The tears of happiness of the old sea dog
Not long ago my heart was bleeding; it was bleeding for the sea (it was not 'sea-sickness' though) named Sea Dogs. I remember how I furrowed the seas of that archipelago under sail of vessels of all of all denominations and ranks. Of course, most of all I was impressed with Mon-a-war - the true sea titan that required from the captain the outstanding skills to control it. But the time has passed and Sea Dogs CD is left lying deep in the desk drawer up to 'better times'. Everything is achieved, everything is known, and there is nothing left to seek after. The one who has fallen in love with limitless vast expanses of open sea is depressed. Fortunately, Akella did not shelve this matter and announced Sea Dogs 2. Studying materials on this project, I, finally, found the most interesting for myself, i.e. those insinuations to strategy that were so obvious in the first Sea Dogs game, and that are so obvious now - in Sea Dogs 2. Although let's return to this later...
Storyline of the game will not be linked with the first Sea Dogs game. Pirate Sharp was left in the past, his saga is over, and his body has become food for fishes. New heroes and new adventures will be waiting for the player within the same Antilles, but a bit aside from the places of previous sea wandering. There will be about twenty-five quite small islands, many of which will be colonies of the English, the French, the Spaniards, the Portuguese, and the Dutch. As you've already noticed, the number of colonialist states had considerably increased, and hence, the number of storylines will increase!
Although the developers do not deny that they after all have taken some characters from the first part of the game into the islands of Sea Dogs 2. The main heroes are two English pirates, or, being more precise, two corsairs. They are Blaze Devlin and Daniel Green. Daniel will obtain a big bunch of discrediting information against a local governor; it's from here all the turmoil starts. In general, there will be a very complicated trouble stirred up, and as to the player then he will have to put all things right. It's remarkable that there is no main bad guy in Sea Dogs 2. Here all are the same, all are branded with 'politics', but everyone has his own goals and motives. So, the joyous life is guaranteed!
Actions take place while Spain surrendered its positions. Now it is far from being the seawater trendsetter, while Great Britain rapidly gains in strength, oppressing the poor French. In this game the English are far from being peaceful people! Moreover there are two more states on the world arena and they're Portugal and Holland whose interests are more directed to trading then waging war. Who has said that the trader is better then an angry corsair, though?
In the beginning of the game now that will be possible to create your own captain, who will have some not big vessel under his command. It is generation of the main character is one of the Role-Playing aspects presenting in the game. So, you'll need to make more then just naming your character (the player himself will be the hero!), you'll have to distribute points between different character's skills. It is these skills that will determine game key points (they're conning, fist fighting, trading etc.).
In general, the game is presented with quest generator and the main storyline that allows playing and keeping up the player's interest even when all storyline steps are completed. So, let's wait to see how good this approach will be realized in Sea Dogs 2. But somehow I think that it would work!
It's promised that in the game there will be more different NPC that would join the player. It will be possible to control then and their vessels. I remember that in the first part of the game workmates always caused numerous problems and poked their noses where they were not meant to. The second part will have the better graphics and, I guess, some new AI scripts!
Big changes will take place in the scenery as well. For example, the player will be able to land where he wants but not where he is just allowed. Moreover, the land will stop being stupid gameplay appendix. Forts and towns will become more functional, while the player will be "linked to the land" with these very quests that have to be accomplished without standing on the vessel's desk. Even enemy forts will stop being just composite objects to be besieged. No one will be able to prevent you from landing not far from the main haven and walk stealthily into the enemy camp to complete some quests. But remember, all your NPC and you are in one harness. So, all of you will have to visit bars and shops. I suggest that possible meeting with some characters may cause nice as well as some not really nice surprises!
The towns will be inhabited with different characters (as well as in the first game) there will be some necessary buildings as well like taverns, shipyards, churches etc. Here you may hire your crew, buy a new ship, talk to local chiefs, to purchase or sell cargo, earn some experience necessary for solving land-quests and take on an interesting sea job. And, of course, can the land be without hidden treasures of old pirates and smuggler?!
I'm not going to tell you how beautiful the sea views have become. You may judge by screenshots. Anyway, they do impress! Something tells me that in dynamic these pictures will be more vivid! But here Sea Dogs 2 will make us a small surprise it's new weather conditions. Of course, they're new only in the game: they do exist in the real life for a very long time. Storm and fog are far to all that can be faced in this game. There will be light breeze, as well as decuman wave, there can be tornado that can tear the sails into pieces and throw onto the reefs, as well as cloudburst and storms, so it's just vivid breathtaking colors from Aivazovski's paintings!
