Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Bastard of the Caribbean, part 3

We last left our hero on his journey eastwards to find new and exciting ways to betray everything he could plausibly stand for. The waters around Port Royale failed to bring him the fame and fortune he deserves, and so defecting to the Dutch is the plan at the moment.

While still in the French port Petit-Goave, our hero bought a letter of marque from the governor, officially becoming a privateer. However, the French were not at war with anybody, so the letter could not be put to use immediately, although it will definitely be useful later on.

Also, governors really have nothing to say when there's no war going on.

The journey takes a while longer, but we finally arrive to the Lesser Antilles - a wonderful place for all sorts of pirate related activities. Observe:

Each of these tiny islands has a town on it, the lower three are English, two others - Dutch. The chain continues both ways, with more English, French and Spanish ports, but this segment is all I need right now. Normally you find most ships of any nationality closest to its ports, and here you have a selection of towns of every flavour, right next to each other. You can just hang around, do your dirty work, and find a friendly port nearby to report back and resupply.

Right now, it's the English that I'm hunting. Sailing in loops around the islands, I encounter one merchant ship after another (while carefully staying away from an assortment of small boats - too dangerous if they are pirates, not profitable enough otherwise). Frankly, I don't know what possessed captain Wigglesworth to go all the way to Port Royale in the first place - unlike the pitifully poor traders of those parts, here every ship packs at least 1 000 coins, some even up to 3 000 - not to mention to nice pricetags of the ships themselves.

Soon enough, this brings the ship's treasury up to 20 000 gold pieces - not a bad plunder at all. However, the game uses an interesting system for handling money. All the gold you carry around in the ship can be used in trading and it also directly affects happiness of your crew, but it is not really your wealth. For example, even if you had a million in your ship, the game wouldn't recognize you as rich in the few cases it happens to matter. Personal wealth can only be acquired by ending your current "expedition" and dividing the plunder with your crew.

Your personal wealth is untouchable, whereas the plunder can be lost all too easily if you lose a fight or get your ships sunk. And trouble can sneak up on you even when you take precautions. It may look like this:

A pirate, cunningly disguised a merchant, snuck past my filter of "small ships = bad" and caught me by surprise. A couple of lucky volleys from their side damaged our sails and reduced the crew to uncomfortable levels so the prospect of a fencing duel, though not very encouraging, was the only hope of salvaging the situation.

No screens of the process, so - spoiler alert.

Success in a duel depends on two factors - how well you're doing (damage taken vs damage inflicted) and how well your crew are doing offscreen, represented jointly by the faces in the bottom bar. To make things more complicated, the two factors also depend on each other - the crew fight better if their captain is doing well in the duel, while you get more freedom to fail once in a while if you have larger numbers on your side. In this particular fight, my amazing fencing prowess didn't save the rest of the crew getting killed, and that means a single missed blow could've made me surrender. As you can see, it didn't, but that was a close call.

You may also notice that I've been exclusively using the rapier in my duels. There are several reasons for that. For one thing, a rapier is a true gentleman's weapon, unlike cutlass and longsword which are more fit for the lowly unwashed rabble that often populates these waters. And if you could call captain Wigglesworth anything, it would have to be a gentleman. Or bastard. Pirate, perhaps. Traitor, robber, doublecrosser, scum... Gentleman is somewhere in there, that's what I'm saying.

Another reason is that you won't be able to find a finer tool for stabbing your opponent in the balls anywhere this side of the Tordesillas meridian. It works like this: out of the three available weapons, rapier is the fastest; out of the two attacks, stabbing is faster than slashing; out of the three aiming directions, lower means faster. Therefore, ballstabbing with a rapier is the fastest attack possible, which means it can be executed repeatedly in quick succession, momentarily giving you the upper hand and giving you more time to damage something other than your opponent's self esteem and prospect of future offspring.

Anyway, all these victories bring not only plenty of cash, but also promotions:

This brings me 50 acres of land, which is just another counter of social status in the game, and a piece of news:

Now, this is a very informative message. Here's what I learned from it that I never knew before:

1. Evil Spaniard Baron Alvarado knows something about my long-lost sister;
2. My sister is long-lost;
3. I have a sister.

Here's another spoiler - tracking down your lost relatives are also some of the "10 great pirate quests". In other words, worrying about the safety of your family only when it's already too late is something you must do in order to become a truly great pirate. One has to wonder how many aspiring swashbucklers were forgotten by history just because their sisters didn't have the courtesy to get kidnapped.

I jot down the last known location of Baron Alvarado in my list of places to visit and decide that it's probably time to divide the plunder for now. It's already just over 25 000, and if the last encounter with pirates taught me anything, it's that having some insurance surely won't hurt.

Hey, banker, dude, for the future - you probably want to keep the gold on your side of the counter.

My own share is 5 070 - 20% of the plunder, a fixed percentage. That's one of the rare cases where higher difficulty actually has higher in-game benefits - although getting money is easier on low difficulties, you receive a smaller percentage when dividing plunder.

Captain Wigglesworth takes a break for a few months, and then returns to business with a fresh and eager new crew. We're still just starting out, but so far it's been going remarkably smooth.

Lookin' good.

Next time: I continue to fail to lose.

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