presentation feels suitably piratey.
- Buckets of missions which all take around 10 minutes each. Perfect for that quick fix.
- Ship on ship combat is a tense mix of maneuvers and blasting.
- Great fun online!
- Missions do fall into distinct categories.
- Hitting specific land-based targets is too frustrating.
- The voice actor drops his pirate accent from time to time. Call it comic relief!