Windward: Run your own high seas adventure (into a reef)
IF you remember Sid Meier's Pirates! you'll recognise Windward.
Set in a fictional time period much like Pirates of the Carribean, you play as the owner of a sailing ship tasked with expanding both your own wealth and your faction's influence.
Take quests, battle pirates, hire captains and crew, and earn gold. You spend your time with a top-down view of your ship with controls basic enough to be grasped in a minute or so.
It's simple and after a couple of hours it can feel monotonous without the mini-games which gave Pirates! some much-needed variety. Fortunately, there's a strong online component that allows players to compete in PVP and co-operatively complete 'instances' for a solid challenge and the best rewards.
Despite the grind, Windward is visually impressive and simple enough for someone in the mood to relax at the end of the day. The water alone is stunning.
Upgrading your ship and progressing through maps while chatting to other players online can turn a ten-minute play session into one lasting several hours, similar to Sid's "just one more turn" effect.
Windward is well worth having in your Steam library for a quick blast by yourself or with friends.
During testing, I found I wasn't quite the Captain Jack Sparrow or Hornblower I thought I was.
The adventures of Admiral Bicheno on the high seas
By First Mate Phlebas
Day 3: Captain Masaq and I have discussed Admiral Bicheno's latest orders to hunt down a pirate known only as Captain Damyata. Had we opened these orders before leaving the port we may not have so readily agreed to take on passengers for a sight-seeing tour.
Day 4: We have chased Damyata around this island for the better part of today. The passengers are ill and yet still call for more rum. Our consignment of sewing goods has mysteriously disappeared.
Day 5: Damyata was sitting dead in the water when we found him. After volleys were exchanged at long range his ship began to move at great speed before running headlong into a beach. The pirate fired uselessly into a nearby lighthouse until we'd obliterated his hull with impunity. From the screams of his crew, we can tell they were insured though we are unsure what this means.
Day 7: We have returned to port to be paid. Admiral Bicheno greeted us on the pier with fifty surly looking men. When we returned after some time in the pub, the crew had been replaced, the hull painted purple and the sails embroidered with a giant skull.
Day 12: Admiral Bicheno has taken contracts for us to defend the port against three ships! Three! How he expects us to survive this attack I do not know.
Day 13: I don't remember how we got here, but one moment Captain Masaq and I were floating in the waters outside of the port and the next moment we were back at the pier with a certainly-less-destroyed-than-it-had-been-five-minutes-ago ship. We will sail out again to meet the pirates as if nothing had happened.
Day 14: It has happened again! I almost certainly remember dying under the withering volleys of grapeshot from the pirates, but it was a dream. It must have been a dream as I am now back on the pier with the ship, again unscratched. Captain Masaq informs me we are to set out for battle within the hour.
Day 16: Some foul curse defiles us. For days, we have battled the pirates only to die outgunned and outnumbered. Each time we are prevented from peace in death. We return to our pier, our ship intact, our orders still standing. We must go on to fight the pirates as spectres if Admiral Bicheno wills it.
Day 43: We are the damned. This much is certain. We are caught by pirates more often than the rising and setting of the sun. Each time we are sent to the seafloor but are denied our solace in death. We are resurrected at the nearest port with fresh orders from Admiral Bicheno.
Day 67: Admiral Bicheno has been condemned. The townsfolk have heard our rasping pleas for succour. Captain Masaq led the mob himself.
Day 68: Admiral Bicheno has been arrested and shot.