Original Review is available in discussions page at our group.
The game has come a long way from the meager offerings presented when it entered early access. Numerous factions managed to get added with their own ships types, melee combat was introduced to make boarding attempts easier and Khorne was represented with its' own playable "campaign." It has brought an interesting spin to the original 1993 board game and offered a look into the rarely visited naval skirmishes of the Warhammer universe. Unfortunately, there are still several technical issues and plenty of gameplay features in need of work before this sailing simulation can break away from the label of mediocre.
Currently the game features two game modes: a sandbox (campaign) and the custom battle that allows players to set at most four factions against each other. This custom battle mode is the only means to play any of the factions outside of the humans. Back to the sandbox mode, the player is dropped into the overworld as either a Khorne follower (kill everything that breaths to gain favor for the Chaos god) or the Independent captain. As the Independent, you can maneuver from port to port accepting quests (in turn building reputation points for shop discounts) and participating in trade or pillage cities/ships as a pirate. Both options are entirely player decided as the game lacks any real established campaign and relies more on the motivation of the player similar to something like Mount and Blade. There are some quests (usually one per port) that include a solo story, but this is about as far as the plot of the game goes outside of the game's factions battling each other for hopes of conquest.
As the Independent, it is possible to stay completely neutral with most of the factions, but there are a couple that will always want your skull mounted on their broadside (Skaven, Chaos, Dark Elves). This is where the naval and melee combat come into play. Naval combat functions similarly to the Assassin's Creed 4 system of aiming and firing a barrage of cannonballs until a ship either boards or sinks. If a ship decides to board or the player engages in pillaging towns, the melee combat is activated. The melee system is by far the game's weakest property due to floaty attack animations that boil down to hammering the left mouse button and hoping that moving your character to the left won't make them spin 180 degrees. The use of firearms are permitted during these fights and provide a more accurate method of dealing with enemies. There use to be a lock on function that made it easier to focus on individual units, but it was scrapped along with friendly fire. The naval combat is bland at best, but it is certainly the prefered method over the frustrating melee combat that can be avoided most of the time unless you play Khorne, which requires a lot of it due to the razing function for favor.
Along with giving captains a leveling system, the ship management system saw the addition of crew member positions on the ship, individual leveling, recruitment of mages for additional firepower and ship upgrades. Crew positions grant bonuses to the speed of repairs, reducing provision usage, fighting proficiency during boarding and providing a small chance for crew members to just become injured instead of dying. Most of these bonuses are tied to the type of traits crew members have and can either be unique (identifying treasure in lookout) or learned from leveling (rigging proficiency, cannon proficiency). Allied ships can also be hired to tag along, making it possible to create a fleet to act as your backup in times of heightened tension. It is one of Man O' War: Corsair's better additions and makes combat easier to overcome, especially when fighting against a Skaven Doombringer or the infuriating Tzeentch Great Winged Terrors.
The open seas are met with plenty of factions vying for control, but not every captain seems to have their AI in check. It is common to see certain ships running around in circles, ramming into a surface or just acting unresponsive even when you decide to pump their hull full of cannonballs. Allies and enemies also have a fixation with the water, falling into the ocean during boarding attacks for random reasons. Some also decide to sit fights out by standing in corners or jumping into walls. Most of these issues are beneficial for the player by reducing difficulty, but what is the fun of shooting fish in a barrel?
On the technical front, the major issue continues to be the frame rate inconsistency. I can understand the fluctuation when the game speed is set to x8 or even x4, but when sailing from one port to another on x1, the rates can plummet from 45 to 10 without warning. Stuttering is also common place when peering out of the spyglass and just looking around in general. The worst offending issue, however, comes with an annoying mouse hitch that causes the camera to get stuck for a couple of seconds before it can be un-jammed with furious mouse wiggling. One final warning comes with the loading screen deciding to quit and forcing a restart of the application. None of these issues are game breaking, but they do make for a frustrating time during confrontations.
I have played Man O' War: Corsair off and on during the development and despite all of my issues I respect the developer for making the most out of their time in early access. The game has come a long way and the added features (whether they work or not) were implemented in a timely fashions. Unfortunately, I think they would have benefited from another year in the program to construct their planned campaigns, fix the continued optimization problems and add rework textures. They could really use more music as well, which only seems to start playing when the player engages an enemy. Regardless, this final look did not turn out as well as I hoped and I have to issue a warning to anyone interested in purchasing: prepare for issues and don't go in expecting a full campaign. I wish the developers great fortune in their future endeavors and hope one day I might come back to a more complete game.
Pros - Many factions to fight with their own unique ships - Naval combat can be enjoyable, if ultimately shallow - Out of combat time increase up to x8 for quicker sailing
Neutral - Plot is very thin, relying on motivation of player to carve own story - Music mainly missing outside of combat - Difficulty is hit or miss due to AI