A bit more depth chat about combat as this really is where the game shines.
Firstly there are a host of ships from starting small ships, to trading vessels to 1st rate behemoths that are your ships of the line. A captain can pilot any size ship at any time. However the RPG element of your characters rank will determine how many crew you can have under your command.
Piloting a ship above your crewing level will obviously mean your ship will be under-crewed, thus reducing its effectiveness. I.e. slower to raise lower sails, trim sails, reload guns, repair, damage control etc… You can micro manage your crew and shove more men into a certain area like sailing, but these extra men will be at a cost of taking them from somewhere else, but you can reorganise on the fly whenever you need it.
You can craft ships yourself (once you have materials and blueprints plus skill level for making it) or purchase them from others selling them. Ships can be made in various attributes and finesse of crafting. You can tailor a ship for speed and agility for example.
Guns play an important part and there are a few to choose from. Guns can also fire different ammo. Eg. Grape shot for taking out crew leaving no damage to ship hull, but can also wreck sails.
Onto battle choose wisely,
Your initial jostle in open world is important for placing your ship in the best possible position for attack or escape when dragged into a battle instance. Try to get the wind advantage, or position yourself in the most likely place to stop your enemy’s escape. The initial jostle can be a game of cat and mouse especially against pvp enemy who have a “net” of enemy ships around you
But be careful. Once a battle instance has started, there is a limited time for anyone to jump into battle. E.g.I have been in a fleet attacking an inferior pvp fleet, but they were the trap. Once in battle the enemy had a superior force drop in which made it very hard for us to turn tail and run. If you do run and manage to get back to open world, its not over. You do get a breif period on invisibilty when you get back to open world, but open world is a single world and the enemy will be back on your heals. Good pvp’ers will cast a net of ships around the instance waiting to catch you again when you pop out.
Real world tactics of the era actually work here and battle lines and formations offer advantages, though the key always will be wind and you position to it in relation to the enemy.
So the fighting has started and there are a few things you can do. Penetration and deflection is modelled. Shots can bounce off of armour so hitting a target area square on will offer best results. Do you go for the sails to slow them down, maybe even demasting them? or straight for the hull to rip off their armour?
Armour is modelled on front back left right, plus integrity of sails plus amount of crew lives. Stripping the armour on one side will leave the hull open to damage and leaks. Penetration of shots will cause holes in the hull and can cause flooding. Shots can hit above or below the waterline causing more or less flooding. However holes above the waterline can be submerged under the water (flooding) if your ship is listing enough.
Listing also can be a help/hinder when firing. Depending on your ship and how much sail you are running, you can get quite a large list or angle of bank. Cannons can only elevate a certain extent, so you may have to adjust course or sails to get a shot off.
Not only can you sink ship but you can capture them too. Obviously you wouldn’t take on a ship with 500 crew with you little boat with 20 crew. But if you have inferior crew numbers, you can attack the enemy depleting their crew to give your self the upper hand in a boarding action.
Boarding is achieved when two ships are in close proximity and both ships speed is low. You can then grapple the ship and that commences the boarding action. Boarding is a basic tool run in rounds. You have a set of actions to choose from, the other guy chooses an action and then its rock paper scissors. However the loss of crew will be affected by things such as difference in crew numbers, if there are marines n board, and any upgrades to the ship or crew that assist in boarding. Be warned though, whilst boarding is a great way to get a new ship to keep or sell, do it at the right time. The war is still raging on whilst boarding and there is nothing stopping other enemy sliding up to you and blasting you broadside whilst you are effectively a sitting duck.
So, my ship is smaller than theirs, this game sux…OR DOES IT.
Size and type of a ship all have strengths and weaknesses. A first rate ship with a squizillion guns will mutilate a small ship broadside to broadside (but lets be honest, you let a hulking oaf of a ship broadside you, then you deserve it). But its horribly slow in speed and in turn. Get them into wind and they are terrible.
Smaller quicker ships can easily sit on the stern of a large ship that is either poorly or non defended. You just plink down their rear armour, maybe taking out the rudder and then deplete the crew with grape shot. But its not easy and takes time, one missed opportunity or bad sailing though and you could end up facing those big guns.
So what am i saying. There is a place for small ships and big ships and ones in between. And its good to field them all in a battle.
Loosing a ship. Depending on the ship (it might have changed) but ships had up to 5 durabilities. Which meant that if it was sunk 5 times, the ship is gone forever. Durabilities cannot be replaced.
So if you buy your dream upgrade ship in the configuration you wanted at a pretty penny and get ganked upon leaving port, whilst you will be peeved, you got 4 more lives on it.
Advancing your character in the world. Your fleet and you.
It did when i played, take some time to rank up, which is not a bad thing. Things were expensive too so money is always an issue. So expect time between rankings, especially in the latter tiers. There are other ways to make money. by looting shops you have killed, or selling ships you have captured. Trading commodities, even setting up factories or mines. You can even be a crafter making and selling items
These extra activities mean that high level players won’t always be in uber ships. Quite often they will be in trading vessels which have poor or no armourment moving their goods about for sale or craft.
Also scouting plays an important part and small starter ships are ideal. Cost nothing to replace, are fast, nimble good harassers.
So you have open world conflicts, or you can choose to warp into a small or large scale pvp event.
Onto the real battle, taking over the world. All ports aside from neutral can be captured. Capturing a port will usually see humongous battles and gigantic fleets crossing large distances to wage war. Taking a port is a very strategic affair and hard to do and will utilise a scout force, blocker force, main attack force. It start with money raised to purchase a flag (used for capturing a port and not cheap) then the organised attacking force needs to get their main attack force with the flag to the enemy port. There may be a few battles to get to the port if the enemy are organised. Once the flag is planted, then the actual port battle will begin.
Its a fun game, a little hard to initially pick up but very very tactical and enjoyable when you get into it. There are a host of manual sailing techniques in the interwebz which i recommend you pick up and look at before you dive into it.
I have not played for a while, but i will download into the brittish royal navy once more and see how it is.
Do they have f111’s in the square sail days?