Man O' War: Corsair keeps spitting out trailers featuring great big fish and the various angry races of the Warhammer universe, but I recall the short-lived tabletop Man O' War only through the sea-fog of distant memory. What the seafaring denizen of the Old World does with its free time I couldn't have told you, but luckily Evil Twin Artworks' studio head James Carroll was on hand to talk me through Corsair and how it's distinguishing itself amid the rising tide of Warhammer PC games.
PC Gamer: Firstly, and most importantly, what is Man O’ War: Corsair?
James Carroll, studio head: Man O’ War: Corsair is a naval action adventure game set in the world of Warhammer. You can fight, trade, sail and get eaten by giant sea monsters!
PCG: Hurrah! How faithfully will Corsair adhere to the rules of the tabletop game? Is it a digital recreation of the original or something more abstract?
Carroll: This isn’t a straight turn-based version of the game. For us the original tabletop game is great. It made sense to take advantage of what we could do with a PC by recreating the coastline of the Old World and allowing you to sail it. Under the hood are the rules from the original game and its other expansions—Plague Fleet and Sea of Blood. We like organic games that start to live and breathe so we set it up to play in real time with a changing world to explore. We knew we were onto something once playtesters started looking through their spyglasses and spotted giant Megalodon sharks surfacing in the distance, consuming trading ships whole.
PCG: So what are the player’s objectives when they're not being eaten? Are they led by narrative or something else?
Carroll: The main goal of the player is to become rich and famous—or infamous. Sailing the coast they will be able to upgrade ships, hire allies and specialist crew such as wizards to help them. We are also introducing flyers, which include Griffons that can be used as “aircraft” or as scouts, and as the enemy will also have flyers we have different anti-air mechanics available.
There are overarching themes that are being introduced that will affect the player’s progress and choices, such as war between different nations and the eventual incursion of Chaos. They'll also be able to take on Quests as they sail the coastline, some at sea and some as they visit the different ports. Then as well as the campaign game there will be a Skirmish mode where you can fight it out using the various ships of the different Warhammer races included in the game.
PCG: Go on, tell us about the shark.
Carroll: The Megalodon shark is the first of the Sea Monsters we will be introducing through Early Access. These creatures will have territories they will hunt in, it’s up to you whether you’re brave enough to take them on. We are obviously playing this on a regular basis and the Megalodon still manages to take us unaware and make us jump!
PCG: How is the player viewing all this, and how will combat work?
Carroll: While sailing around, the player’s view of the world is from just behind the currently selected ship, this switches to a third person view while controlling the Captain or Sharpshooter. They can use the map of the Old World to look at the various ports and get a more tactical view of the current campaign (such as nearby enemy factions and approximate sea monster territories).
The battles are played out in real time. In the single player campaign, you could end up fighting on your own or with allies you’ve gathered along the way. You can order the allies, but you don’t directly control their ships, so you need to pick your friends carefully (you get what you pay for!). A Dwarf Captain might be more inclined to attack the ship full of gold than the ship you asked him to.
You also need to think about your heading and the wind when fighting to get the best angle to attack the enemy. This depends on the type of ship you have and what weapons you have. Some ships bristle with weapons capable of firing from all angles. It’s a case then of thinking about what your ship can do. It might be easier to stay at a distance and fire volley after volley of cannon fire, or you may want to board the ship. Boarding sees you switching to your captain’s perspective allowing you to help your crew shoot enemies who have jumped on your deck.