Day 28: Brethren of the Coast

Posted: 2010/12/07 in Indie Games
Tags: , ,

I’m purchasing an Xbox Live Indie Game every day, seeking out the quality titles that got lost in the shuffle and no longer appear in the top 50 downloads. Today is day #28, and today’s game is “Brethren of the Coast”

Though keeping with the nautical theme of yesterday’s Ancient Trader, today’s game (Brethren of the Coast) is a very different experience. Whereas Ancient Trader is a turn-based game of nautical exploration with card battle combat, Brethren of the Coast (BotC) offers up a more classical depiction of naval combat in the days of sail, and does so in real time.

What I liked about BotC was its innovative control set. The game allows you to create detailed paths, with unlimited waypoints, for each unit. This path system makes it much easier to control several units simultaneously. Ship combat is very much like that in the classic Sid Meier’s Pirates! (one of my favourite all time games). If you liked that, then this game is a strong recommendation because it takes what was good about that (wind direction affecting speed, waiting for cannon to reload, ships getting progressively damaged, shallow waters slowing and damaging your ship, ability to ram opposing vessels but with the downside that you too get damaged) and adds a lot to it, such as:

– fleet actions with many ships per side

– new mission types such as escort missions, seek and destroy, etc.

– terrain (mainly islands) that affect not only navigation but must be navigated around to get a good shot, or can be used to protect your ship from an incoming attack

– “fog of war” that means you can’t see ships on the opposite sides of islands from you, forcing you to anticipate what an enemy is doing when out of sight

– the ability to order a ship’s crew to stop attacking and to turn their attention to affecting emergency repairs of a damaged ship (though the ship will slowly come to a full stop and become a non-combatant until either they complete their temporary repairs or you order them back into the fray)

– weather effects such as lightning and the ability to fight at dusk, dawn, and even at night

– a campaign mode that introduces story elements that lead up to each encounter

– ships that have shorter range guns, longer range guns, or a mixture of each (with an excellent and innovative system of showing you which guns have fired and which ones have yet to do so)

– fully 3D camera, and one that doesn’t suffer the problems that plague the cameras of so many other 3D games

Some of these additions, especially the fog of war feature, make the naval combat much more challenging. This is partly made up by the option to set the difficulty level, and the addition of a mini-map.

Like another recently reviewed game (Flotilla), this is a slow-paced and thoughtful game. You do have the ability to speed up the proceedings, but it’ll never be what you would call a twitch action game. It doesn’t have to be, it’s the perfect pace for what it is, and it’s not like real life combat in the days of sail was a fast-paced affair anyway. This was a satisfying way to spend 240 Microsoft Points for me, which managed to tickle my nostalgia for the ship combat in the classic Pirates! while adding many much-needed features to make it fresh and unique. Best of all, it supports both system link and Xbox Live play so, those of you who get the game, message me with your gamertag and I’ll be happy to add you to my friend’s list and give it a go online with you.

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