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I think it’s about time to talk about the tactical naval battles. After all, they are a major part of the game and, let’s face it, they are the thing some players are most interested in.
In the campaign play tactical naval battles occur when a fleet engages another on the strategic level. You can also fight quick battles or battle scenarios where you choose ships for each side as well as weather, time of day and duration. Multiplayer has three different game modes and maximum of 12 players are supported.
But let’s tackle the basics first. In single player battles, be it in campaign or stand-alone battle, the maximum number of ships per side is five. This might sound as not that much, but then our approach is for more hands-on experience as opposed to large number of vessels commanded from afar.
There are two distinct modes in the tactical battles. The default mode is Real-Time Strategy i.e. RTS-mode. This mode is instantly familiar to anyone who had played RTS-type of games during the last ten years. You left-click to select and right-click to initiate an action. You can also drag a box to select multiple ships at once or hold CTRL while giving a move order to plot the course you want them to take.
Battle in this mode is easy enough to grasp and execute. How good you are in making most out of the current tactical situation is of course another thing.
What is unique in EIC, is that at any point you can take Direct Command of any of your ships. In this DC-mode you command a single vessel manually: Turn it, change sail modes, select ammunition types, select width for the cannon fire arcs, give orders to fire cannons and hopefully have paid attention that enemy is on your arc of fire. Basic camera angle for DC-mode is outside the ship but you can also jump to a deck view.
Deck view has several preset camera locations: poop deck, sides, fore and aft. You can also turn the camera even while in this view mode. To help you pay attention to your surroundings, you can activate the Battle Cam. It’s picture-in-picture view that can be set to show a view from aft, fore or either side of your ship.
While in DC-mode with your fleet’s flagship, you also have access to any active skills your fleet commander might have. Commanders can also have passive skills that are in effect all the time. In the campaign you choose the skills for your commanders yourself as they level up. Coming up with nasty and powerful combinations and then using them effectively in battle to crush your enemy is great fun.
One of my favorite combos is Far shot + Accuracy + Ride the Wind. Far shot will give increase to cannon range, Accuracy is self explatonary and Ride the Wind gives boost to speed. A frigate or xebec with a commander who has these skills is very good at catching any enemy that is trying to flee the battle.
Another great combination is Feared + Rout. Feared commander will automatically lower enemy morale. Feared is passive skill. Rout, as an active skill, will also lower enemy morale but only for a short duration of time. Enemy ships will try to run away if they morale drops below 25 and they will hoist the white flag as soon as their morale reaches 0. Using this combination wisely can help you win battles even if you are the underdog judging from the number of cannons alone. Or at least you can make the enemy ships to rout for a short time, before they recover and come at you again.
EIC has 11 different ship types. Different combinations facing each other result in diverse naval battles that stay interesting even if you have played hundreds of them.
Each ship is either trade ship or warship. The distinction is sketchy as even trade ships have cannons, but as a rule of thumb trade ships have lighter cannons and less crew. Smaller ships are faster and also more agile, but have lighter cannons and naturally not as many hit points or crew as their larger counterparts.
Still, a group of smaller ships can take on a single large ship. You learn this by experience. As an example, going against a frigate with a xebec is outright suicide, but if you have 2 xebecs you are by no means an underdog if you know what you are doing. And frigate that finds itself alone against 3 xebecs should probably make a run for it.
I actually find it quite entertaining to play the singe scenarios and pitch different combinations against each other. Can I win with one frigate against two galleons? How many east Indiamen do I need to put up a fight against single 46 gun ship-of-the-line? How many flutes I’m able to escape with if attacked by a pact of fast xebecs?
OK, that’s it for now. I’ll continue on tactical battles on my next blog. Have a great summer!