The sea is 'inhabited' not only with traders, pirates and naval vessels, but also with some inhabitants like - birds, sharks, dolphins, and perhaps - even with whales! You won't get bored while sailing.
If you played the first part of the game, you cannot forget that trading was a significant element in the game. But with time goes by it becomes boring, routes are well known, all is the same - coffee, flax, sugar, then again coffee, flax, sugar, and again, and again: until you get enough money to make round-the-world (i.e. round-the-archipelago :) voyage. The second Sea Dogs are promised to have this element corrected the game to be not only adventure and RPG, but a trading strategic game. So, it's more goods, different prices, and demand and supply behavior. It's more interesting!
Finally we've arrived to the main point - the vessels. Without them you can do nothing in the game. Fellows from Akella promise good fifty of vessel types and, as it become known to me, Mon-a-war will be there! But you'll have to sweat over to get the ship of this class. But that is not all! There will be other yummy stuff for reckless captain like 'Flying Dutchman'. Although, it's not to discuss it yet! But the ships will be numerous and versatile! As earlier, entering shipyard, there will be what to choose from. The good ship can be the trophy of the successful boarding though!
And who will dare to say that there is no strategic element in the game? If there is one that he does not understand anything in seamanship, so, put an anchor on his neck and throw him on the sea bottom to feed fishes! Sailing any vessel, it is craft; each one has its drawbacks and advantages. Some of them are swift, but weak; others are good sailing in the teeth of the wind; others are bad making sharp turns. Oh my: It's too hard to enumerate all! We could compose a handbook on sailing. But what for? All that are going to be in the game that everyone can purchase.
Strategy of the game is not only that, but also geopolitical, i.e. you need capture necessary colonies and raise right flag in right time, or to slip away having the town treasury grabbed.
Although, it is naval battles that make the zest of Sea Dogs. This component of the game was perfected by Akella designers and programmers in many games. Battle of ten ships will be a thrilling spectacle.
To give orders to partners them to make maneuvers, to board, to sink the enemy: these are amenities of corsair's: pirate's: sea-dog's life: or however you call those men. But do not forget that you can be attacked and boarded too. Your black banner does not yet warranty that your enemy will rush away in panic!
The main novelty in boarding and storming forts is fight with all crew participation but not the duel of just two figures. Moreover, after the enemy vessel is captured, par of the crew may come over to your side, or to become fishes' food, or, being put into irons, can be thrown into the holds to make friends with rats there. Taking all the trophies, together with the ship, you may continue your trip pretending to be a peaceful trader into some closest port and to flog the vessel as well as the enemy's cargo for good money. Strategic element here is to block enemy's trade routes and entire colonies, weakening forts' defenders and making a profit out of rich traders.
To all this you should add new vessels' armament and you'll get an approximate picture of Sea Dogs 2. Not quite, though. There are two more components with a lot of details to be discussed - they are the engine and multiplayer mode.
I deliberately write on the engine almost in the end of the article, because you as well as me are tired of reading on polygons and new technologies. I hope that the day when all will stop vying with each other in FPS and complicated algorithms. All this stuff in Sea Dogs is on a high level and deserves to be respected. On the engine I can say the only thing - look at the screenshots. Isn't that beauty? Now, just imagine all this alive - waves that welter, the wind that howls, seagulls that fly over you head, the land that heaves in sight, and the yellow Spaniard banner that is so hated by the English corsair! What else is needed for happiness? Perhaps, just some fresh air from the screen is. But that is beyond the bounds of computer abilities yet. As to the rest, then all that - romance spirit and adventures - already were in the first game. But now that is going to be bigger and thicker!
Akella programmers put much energy into new technologies, into new physics of vessels' movement, into the vessels and characters' models, into beautiful sea and dry land. So, it is going to be quite good, I'm just sure.
Sea Dogs 2 can boast of the multiplayer mode up to 16 persons in Death Match as well as in joint completing storylines. Although, there will be game support through GameSpy system. Sooo... I guess that the developers have nothing to choose from. What a pity!
After all adventures are completed you may hope that the anchor with your name and the name of your vessel will be demonstrated in the on-line hall of fame. Heh, it's going to be nice!
See you later on the Antilles in the spring of 2002 and we wish calm sea to the developers in their sailing!
- Yuri Bushin (aga Yurg)