AirBuccaneers by LudoCraft Ltd is one of the early games to make it through Steams Greenlight system for Indy developers and is another installation to the Air (pirate) ship battle genre (see Guns of Icarus review).
“Choose to be a vicious Buccaneer or an infamous Viking and take a glider to the skies. Your goal is to drop enemy vessels and secure dominance of the ancient North. Fire cannons, help others, board enemy ships or be the captain – whatever it takes to get your enemies out of the way. The success, as well as the bitter defeat, is solely dependent on how well you co-operate with your crew mates.”
While Guns of Icarus and AirBuccaneers are both games about teams battling in Airships, that is where the similarities end (other than being developed with the same engine). AirBuccaneers is primarily an FPS, though there is the option for a 3rd person camera, and the gameplay is in general a lot slower and therefore a bit more realistic. The Airships are slow to manoeuvre, the cannons are slow to reload, and it takes a good deal of effort and accuracy to bring down an opponents ship. There is a much lighter choice of weapon too, as you only have three choices of ammo that can be fired from the cannons; standard cannonball, air rockets and flamethrower. Each ship type has between one and four cannons other than the Kamikaze model which has none, as its sole purpose is to be driven into the enemy for an explosive finale.
The only form of customisation in AirBuccaneers is in your character. Gaining XP unlocks various accessories for your characters, either Buccaneer or Viking, to wear. These are purely aesthetic. The real character customisation comes from the Perks and Flaws system. There are 4 classes in the game, Captain, Cannoneer, Defender and Guerrilla, and earning XP in each class unlocks these Perks and Flaws for you to chose from. The clever thing about this system is that you must balance each Perk you select with a Flaw.
During a match you are not restricted to any one class or ship. You spawn in your base, and using a glider can float to whichever vessel you chose from a list at the side. You will quickly learn that it’s not the ship that matters, but the crew that’s on it. The user base is still quite small, and as such you are likely to find yourself in a match with a wide range of player levels. Find a decent pilot, or become one yourself, and your battles will be more favourable. With the cannon fuses meaning they take some time to fire, it is quite common to have your ship move while you are waiting for the cannon to fire. But it equally gives you time to adjust your aim while you wait.
The trade-off in all this though is that when you do land a cannonball on your opponents ship, it is very satisfying, and dropping an opponent is generally followed by your entire crew jumping around celebrating (as long as there are no other enemies nearby). Awards are handed out at the end of each battle for further gratification, as the winning team get to dance around outside a cage containing the losers.
Shooting your opponents ship is not the only way to victory either. You can board ships if your Captain gets you close enough to jump. Once onboard your can use grenades and a sword to swashbuckle with enemies and either destroy the ship or kill all those on board and claim the ship for your own. Doing so places a sign above the ship however, which makes you a big target for the enemy.
As an Indy game it is not without it’s flaws. The user-base, as mentioned above, is still quite light so there is generally only one or two servers with players in at a time. Users seem to complain about lag, but I haven’t noticed any serious amounts, even with 32 players in a match. There are a few glitches and loopholes in the system (such as the “Eyepatch” flaw which covers 25% of the screen not being applied in 3rd person camera mode), but you would expect these to get ironed out in the next few months. For a colour blind person, as often, it is difficult to differentiate between the team colours of the ships. The more people who start playing this game the better it will become, and if you are still not sure about it, you can pick up a 5 day trial version from the games website, which can then be converted into a full version by activating a Steam key.
7 cannonballs fired out of 10