I was rather surprised when I first heard a video game based on the old Games Workshop Man o’ War naval battle tabletop game was being developed. After all, it’s a mostly forgotten game, discontinued many years ago after only a short lifespan, only a small cult fanbase keeping memories alive. But despite the obscure source material the concept has a wealth of potential and with the resurgence of quality Warhammer universe based Video Games, can Man o’ War: Corsair compare?
On the surface Man o’ War: Corsair is a simple game, you sail around hunting, trading and pirating. Oh, and getting attacked by the occasional Megalodon Shark… But despite the simplicity, it’s incredibly addictive! On my first playthrough, I couldn’t help myself from saying the gamers mantra: ‘Just one more quest!’
Man o’ War is at its best when sailing out along the coast, ships from many nations of the Warhammer world passing by. The atmosphere is incredible and really draws you in.
You set sail from port, a new quest in hand. The unpredictable weather turning what could have been an easy hunt out on smooth open seas with plenty of visibility, into a tense hunt as the waves swell higher and the fog rolls in… The music swelling as danger draws near, the shouts from the crew and the roar of cannon.
Few games I’ve played manage to evoke such an atmosphere, but that’s not to say it’s flawless. Admittedly the graphics leave something to be desired in places which do detract somewhat from the experience, and the shouts from the crewmen start to grate after a while – There are only a small number of things they say and after an hour or so I started to hate the sound of my own crew’s voices!
Out at sea, sailing and naval combat are carried out in a well-balanced mix of arcade and more realistic style aspects. This keeps things fun yet challenging as you must always be aware of the placement of your enemy’s guns, and most of all the direction of the wind.
The wind is a small yet essential detail for a game set in an age of sail, and as such it’s a major aspect of the game. One minute it will be you greatest ally, the next your worst enemy. Sail with the wind and you will pick up significant speed, but get caught sailing into the wind and you will slow to a crawl – You’ll learn to tack very quickly indeed! I did start to question whether the wind had it in for me as it always seemed to be blowing straight out from the ports I needed to visit the most! But as frustrating this could be I found it added to the game more than it detracted. It created an extra challenge, making the otherwise simple and rather boring task of sailing to port into a minigame of its own.
For those who don’t like sailing around for long periods, or are simply too frustrated with the wind blowing in the wrong direction, there is the option to accelerate time or slow it- A nice touch for making playing when your time is limited much easier, and one that most certainly eases the rage the wind can induce when it’s blowing exactly the opposite way to how you want it to be!
Of course, you can’t stay at sea forever, you’ll need to carry out repairs and acquire work, so all along the coast, there are small and large ports. The port screen is simple but quite nice. It conveys all the important information and is easy to navigate, but it can feel empty – Perhaps this could be resolved simply by simply enlarging the icons and text.
Here all your trading is carried out via a simple interface, along with ship repairs, upgrades and such. This is also where quests are collected, the completion of which will earn you much needed income (ships are expensive to buy and repair!) and importantly favours with the faction who owns the port – The more you have the more upgrades and ships are available to you! Be careful not to let it drop too much though through acts of piracy and aggression against them or you may find the port and ships there less than friendly…
Unfortunately, it’s when things get really close that some gameplay issues rear their head. For a start, there are some pretty major clipping issues with ships sometimes ending up half inside each other. With any luck, this will be resolved as the game is not fully complete yet, but for the time being it’s a noticeable problem. The same can be said for the graphics – On the highest settings there’s still an odd mix of beautifully detailed models, and awfully dated looking areas too but again this may change by the full release.
The real let down though is the boarding – When your opponent is close enough you can engage in man to man combat, but the controls feel clunky and unresponsive. The AI and animations are poor in their current state leading to everyone just piling into one mass combat, which is both ugly and unenjoyable. Boarding can make a battle a lot easier, and indeed it should be the better option when your ship is outgunned, but the experience is so jarring compared to the rest of the game that I found myself actively avoiding it.
These complaints are relatively minor, though. I found Man o’ War: Corsair highly enjoyable, and in the time I’ve played so far that has yet to fade. The map is so large it will take a rather long time to sail my way around it and complete every quest! I’m definitely looking forward to seeing it develop further in upcoming updates, due to adding more races, character customisation and much more.