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A few of the regular commenters who twirl me like a room full of Comicon presenters about an attractive unaccompanied woman have noticed a strange pattern appearing in my list of favorite games, many of which somehow prominently feature a boat. think about it. Return of the Oprah Dinn. spiritfirer. Silent Hill 2 has that part where James Sunderland goes to the boating lake on the day of “the freedom of the world’s most observant couples.” Dark Souls… erm… has a couple of swords that could conceivably be used as a mast for a mazin. And look at all the other clues: he loves Horatio Hornblower’s books, owns a bathhouse, and is physically dependent on water to sustain life, and we’ve apparently found the secret cheat code that will guarantee a positive review from Yahtzee Croshaw. Well I had to get to the bottom of this one, I hate to think that any aspect of my behavior became in any way authoritative, if my wife found out she would make me start unloading the dishwasher again. So I played a little bit of Sailing Era last week, an open-ended RPG set in the Age of Sail that features boats as prominently as any, and which managed to impress me immediately with its deft foresight in the middle of January when it’s There is a glitch worth talking about.
Age of Sailing is a Chinese game. Which is not unlike the Japanese games except the characters have this hint of desperate panic in their eyes as they fear the government will make them disappear. Besides, the main hint it gave was that the damn thing was in Chinese by default and I had to go through the menus trying to guess my way to the language option. Which might also raise my first criticism: It’s a local as well as an American tourist in the Arctic Circle. Dialogue is poorly framed in the rest of the interface with occasional missing spaces and line breaks in the middle of words and generally reads as if it was roughed up in an alley by Google Translate. Which is in direct contrast to the international vibe Sailing Era is trying to bring in, it’s meant to be about following a group of characters from all over the world into a wonderful age of exploration and discovery where all the world’s diverse peoples can come together and find common ground in how much they hate Europeans.
Age of Sail is very ambitious but at the same time somewhat simplistic. Designed to create a playground for an entire clitnibbling world, every sea and every continent mapped out for you to unlock systematically, with every major port and settlement of the era meticulously placed. If they wanted to bring out DLC for this, they’d have to let you go to the damn moon. Smuggling cheese across the sea of calm or something. However, the sheer number of outlets available to visit doesn’t count because many of them are all just glorified menu screens and half of the ports in Africa use the exact same background with the exact same dude dude, obviously European looking dude running the trading station. I found the central gameplay loop to consist of populating your map, i.e. steering your ship down the coast, dropping sails and hoping to ramble on another settlement before your supplies run out and the crew has to start harvesting each other’s nail clippings to feed. But as a basic mechanic, mapping the world is probably the least interesting activity.
Exploring the uncharted territories of one of the most hostile environments on Earth in what amounts to a pile of dead trees and canvas being a boring pastime. I appreciate that there is a limit to the thrill of nautical adventure that can be captured when the camera is half a mile from the action, but perhaps my crew of shady alien strangers would have experienced more trauma than outposts in remote or hostile countries? So you’ll have to butter them up a bit before they agree to let you fill up on supplies and half the price of blood diamonds? Or is that too much for a game that’s already spreading itself too thin on so few features? I suppose the naval combat element is well within the minimum expectations for this sort of thing; It’s serviceable enough with Playmobil toys in the bathtub genre that relies on using awkward steering controls to get the enemy into cannon range. I hope it makes it more clear when your guns are ready to fire. Again, the ships are pretty small on screen, so we can’t just stare and try to see if the gunners have reloaded their shot, ready the smelt and finished with their quick game of wet biscuits.
But in addition to fighting ships, there is also hand-to-hand combat when you get on board each other. Apparent. I mean, I sure do. It happened in an educational program. And… that was the last time I saw her. It’s entirely possible that I was hallucinating due to the quirk. Can’t for the life of me figure out how to achieve that then. Probably more attention should have been paid to the text of the tutorial, I think, but with translation issues that were like trying to ask directions from a shaggy guy on a street corner yelling about government listening devices in his urethra. Come to think of it, ship fighting in general didn’t happen much. I was ambushed by pirates once specifically while crossing the Gulf of Aden and in all other cases I had to pick it up by doing bonus missions from outposts. Both are equally painful and fun educational. Since you’re looking at them and they’ll say “go kill some pirates in the Ligurian Sea” that’s a quick tab to get out and a trip to Google Maps before I think about adding it to my itinerary. Now be honest with me, viewers, who in the top of their heads knows where the Ligurian Sea lies? only you? Well, clever clogs, now you explain why the bonus office in Antwerp gave such nonsense.
I would sum up Sailing Era as a game full of misplaced effort. I keep turning over boulders and finding all this incremental gameplay that I can’t really be bothered with. Like wild campaigns. You go to certain ports and as long as you do enough favors and remember to wear a tie to the governor’s office you can put together a team and a bunch of supplies on an interface that’s about as welcoming as a Hal 9000 tax return but get over all of that and all of a sudden you’re basically in this whole other game and it’s A spin off of The Curious Expedition as you explore a hexadecimal continent of random encounters and treasure. And meanwhile I could make as much profit sailing back and forth between Portugal and Sierra Leone a few times restocking all the cafes with exotic African sandwiches. So overland expeditions was another thing I did about once, because it’s called the age of sailing not cocking around in the meadow period. Now I feel bad for anyone who had to sit down and write all the random meetup text when they’d rather have fun in the sun or a game of wet biscuits. As for the theory that I automatically like games about boats, I’d call this an inconclusive test, because Age of Sailing eventually scratches that itch as well as rearranging nautical-themed fridge magnets in a rainstorm.