The unending mayhem of MMO battle takes to the high seas in Silverlode Interactive’s upcoming title Captains of DarkTide. With the ability to customize your crew, ordnance, ship type and image, your swashbuckling days will be filled with options.
Your role in Captains of DarkTide is the captain of a mighty warship, which travels around looting from just about any beast or ship that crosses your path. The acquired booty assists you in upgrading members of your crew and weapons from the standard peasant militia and worn cannons to things like Orc Snipers and Hair-Trigger Cannons. Each upgrade increases the deadliness of your vessel, making the next battle easier or allowing you to face opponents who would previously have sent you to the bottom of the drink. New crew members have increased range or even special abilities to assist in the fight. Occasionally, a treasure map appears in the confiscated material from a downed enemy ship, and you change course to find the bubbling red X off the coast of a distant island. Special treasures allow you to purchase special weapons, so be sure to make the trips for these hidden chests.
So far, the beta (which recently changed from closed to open status!) has revealed several populated zones that blend seamlessly as you sail across the vast ocean. Islands are sometimes manned with enemy towers and castles, and you’ll need a ship with plenty of armor to stand up to the brute force of their cannons. Of course, the deadliest places your crew will find are on the open waters. Enemy ships are plentiful and range in levels, but some will peacefully let you pass while others are on the hunt.
Silverlode has done a good job with Nüb Cove, the starting zone, by supplying the player with an easy-to-understand tutorial on game controls and simple quests to acquaint the player with the mechanics. Unfortunately, as of now, once you leave the starting zone, there is nothing to do but grind through levels to acquire bigger and stronger ships, crews and cannons. The developers — who are very active and responsive on the forum — informed me that balancing issues and ease of moving from zone to zone were their current concerns, so quests had been left for a later date. My issue with this is the lack of story or reason for playing the game as a whole. You begin in a ship and are told to kill enemies and upgrade your weapons, but you have no greater context for why you’re doing this. Because it does not appear even in open beta, I am forced to assume Silverlode is going to slap a story and questline on top of the fully designed game in the terrible way that many companies do. This will result in a shallow story arc at best and a highly annoying one at worst. Let’s hope that’s not the case.
Gameplay in Captains of DarkTide to this point includes buying cannon, mercenaries and items, and cruising the sea, clicking on enemy ships your cannons and crew fire upon automatically. You can view your ship and rearrange the placement of your cannons and crew (I played around with having all long-range cannons on starboard and all short/medium range on port). Leveling is a bit slow so far as there are no quests that reward you with a good deal of experience. Each level provides the player with skill points with which they determine special abilities of their captain. Certain branches unlock particularly strong ships for that branch (think meat shield, dps, healer, etc.). The abilities appeared fashionable over functional so far, but there is a great deal of promise in this area of Captains of DarkTide. As I am finishing this preview, I see an update for a PvP (Player vs. Player) area that is now accessible. Unfortunately, my Level 15 character got wiped, and I will be unable to witness the battles against other players in a timely manner.
The music for Captains of DarkTide is unforgettably beautiful. Each zone has its own theme in audio, and I find myself humming the tunes while at work, so be warned. Along with this, the graphics are fairly high-end for a browser-based game. I especially enjoy the look of the water, which is a good thing in a game that takes place in the ocean.
I am interested in seeing how Captains of DarkTide comes together in its final form and would love to know what Silverlode Interactive plans to include in the overall story. Leave yourself a reminder to check back occasionally for a release date on this title as it could be well worth your while.