I’ve been in a rather Steampunk mood as of late. I got a book all about it for Christmas. Something about the universal ideas behind the Steampunk genre just seems to strike me as amazing. Is it the sheer amount of strangely assorted goggles? Maybe it’s the peticoats, or the oversaturation of brass in the color scheme?
Well, in recent events I have purchased a game that seems to lend itself quite well to a steampunk style of thinking. For the first time in the history of Shelf Life, this game is not a Playstation 2 game! So what is it? It is a game known as AirBuccaneers, a PC game developed and published via Steam by LudoCraft Ltd.
The premise of the game is rather simple, yet is difficult to master. A war has been waged between the Buccaneers, the Blue team filled with scrawny guys who seem like they had honestly have a tough time as real pirates and my preferred faction, the Red team known as Vikings. Now in a straight-on battle, I am pretty sure the Vikings would hold a distinct advantage, but this is no battle of swords and guns. There are only large floating air ships firing cannons and shooting floating mines at each other.
This game is quite an interesting experience. You learn quickly that your best friend is a mounted cannon and the basic knowledge of how heavy balls of iron fly through the air. Well that and a competent pilot for your ship, which I honestly say I am not. I left the ship piloting to a crazed captain, who continuously mentioned something about farting in my direction and that he’d seen whales who could fly better than me.
The first server I found myself on, however, was empty of actual human players. Surprisingly AirBuccaneers has rather deceivingly accurate bots, all of whom continuously wrecked me to death. Not that the human players didn’t manage to do the same, but losing two rounds to enemy bots was not a rather optimistic experience for my first game. Regardless, I fought on, charging forth to get shot down after completing the rather simple first-time tutorial.
AirBuccaneers is definitely not a game for the claustrophobic; ship space is incredibly limited and at first I had difficulty realizing how far I could move without falling off my own ship. This resulted in one more plummet to my death until I learned that I could rope my way back onto the ship so long as I was close enough under it. This same feature is pertinent to boarding enemy ships for the sake of slaughtering them. Sadly, this was never my experience as my attempts to grenade enemy air vessels inevitably ended with me having a sword shoved up my rear, only to be thrown overboard and killed.
The one server I found on AirBuccaneers with any people playing was in California. Despite being a New Englander, this server with over 200 ping surprisingly never seemed to actually lag for me. I was expecting to constantly have issues as a result, but it never came true. Every shot I fired felt like it hit or missed based on my aim, not on server lag suddenly throwing my ship forward like a lightning bolt.
The ships in the game all seem to move quite slowly. Movement is constantly in a forward direction at a minimal speed. The only way to get a ship moving is to access one of the various boosts only available to the pilot behind the wheel. These are accessed by using the scroll wheel on the mouse and hitting the spacebar once you’ve highlighted the right one. Boosts take the form of a temporary pair of rockets at the back of the ship appearing to fire off in one of multiple directions; up, down, left, right, and forward. Height is drastically important in the game, as the height at which you face your enemies is the deciding factor in whether you’re barraging them easily or plummeting to your own impending doom. Being higher up than your enemy is not always an advantage, I learned, as I constantly found myself an easy target when I took the wheel and threw myself miles into the air. It was like a game of duck hunt, but replace the duck with my viking and the NES gun-controller with a cannon.
Overall the game acts as a rather simple entertainment when played alone. With a crew of friends all manning a ship together and bickering about who gets to man the cannon, I am positive it could lead to much grander moments. While I still found it a rather great and unique game, I felt like I was missing out on the best of it when I had nobody to scream with as my ship was blown to smithereens. If you’re into strategic action gameplay, are fine with a multiplayer-only game, and find the idea of laughing maniacally as you hit that last ship with another cannonball, finally sending it and its crew down to earth to be crushed in a blaze of glory a pleasant feeling, then definitely consider picking up this game, recently released in early December 2012 straight from Steam Greenlight. The game is available for $15.