The Lighthouse Customer: Caribbean!

By Christopher Livingston on May 12th, 2014 at 9:00 pm.

I'm not going to suddenly wake up in a Ubisoft office, right?

Each Monday, Chris Livingston visits an early access game and reports back with stories about whatever he finds inside. This week, sailing the low-res seas in sandbox RPG Caribbean!

I race across the open sea, bearing down on an English convoy. I have twice as many ships and nearly three times their crew, so this will be an easy kill, another feather in my tricorn hat. Or it would be, if my crew didn’t pick that precise moment to mutiny, seize control of one of my ships, turn and attack me instead of the English, board me, and pummel me into unconsciousness on my own deck. Pirates. If you can’t trust them, who can you trust?

If you’ve played a Mount & Blade game, you’ll feel right at home in Caribbean! This game is built on M&B’s engine, and is essentially Mount & Blade with pirate stuff added. That’s not a complaint, by the way. I have a massive amount of affection for Mount & Blade despite it being as ugly as butt, despite the expansion that didn’t expand much, despite the sequel that felt more or less the same as the original. I love those damn games, and I love pirate stuff, so all Caribbean! really needs to do to win me over is not piss me off.

Speaking of pirate stuff: ahoy! I am a pirate. Like all great pirates, I am known for my beard.

That IS a gun in my pocket, and I AM glad to see you, sir.

Refreshingly, Chinstrap doesn’t begin the game completely alone at the bottom rung of the pirate ladder. I’ve got some starter gear: clothing, a pistol and sword, some cash, a horse, and a dozen loyal Spanish rodeleros. Wanting to get right into some hot pirate action, we attack a small French town simply because it happens to be nearby. The town contains only simple farmers, easy pickings for an armed force, except for the fact that there are a guh-jillion farmers and they’re pretty damn vicious and quite skilled at stabbing the shit out of soldiers with their farming tools. Having thus angered the French, and having read on the menu screen that France is at war with Spain, I decide to make the Spanish my allies and France my eternal enemies. That’s just how quickly I form my life-long alliances and grudges, matey.

Oh no, why did I choose to attack during FarmCon 1655?

As it turns out, my life-long alliances and grudges can be changed rather quickly. Moments after deciding to make Spain my favorite country ever, I find myself in a Spanish prison facing a death sentence after accepting a quest from the wrong person. I meet another prisoner, a Frenchman, and together we slaughter a bunch of Spanish guards and bust out of the clink. Okay, fine: Spain will be my eternal enemy, then, and I’ll side with France. Frenchy sends me to Tortuga to accept my reward for helping him: my first pirate ship, and an invitation to attack France’s other foe (and my newest eternal enemy), England!

Unfortunately, you have to sing you own sea shanties.

So far, the game’s swordplay, conversation, quests, and travel have all been more or less identical to Mount & Blade, so if Caribbean! is truly going stand apart it’ll have be with its naval system. First off, each major city has a harbor, where you can buy and sell ships and hire and train crews. You can also purchase upgrades for your ships, things like reinforced hulls, silk ropes, deck webbing, an infirmary, steering upgrades, and offensive enhancements, all which alter your ships speed, sturdiness, maneuverability, and so on.

I've been sailing without a steering wheel? That explains a lot.

If you’ve played Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag, it really isn’t all that different from what you do here (apart from Black Flag being utterly gorgeous and this game being, you know, not). Steer around and try to line up some nice broadside cannon shots, bust up masts with chain balls, tear up the crew with grapeshot, and when you’re close enough, board the other ship (or get boarded by them) and try to slaughter everyone with pistols, rifles, and swords. Good chaotic fun!

People, PEOPLE. Form a LINE and I'll kill you in the order in which you ARRIVED.

Just like in Black Flag, once I get into naval combat I basically forget about doing anything other than trying to pick fights with ships I’m reasonably sure I can beat. Chinstrap begins his naval career on a high note, taking down several ships, adding them to his fleet, and selling the spares. It’s not long before I’ve got six ships in my fleet and I’m feeling like Blackbeard himself.

Aw lookit those teeny cannonballs flying around. Adorbz!

Then again, just as my loyalties can change in an instant, so can the loyalties of others. While trying to chase down an English convoy, my men suddenly mutiny, turning to attack me, boarding me, and leaving me bloodied and beaten on the deck of my own flagship. I don’t know why morale was so low. Sure, I never put any points into charisma, but I had some bread in my inventory. Bread is supposed to raise morale! Who doesn’t love bread? I eventually escape, though I’ve just got one ship and a single loyal Dutch sailor remaining.

Felled by a half-naked buccaneer. At least his hat was fancy.

