Pirate Hunter Review (PC)
Pirate Hunter is built around missions that increase your wealth, glory, and fame in the world. The path to completion of your mission will vary depending on your game playing style, and the choices you make regarding relations with other nations. Each of the five scenarios opens with an overall objective for you to accomplish, this being the taking of a certain number of ports by a specified time. But you can't just sail to these ports and take them, you must first build your reputation, and only when a Governor of your nation asks you, can you take a port, and it must be the port he so orders.
Sea combat in Pirate Hunter is easy to learn and difficult to master. Like the sailors of the period, you have a huge advantage with the weather gage, that is, sailing with the wind. You will encounter fleets of ships of between one and four ships in each battle encounter. You, however, can only use one ship in battle, so you will almost always be fighting two or more ships, and usually they are larger than you. You have a choice of three types of ammunition, which is depleted with usage and can be purchased in ports, these being standard round shot, which your guns are always loaded with, Chain shot and Grape shot. Round shot reduces your enemy's hull, and kills his crew members. Chain knocks down his rigging and kills fewer crew, but ships without rigging are helpless, since your ship's guns can only fire broadsides, if you can't turn, your dead. The third type, Grape shot, reduces the number of enemy crew units, which make boarding more successful. You can only capture a ship by boarding, and to do this, you must sail next to the target, grapple it, and then your crew and it's crew will have a melee, and the larger crew will always win, so make sure you have more men then the target. While locked in melee however, other enemy ships can still fire on you, and you might find your ship wrecked or unable to defeat the remaining ships even after a successful melee. You can flee from any sea battle by sailing for the fixed boarder of the battle area, and then you will return to the strategic map, and you can intercept the same convoy over and over, reducing them so that your ship can overwhelm them. If you have several ships, you can use a fresh ship in each engagement, wear as your target will be unable to repair the damage and replace his losses, so it is possible to defeat larger fleets. After you capture an enemy ship by boarding, you have the option of sinking the ship, capturing it, or simply looting it and sending it on it's way. Captured ships can be sold as prizes at any port, or repaired can be added to your battle fleet. This is the only way to increase the number of ships you control.
Besides port capture and pirate hunting, you may receive other missions from the governor, or people may ask you to perform tasks for them. Such tasks include taking medicine to a distant port in a specified time, transporting a person in a given time period, and so forth. The Governor may ask you to take supplies of rum to a friendly port, and you will have to find a port to buy the rum, and then take it to the selected port in within the time limit. Different ports have different things for sale, and some ports are struggling and have few goods for sale, while others have many items to sell. You can make money trading goods this way, but watch out, you have a crew moral scale, and the more you sail about the seas, the more unhappy the lot becomes, to the point they may rebel and steal gold, ships, and they may even set you adrift! Other in game things to do include finding treasure, shipwrecked sailors, and the governor may ask you to find items he lost, and defeat his personal enemies. Another kind of mission is recon, the governor may ask you to sail to a list of enemy ports, where you must make landfall, and then sail back and report your findings to a friendly governor.
The ultimate goal is to seize enemy ports. To accomplish this, when your ordered, you sail to the port, and you must engage it's cannons and destroy all gun positions without getting sunk. This isn't to difficult if you have a large fleet, as you can sail off the map and get a fresh ship if your current one is heavily damaged, and continue the fight until you win. All damaged ships can be repaired in any port if you have the funds, but you can't repair ships in ports when your a hunted man, as the enemy is looking for your blood.
Overall, this is an outstanding effort from Ascaron/Encore, and if you love a good little game that plays well and is fun, get Pirate Hunter as soon as you can. Older game players may recognize parts of the classic Sid Meier's "Pirates" of some 15 years ago, but updated and refined using state of the art visuals and smooth game play. I highly recommend this game.