Review: Atari board meeting: A Russian game developer making a video game about the American Civil War. How could this go wrong? Let's publish it! *Stock plummets.
Creating a video game that revolves around history instead of another gun and gore-focused first-person shooter is a very noble effort. However, when the technology and development involved seems more dated than the Civil War subject you're trying to portray, your game is as good as history. That's the case with Atari and 1C Company's Swashbucklers: Blue vs. Grey, as their PS2 game plays more like a free web-based adventure simulator. Only, this time traveling travesty will actually cost you money.
It's pretty obvious that the gene pool was very low throughout the 17th century, according to Swashbucklers. As you sail the high seas as Abraham Gray, the game's Civil War-era captain and star, you'll notice that every port contains the same exact characters. The bartender, the auctioneer, the governor and the sheriff in Havana look the spitting image of the bartender, the auctioneer, the governor and the sheriff in New Orleans. You can call it a coincidence, but I call it the first sign of a bad bargain bin game.
Want another sign of a shallow gene pool and the fact that this is a bad bargain bin game? Just listen to the voices of the townspeople. Instead of using voice actors to deliver any real dialogue, all of the characters make what I'd call painful sounding garbling noises that accompany quickly moving text. Either this was a cost-cutting move (that cuts down on my interest in the half-decent story) or this is how the Russian developer views Americans because of all the lame television reruns we untimely export. Come to think of it, all of the townspeople sound like Peter from that Brady Bunch episode in which his voice changes and sounds like a frog and they're probably getting 70s TV right about now. Image having to sail up and down the coast only to hear that at each and every port? you'd sink your own ship.
To its credit, Swashbucklers does contain a variety of gameplay. There's exploration of port cities where you'll find jobs to do or items to barter, action segments where you can shoot and slice enemies, and ship-to-ship combat that starts with cannons firing and ends with a sword duel with the rival captain. Although it can be fun the first time you capture a ship or sink it to the ocean's vast depths, there's nothing vastly deep about any of this gameplay and it repeats and repeats and repeats. It's just as shallow as the gene pool and just as painful to bear after a little while just like the garbled voices.