Man of War II: Chains of Command
Have you ever played one of those games that require mood music? Well, when I popped infor the first time, I had to go get my Iron Maiden CD and play Rime of the Ancient Mariner, because this is the high seas at its finest. Man of War II is a first-person perspective game that puts you in command of the Age of Sail ships. This is a historical look at the great fighting ships of the 1700s where you can sign on as a fleet admiral, division commander, or just plain old ship captain. You can create your own character, complete with name, portrait and biography. Then as you proceed through the game you can watch your character grow in rank and stature. As captain, you can customize conditions such as rate of cannon fire, ship handling, and damage effects to create the battle you desire. As a player, you have two campaigns and over 22 historical fleet battles, and if that's not enough you can trade broadsides with some friends over the Internet.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
This was my first time playing a first-person perspective naval game and I didn't quite know what to expect. What I found was a very fun way to wage war on the open seas. You're free to roam the deck of your ship; if you choose you can switch to a map view. But otherwise you're out there in the elements with the wind billowing in the sails, the ship rising up then back down with the waves, which created a fun and different environment than the one I'm used to inside a submarine game. One thing that would have made Man of War II even more realistic would have been a few people on deck with me, because the game tended to get that ghost-ship feel when playing because of the lack of crew. I found Man of War II to be really relaxing to play when not in battles because of the movement of the ship and the wind, but when it came to the battles I found myself getting tense and moving around the ship. Overall it was pretty easy to get into this game, because the game designers made a fun environment to play in.
I just fell in love with the idea of being able to roam all over my ship at will, instead looking at a hex map for the entire game. All of the ships in the game are really nice to look at, though they do get a little blocky when you get real up close and personal. The sails look awesome in Man of War II, when they are either at full sail-state or battle-state, all puffed up with the wind. The water looks really great when two ships are firing cannon balls at each other, because if they miss the ship they hit the water with a big splash. The graphics are just average when you look at another ship while it is being hit with a cannon ball; instead of uneven chunks of wood flying off the boat you get perfect square pieces, which to me was kind of hokey. If you can look past the couple of minor problems that I mentioned, you will really get into the graphics.
All audio in Man of War II seems to be very subtle until you get into an actual battle with another ship, then it grabs you and makes you sweat. When you are moving over the ocean in non-battle situations, you will hear the snap of the sails in the wind and the water bashing against the boat. All commands that are given to your crew are replied to with a quick and professional reply. While in battle it gets a little louder and a little more intense with the thunder of the cannons going off, the sounds of ripping wood from being hit, and the anguished cries from your wounded crewman. All in all, I would have to say that the audio does an above average job of working with the rest of the game.
Win 95/98, Pentium 120, 16 MB RAM, 100 MB hard drive space, DirectX Compatible sound and video card, 4X CD-ROM drive, 28.8 KBPS modem (for multiplayer)
I do have to make a note here. I found the manual to have that very old feel to it because of the texture and color of the pages in the manual. They made the manual seem like it was old enough to be straight out of the Age of Sail.
Man of War II is a real breath of fresh air when it comes to fighting at sea. It was nice not having to worry about radar scopes, thermal layers, towed array, and other such gadgets that come with modern naval fighting, yet at the same time it could still be challenging as heck. I also enjoyed the fact that it was pretty easy to pick up the basics of gameplay without having to study the manual for a couple of hours. I never got around to playing any multiplayer games, but would love to see five of my friends and myself fight it out on the open seas to see who the real Man of War is. This game will be a great addition to any historical naval game player's collection. On that note, gentle reader, I will bestow a 73/100.