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Thrilling maritime combat
If you've ever fancied taking to the high seas and experiencing ship-to-ship combat the old-fashioned way, the Age of Sail and its sequel, Age of Sail II, do a pretty job of recreating historical maritime warfare. The game is a real-time combat sim where players control a powerful sailing ship and engage in cannon-based battles with other rival captains. The campaign mode gives you the choice of one of four countries, France, Britain, the US and Spain, and then puts you in the shoes of a low ranking officer, before sending you off on an extensive series of missions where you get the chance to prove your worth and climb up the ranks to command your own vessel. The gameplay is fairly complex and relies on making some quite serious tactical decisions based around wind speed and direction, with positioning, manoeuvring and timing more important than merely a fast trigger finger. To add to the challenge, you're not just in control of one ship during a battle but several and keeping them all under your control is satisfyingly complex and rewarding. While it is far from perfect, Age of Sail is certainly unusual enough to warrant investigation, particularly if you are tired of the usual historical games. It suffers from some distinctly sub-par graphics and dodgy AI, but if you can get past this, there is a lot of enjoyment to be had. The missions are highly varied and thanks to a good control system, the game is highly accessible, making controlling even several ships a relative breeze. The combat is suitably thrilling, in a romantic sort of way, while the period is recreated well, so for armchair historians looking for thrills of a different shade, this is inspiring stuff.