Times like these really make me regret having so many different eternal enemies. Spain considers me a criminal, France hates me for trying to kill their farmers, and I’ve angered England by attacking their convoys. I head to the Brotherhood of the Coast, the game’s pirate faction, who invite me to gain their favor by attacking their enemies. Unfortunately, they currently have truces with every other country, leaving them with no enemies for me to attack. What the hell kind of pirates are friends with everyone? I head to my final option, the Republic of Netherlands. They’re at war with Spain, so once again, the Spanish become my eternal enemy. For real this time! And forever!

No need for shoving, there's plenty of me to kill for everyone.

I slowly build Chinstrap back up to his full pirate glory, attacking lone Spanish ships and patrols, and soon I’ve got a decent crew and a creaking fleet of new ships. My new Dutch overlords have suggested I take over a town to win their affections, so we park the boats and set off across land on foot.

Fancy? You're the asshole wearing the neck ruff.

On the way there, however, my soldiers express their unhappiness with my continuing lack of charisma by staging a mutiny. Another mutiny! On land this time! Despite the fact I’ve got bananas in my inventory. Bananas! Who doesn’t love bananas? Suddenly I’m back in chains, stripped of my belongings, and being hauled around against my will. Looks like it doesn’t matter if you’re French, Spanish, English, or Dutch. The one thing everyone can agree on is that their eternal enemy is Chinstrap.

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32 Comments »

  1. RedViv says:

    Sounds like I might have a nice Bonny time with this.

  2. DarkFenix says:

    Butt ugly as this game looks, I reckon I’m going to love it for precisely the same reasons I loved M&B. That and it’ll indulge my big stiffy for all things age of sail.

    • bills6693 says:

      I love the butt ugly nature of the M&B games, for two reasons

      1) It clearly demonstrates that graphics can’t hold a candle to deep gameplay
      2) It runs fine on my computer (laptop actually) which has a graphics chip, not even a card.

  3. bills6693 says:

    Sounds just like what I envisioned. How finished is it? Its early access but I do love M&B games. I’m currently having fun in the Warhammer mod that was linked on RPS a few days ago, but this is probably next in my sights if its just a kind of ‘polishing up’ stage of development and not a ‘we haven’t implemented most features’ stage.

    • Graves says:

      I haven’t played it yet, so this is all from the Steam Page. It looks like they have most of the core features implemented- naval combat, ground combat, attacking villagers, basic diplomacy, excetera. Basically the kind of stuff you would expect to see in a good M&B mod. What they are still implementing is adding more maps, especially for ship boarding, more diplomacy and faction stuff, a tactical map for giving your troops orders before combat, and that sort of thing.

      So, I’d guess its somewhere between the two. I haven’t bought it yet myself (even though I know I will, as I have been an M&B fan since it was in version .517 or whatever 10 years ago, and an age of sail fan to boot), as I’ve been waiting for it to get to that “polishing” stage as well. Has anyone else played it that can give more details? Is it worth playing now, or should I keep waiting? Whats the pace on development?

      • Efrizial says:

        This is less complete than mount and blade vanilla.

        There is almost no diplomatic options.
        You can become a privateer or join a faction and that’s it. you don’t have quests or question you can ask the lords about or marriage or anything that you can do in warband or even m&b vanilla.

        You can’t walk around town or even go in the tavern because they have yet to be implemented, by proxy there is also no companions.

        And there is pretty much no way of making any meaningful amount of cash because everything cost a shit ton of piastres but you hardly gain anything .

        The naval battles are also pretty damn boring since there is no feeling to it.

        The customizable boats and the traits system(you gain trait point that give you bonus like perk in fallout3) could be interesting but the rest of the game is shit. right now.

        Oh and I was forgetting artillery, the thing that make the player’s army absolutely cheated. You have cannons(up to 5-6) that can kill 3-10 enemies with one shot from the other side of the map (but they do cost 10000 piastres the cannon and 1500 the gunner) and your enemies don’t.

        The boarding battle are also terrible because there is no invisible wall to keep the dumb AI from pushing itself into the sea when boarding the other ship.

  4. Zenicetus says:

    I know I’ll regret asking this, but are there any actual sailing tactics in the naval combat? You know… gaining the upwind “weather gage” on the enemy, not being able to point your ship anywhere near the wind? That sort of thing. Or do they drive around like motorboats?

    • Reefpirate says:

      The Dev Blog #1 video on their Steam page does a pretty good job outlining what is and isn’t in the game currently.

      One of the things they mentioned was wind direction having an influence on the sailing mechanics, as well as things like damaged sails.

      Hard to say how detailed their modelling is, but it sounds like they are at least making an attempt at a proper naval combat simulation.

