Unearned Bounty – Preview (Feb 2017)

Introduction


I recently had the pleasure of having a long time friend stay over for a weekend both of us gaming enthusiasts and lovers of tin hat theories. We had not seen each other in years and as such I got to hear of his continuing work with his YouTube channel, through which he asked me to take a look at Unearned Bounty.
 

Concept

Unearned Bounty (Unearned) is a pre-alpha F2P “stylised pirate FFA multiplayer battle arena” where you face other players and NPC ships in a brawl for the most gold and infamy. Whoever becomes the most feared pirate on the seven seas after the 15 minute timer runs out is the champion.
 

Gameplay & UI

When you start Unearned you are greeted with the bright and cheerfully cartoon model of your selected ship and some options. The options menu gives a breakdown of the key bindings and some basic graphics and sound options. The customisation page brings up choices for the currently available 4 ships and flags to fly. Each flag changes the appearance of your ship which is seen by enemy players in matches. Finally there is the option to play where you are then given the choices to either host a match or join one.
 
Once you join a match you are put into a lobby where you select your ship from the menu on the left. Afterward when everyone has selected their ship and made ready you are then thrust into the match at a random spawn point away from opposition. You then scramble to try and gain as much gold to upgrade your ship and dominate the high seas. To gain the much needed gold you can either throw yourself against opposition players and gain a portion of their saved gold on their possible water death or farm the many NPC trade ships that meander across the map in a handy conga line.
 
You continue the cycle of killing or death until time ends for the match and a pirate King is crowned.
 
The UI is easy on the eyes and simple to navigate which is always a great start, any game that makes it hard for you to even get into a game is set to see players leave before sampling the devs’ hard work.
 
The choice of 4 ships are thought out and currently relatively balanced for a pre-alpha, the choices are not just visually different but the 4th upgrade slot (special ability) is different for each hull. Once I found out I even had a special ability it was on like donkey kong! Pwning devs and fellow YouTube creators alike with fiery death from my Chinese Junk. Soooooo much fire …… Pretty fire…….. Ahem!
Back to the ships, the buccaneer can lob an explosive barrel a short distance to do splash damage to a small area this requires gold and has a medium cool down but can do large burst damage. It also has the added advantage of being able to earn gold for every landed cannon shot not just on a kill meaning that possible hit and run tactics could become profitable but currently not viable as every shot landed only nets 5gold.
The Junk is a damage over time specialist with its flamethrower ability and DOT applied to cannon shot. The flamethrowers work in a v pattern in front of the ship depending which side you are facing, the ability is short ranged only so getting in close and burning the enemy to a crisp is ideal here.
Next is the Viking longboat, I personally did not play the Viking ship however i did fall victim to its powerful ram ability where the ship charges you and kamehameha’s you in the face from point blank range. The last ship is an interesting one where it’s special ability allows you to explode on death in a cloud of gas doing damage to close players and also leave a trail of gas when sailing to damage over time whilst in the cloud. A good way to get a kill if the enemy player gets finished off allowing you to pick up your lost gold and collect theirs as you would have respawned immediately. The current choices of ships are set to be expanded on in the future but I fully expect the junk to be nerfed hard after singeing a few of the devs’ eyebrows.
 
The idea of using players as servers and not a dedicated server at Extrokold HQ is brilliant for making this game accessible to as many people as possible. It allows people who would normally have serious issues connecting to a US based server to host their own games and enjoy playing this game with friends.
 
I do have a concern with the F2P model in that I hope the paid content is cosmetic only and not a P2W that some games fell foul of. Although a change I think would be good to make would be a ship painter where if you don’t like bright colours or having your ship look like a float for a 4th July parade when you select the Union Jack then you can.
 

Conclusion

 
Design 7
The game is already set up for a good footing and even in pre-alpha is easily accessible to anyone with a steam account, although I think maybe even a mobile device or console port might do well.
Apart from minor graphical glitches the game looks bright and only needing a little spit polish of the guns prior to final release.
The UI is very intuitive and sets the game in good stead with the player before embarking on virtual buccaneering on the high seas.
The free to play model is a good choice to maintain accessibility as long as no uber deathstar ships are introduced under the paid options.

Design-wise a very stable foundation
 
Challenge 7
With the NPC AI in a match in addition to other players the game is challenging enough to be fun but not so much as to be annoying. With each match only lasting 15 minutes, you can usually max out your ship (even though you’ll die several times each map), which allows you to survive a little longer and hit a little harder. Though that doesn’t always provide much help if you’re being triple or quadruple teamed and at times you will be fighting off multiple AI and other players.

Concept Art


 
Fun 7
Again the fact it is easy to jump into the matches thanks to a simple UI is always key to having fun. The colourful setting and cartoony models sets the tone for some wholesome high seas mayhem.
 
Replay 8
Even at pre-alpha there is choice and variety enough to make each match fresh as different tactics are required to tackle the different ships 1on1
 
Price 10
It’s free so yeah 10/10 duh!
 
Final verdict 7.6/10
A great looking fun and quirky multiplayer focused 2nd title from Extrokold I look forward to seeing where this is in a few more months of development and wish the developers all the best. An arrrr-some job!