Developed by Certain Affinity, known for their previous work on the Halo series, Plunder is a real-time multiplayer strategy game that puts players in command of a pirate ship with the goal of destroying your enemies and capturing towns for your pirate faction. Plunder is currently scheduled for release this summer.Capcom has a solid strategy for building its Xbox Live Arcade catalog, most of which consists of remakes derived from its massive slate of in-house intellectual property brands: Super Puzzle Fighter and Street Fighter, among them, with the notable entries that have been in the works, such as Bionic Commando and 1942. These name-brand renditions aren’t just rubberstamped repurposing of the original games, though. When you look at the Bionic Commando we’ll be seeing on XBLA this year, you have to appreciate the strategy that Capcom is using in reviving some of its older games with a modern spin.
Despite tapping its many popular game franchises for XBLA, Capcom also has a plan for new brands, such as its recent release of Rocketmen: Axis of Evil. And the company just introduced us to an upcoming XBLA title that looks extremely promising, a pirate-ship strategy game called Plunder, which is being developed by a fledgling studio called Certain Affinity—a rookie gamemaker that was founded by some experienced development talent. And we’ll be offering you some of our interesting conversation with Max Hoberman, Certain Affinity’s founder/president, starting on the next page, but first we wanted to give you some insight into what Plunder is about.
Though it may sound cliché, Plunder is one of those games that’s easy to play, but hard to master. I can’t be 100% sure of the latter, but the former is certainly true. We were at a Capcom press event earlier this week, where we sat down in front of the game and had the basics down solid within in a few minutes with only a few prompts from the more experienced developer representative.
The premise is, you (or your team) control a series of pirate ships and your objective is to try to capture more towns than your opponent. Capturing is simply a matter of planting a boat adjacent to the city, which starts a massive cannonball volley between the boat and town—the firing by all parties is automatic, so you don’t have to micromanage it. You only have to get right next to what you want to shoot (which includes not only towns, but also enemy boats), and the booming of gun powder begins.
In a town-vs.-boat match, if your boat is able to drop the town’s health bar to zero, your pirate flag goes up over the spot to mark your territory. If the town’s defenses can take your ship out, however, you’ll sink in your spot, leaving just a crate behind floating in the water.
The controller simplicity extends beyond the combat, though, with the whole game being designed for let you play rather than struggle with navigation. You only have to click on one of the hex spots that make up the playing field for your boat to start moving toward that location. If you decide that you want to sail to a different spot, it’s just a matter of clicking and watching your invisible captain do your bidding.
So, you only have to claim more territory than the other combatants, and while it seems to be game of brute force, the strategy comes from determining when to go out on a pillaging offensive and when it’s best to hang back and protect your holdings. And even that somewhat simple concept doesn’t speak well enough about how you come to those strategic decisions. If you stick by your home port, perhaps your opposition will head to an currently undefended city to grab that up. Or maybe he revels in wanton destruction—in this case, with the fried wanton being you and your fleet, leaving him less opposed in his approach to your mini metropolis.
The game also contains occasional power-ups that you can use to tilt the field in your direction. One such power-up I received in my test game was for bombing a specific location on the map. I chose to use it, instead of challenging a town, but rather to slow down an opposing ship headed for a property grab of my home ports.