      • bills6693 says:

        You know what, I’d be perfectly thrilled with a system where the ships moved like in Empire Total War. They weren’t that realistic i.e. you could sail into wind (but very very slowly). I don’t think tacking would add much and honestly, stuff gets really complex and people would struggle when you get into realistic naval tactics for anyone but the most hardcore fan of it.

        As long as wind does have an importance, as do taking out sails, and the AI isn’t braindead, I’ll be fairly happy. Hopefully its less action-oriented than AC4 looked like it was but meh.

        • dvorhagen says:

          You can actually sail directly into the wind, if you do it right — it’s the Bernoulli effect. The sail acts as an airfoil, so you do get some impulse.

          • phuzz says:

            You’re not going to be sailing close to the wind with a square rigged ship like most of the pictured ones. Having a big square of sail looks good, and works reasonably well when the wind is blowing the way you want to go.
            A fore and aft rig (ie the sail is parallel to the boat’s hull, as in most modern boats) can sail pretty damn close to the wind (ie towards it), but you can’t sail directly into the wind with any kind of sail. Instead you have to keep tacking in a zigzag course up wind.

          • Zenicetus says:

            Bernoulli effect will not let you sail directly into the wind, sorry. It doesn’t work like that, even on today’s modern high-tech boats.

            Square-rigged ships were piss-poor at sailing even moderately off a beam reach (sideways wind). It was a perilous thing to tack (change direction) across the direction of the wind, because if you didn’t start the maneuver with enough forward momentum, the ship wouldn’t move the bow across the wind and you’d go “into Irons,” meaning dead in the water. Not so good for a combat ship.

            All combat tactics, and I mean ALL COMBAT TACTICS in the Golden Age of Sail were based on what you could and couldn’t do with your ship vs. an enemy in relation to the wind direction. Which is why treating square-rigged ships like motorboats, the way it was done in Empire Total War, is such a disgrace and a lost opportunity.

            It’s unfortunate that both game developers and many game players think this stuff is complicated, when it really isn’t. If you can understand why gaining high ground is an important tactic for land combat, you can understand how sailing tactics work.

            The other problem is that realistic sailing means slower-paced combat, which today’s ADHD gamers apparently can’t handle. So we get square-rigged ships with hidden engines and propellers that go too fast, and are (mostly) indifferent to wind direction. Cartoon sailing ships.

            Gah! (/sailor rant)

  5. Geebs says:

    So…err….is that a pistol in your pocket in the second picture?

    • rexx.sabotage says:

      mouse-over the image and find out ;)

      • Geebs says:

        Ah. In fairness, I was browsing on an ipad and they’ve not yet implemented the “stare very hard at something to simulate mouse-over” gesture…..

        • green frog says:

          I’m on an iPad too, and performing a long press on an image to bring up the contextual menu will show the mouse-over text if there is any.

  6. sabasNL says:

    Am I the only one who found the British and Portugese soldiers in Pirates of the Carribean more bad-ass than the pirates? The PotC films are some of my favourites, but I really do like military those uniforms.

  7. bills6693 says:

    I hope I won’t be out of my depth

  8. namad says:

    have they licensed the m&b engine or just stolen it? with steam early access you can never be sure

    • Stompopolos says:

      They’re the good fellows and fellettes who made With Fire & Sword. Judging by that game’s officialness, I’d say the developer has some sort of relationship with TaleWorlds.

  9. dvorhagen says:

    I love these games, butt-ugly or not – I can never resist buying a new Mount and Blade-y game. But one thing I really, really wish an age of sail game would do is let you actually captain the ship. You should be able to stand on the deck, first person, yelling orders, as your ship heaves beneath your feet, and oak splinters fly around. You should be able to man the rudder, or fling aside a gunner’s corpse and grab a cannon in desperation. I want to be in a situation where I’m frantically screaming at my men to man the pumps while the ship is listing over, waves are crashing over the railing, and half my crew is being swept to their watery graves. What’s with all this namby-pamby third-person shit?

  10. UncleLou says:

    I’d kill for DLC (or a mod, of course) that turns Assassin’s Creed IV into something like this. Kill.

  11. Michael Fogg says:

    Looks like an uglier version of Asscreed 4
    *runs away*

  12. fredc says:

    So this is basically just Sid Meier’s Pirates! Gold, but instead of the dancing mini-game you walk around blocky landscapes and shoot people?

    • cpt_freakout says:

      Yes! Isn’t that fantastic?

      …no, I’m not being sarcastic, if anyone thought I was.

  13. Vendae says:

    Last time I checked that (ie, the flag that appears the most) was a Portuguese flag. Am I missing something?