Commentary

01/14/2013

AirBuccaneers Review

A round of fire for me and my crew.

By: Rich Shivener

Filed Under: Action Indie Review

AirBucc

Chances are you’ve had a nightmare in which you were falling, and just before you hit the ground, you woke up safe in bed. The multiplayer first-person shooter AirBuccaneers takes that nightmare a step further: You fall, but you fall from a burning airship and smack into a frozen ground.

From Ludocraft, Airbuccaneers is pretty refreshing in the context of the FPS genre. Battles take place in the skies of a fantastical Scandinavia, one with hot airships wielding cannons and blood-lusting men. The red team is Vikings; the blue, Buccaneers. A battle can hold up to 32 players, or 16 vs.16. When both sides are stacked with 16 players, the action is quite explosive, and that’s putting it mildly.

AirBuccaneers isn’t about how many enemies you can kill in a minute. This isn’t a run-and-gun free for all replete with loadouts, headshots and Mountain Dew-flavored XPs. Battles are typically 15 minutes long, and they’re contingent upon teamwork. Depending on the game mode, your team’s objective is burn more ships than your enemy does or blow up the enemy’s “golden ship.” The limited amount of game modes might have some players yearning for more, in that many multiplayer games have a variety of modes, including free for alls, capture the flag (or something else) and zone control. I think the limitations show focus on the developer’s part.

Those limitations could use more focus, though. The game has four maps, and every now and again, textures would disappear. One map and my mates would look transparent, while another would have a giant black mass in the distance. Though strange, none of the glitches were much of a bother. (And I’ll disclose that I played this on a 2011 Bootcamp-ed iMac with these specs.)

Glitches or no, players assume the roles of captain, cannoneer, defender and guerrilla when they board an airship. What’s interesting is that the roles are interchangeable; unlike other multiplayer games, namely of the military flavor, players don’t select loadouts before they respawn. Every player begins with six items: a support staff (ship repair tool), gunpowder grenades, airmines (floating devices that explode upon contact), a blocker (musket) that thwarts on oncoming cannons and mines; a telescope and a sword. How and when those are used depends on the player’s role in an airship.

The captain, of course, takes the helm of the ship, steering his mates to and fro the fray. I often say nay to this role because the steering is rather sensitive, and I can’t bear listening to my mates gripe if we happen to burn out. I prefer the frontlines, where I feel a little less responsible.

Flanking the captain are the cannoneers, who fire cannonballs, airmines and flames at the enemy. Through it’s the most popular role, it isn’t an easy one: A cannoneer must be adept at managing a cannon’s release time and a cannonball’s trajectory against ships on the move. I fare well at this role, yet I still prefer others that are more active. (Besides, in reality, I can hardly sit at my computer.)

The bravest of the mates, I say, are the defenders and guerillas. A defender often blocks cannonballs and makes ship repairs, while the guerrillas shoot airmines and throw grenades at nearby enemy ships. With enough bravery and combat skills, they hijack enemy ships, too.

Let me rephrase that: Guerilla is my favorite role. A few nights ago, I abandoned a burning airship, desperately grasping the rope of a floating airmine. I knew I had about a minute before the mine deflated, so I lunged for the rope below an enemy airship nearby … then I shimmied up the rope and slashed down the ship’s lone Buccaneer. I felt like a true Viking, so I called out to no-one in particular, “A round of moonshine for me and my crew.” It’s just one of several in-game voice commands that add a little to fuel to the game.

Like other multiplayer first-person shooters, AirBuccaneers has XP rewards for playing often and/or well. For every rank unlocked, a player can access new clothing, armor and goofy things like rats and beards – yet the game doesn’t exactly explain the benefits of those items. Take “The Jeweled Dragon”: “The vikings believe that carrying a dragon in a jewel increases cowardness amongst the enemy and brings some of the dragon’s powers to the user.” At the same time, a player can unlock perks and flaws related to the aforementioned roles; for every perk selected, one flaw must be as well. For instance, a defender who repairs a ship 25 percent faster might also bear an eyepatch that gives him tunnel vision.

Unfortunately, those perks and flaws take some time to obtain. I’ve battled more than 20 times, and few have unlocked, perhaps because I average 80 XPs per match and the more advanced ones unlock at 900 XPs and above. In other games, I’m showered with XPs despite my performance. It seems the gods above (LudoCraft) are cruel, but they’re leveling the air and inviting me to play hard.

In the days ahead, I hope I don’t dream of falling from burning airships. I hope I dream of what could be in AirBuccaneers. More weapons would add to the fiery combat; more players would flesh out some games that have less than 20 players (this is assuming that my location isn’t affecting what I find); more in-game backstory, like the one here, would shed light on the ever-burning conflict between the Vikings and Buccaneers.

Let’s hope those gods are reading this.

***

 

7

AirBuccaneers is a notable title within its genre

This review is based on a download code provided by the publisher.

Filed Under: Action Indie Review

About the Author:
Rich Shivener is the Lead Editor of Bit Creature. He is also a writer, instructor and iPad whisperer from the shores of Northern Kentucky. You can find him in Publishers Weekly and Writer's Digest, among other places.

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