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Windward Is Basically Sid Meier's Pirates: Deathmatch

Or at least, it is right now. Developer "ArenMook" has big plans for the isometric high-seas shooter, but for the moment, there's a free, fully playable alpha demo that's already nicely polished - especially given Windward's scant three months of development time so far. Basically, though, if you've played the 2004 Pirates revamp, you'll be confidently row- row-rowing enemies' boats gently down the river Styx in no time. But, if not, it's a quick formula to pick up, requiring only a deft sense of timing and position from players. Aiming and cannon fire, meanwhile, are automatic.

It's excellent fun in a 4v4 point capture setting, too. I almost immediately found myself engaged in a lighting quick back-and-forth that saw my opponent and I narrowly darting in and out of firing range. When it became apparent that my faithful Titanic Two was looking a bit more like Swiss cheese than their ill-gotten cruiser, I decided to charge straight into them. Unfortunately, my hull wasn't nearly as thick as my incredibly suicidal resolve, so I harmlessly exploded mere inches away. I bet it would've been even more intense if my fearsome foe's name wasn't "Fartzilla."

Further down the line, ArenMook's hoping to add everything from more ships and an item system to colossal, procedurally generated "Terraria-style" worlds  "populated with towns that have a supply and demand issues that you can address if you wish, pirates to kill, tasks to take on, and factions to work for or against." That said, there will still be multiplayer skirmish maps for those who'd rather get straight to the part where everyone unleashes their weapons of hilariously inefficient destruction.

Right now, though, you can still create a persistent ship, gain XP, and learn new skills. It's super impressive - and apparently Sid-Meier-approved, according to the developer. And it's all browser-based to boot. So go give it a try. Or, if you're still hesitant - say, because you have an irrational distaste for good things or don't exist - you might instead opt to partake of this trailer.

Thanks, Indie Games.

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