A Time to Earn Review

Privateer 2 Info


  • N/A


  • 1 - 1


  • Origin Systems


  • N/A

Release Date

  • 12/31/1969
  • Out Now


  • PC


A Time to Earn

Avast pilot! It be time to jump the space lanes again. The name of the game

is money. Well, actually the name of the game is Privateer 2, but

the point is to make lots and lots ‘o money. Once again, you, the young

wary space-warrior, have awakened in a universe of military strife, religious

fanaticism, and criminal rule. A place where political maneuvers are as

deadly as combat maneuvers. On top of all this you have no memory of who

you are. All you have is a name, Ser Lev Arris, 13000 credits to your name

and an implicit knowledge of piloting and space combat. It is up to you to

fill the gaps of your memory using your wits, skills, money and as much

firepower as you can muster.

This tired and overdone

premise is the entrance to a surprisingly interesting and entertaining story.

A story that is advanced through a series of video clips that take Lev Arris

leapfrogging from planet to planet in search of his past, meanwhile gaining

lots of money and progressively cooler-looking ships. True to the fashion of

Origin’s Wing Commander series, the story is rife with melodrama, a host

of overacting, and a few big names including Christopher Walken, Brian Blessed

and lesser-known John Hurt.

A new twist in these videos is the entertaining melange of quirky

English accents. Privateer 2 was made in the Manchester division of

Origin’s offices.

In order to progress his research and improve his existence, Lev Arris must

make money, lots and lots of money. In order to go about this task, one has

the choice of either becoming a commodities trader or a mercenary for hire.

Unlike the previous Privateer, free-range piracy is out of the

question. The ports of call where one can acquire such employment and

anything else of value have had a major overhaul since the original


In Privateer 2, every planet and spaceport is DIFFERENT

(gasp!) to look at. Each planet has it’s own flashy landing sequence,

boasting different and strangely alien, themes. The bars in the game are

all extremely different in their feel, some are your run of the mill

vicious pirate bars, while others are just, well StRaNgE (don’t ask what

the Surgeons Blunder Bar is about). Major planets also have unique

locations beyond the spaceport-bar combo that can be visited as the plot

allows. There are no more space-ship dealers, mission computers, mercenary

or merchants guilds, commodities exchanges or generic news-wise bar

tenders. All of this has been traded in for an integrated, but very

good-looking, “Booth” system. In order to carry on any buying or selling,

the player simply enters a Booth and communicates with the local space

network. From here, the computer can carry out ship sales and repairs and

commodities trading. The player can also view the public records (ships,

people and companies), receive news reports and carry out mission-related

activities. In essence, the repetitive space-port styles of the original

Privateer have been replaced by a repetitive, integrated interface.

While it is a relief to get away from the identical-looking spaceports of

the original Privateer, the new Booth system removes the

feel of actually moving around from one place to another interacting with

people. It’s a trade-off.

A privateer can bring about a profit turn-over in one of two ways. Commodities trading involves not only buying the necessary commodities, but also hiring a cargo ship to haul the stuff from port to port. The player is thus obliged

to become escort to his own cargo as it is transported. The news service is

primarily an aid to such trading as it lets the player know what’s in

demand and what’s not. The other more fun and practical way to make money

is to put oneself on the market. As a hire-fire mercenary, the player will

have the option of selecting from a variety of missions available on the

local bulletin boards. These include escorts missions, assassinations,

defensive missions and attack missions. Each mission has it’s own little

story line in the game’s universe and often deals with unsettled vendettas

or clashes between the two pirate clans that hold rule over the Tri-system

space-lanes. The money value for the missions varies based on the

difficulty or the nature of the mission.

After having accepted a maximum

of three missions, it comes time to enter the void. However, this may not be

as lonely as it used to be, as the player can now hire wingmen. These wingmen

all have their own specific ship types and idiosyncratic methods of flying.

The more successful ones come with higher price-tags, but are still largely

affordable to the up and coming privateer. The wingmen are available to the

player from the time of launch to the first subsequent dock in any spaceport.

So they can be used in as many missions the privateer can carry (i.e. three),

until he is forced to dock again. The wingmen can be directed to any specific

target the player chooses and help draw enemy fire away from the player, making

things a lot easier. Choice of wingmen must be made carefully though, since

the more unstable wingmen have the tendency to leave the player stranded in

the middle of some particularly heated combat.

Also around to aid the player in his quest to make money is a slew of new

ships. Unlike the original Privateer which offered only three ship

designs, the new game boasts an arsenal of approximately nineteen different

kinds of ships for the players use. All ships can also be upgraded in

numerous ways with a variety of ships improvements that can be purchased by

the player including, afterburner enhancers, shield generators, repair

units, energy and particle guns, various guided missiles, etc. Thus, having

selected one’s ships and one’s allies the time for war comes…

The actual space flight engine of Privateer 2 is quite different in

feel to any of the previous Wing Commander series. The keyboard

control scheme is nothing like it used to be in Wing Commander.

Combat in the game is pretty smooth, even in moments of high detail.

Slowdown is handled differently in this game than in most, instead of

skipping frames and becoming choppy, the game goes into slow-motion,

allowing for smoothness at the cost of real time speed. It is an

interesting effect.

The game’s combat engine, while very pretty, is highly unrealistic. There

is no inertial slide in space, allowing the player to stop and turn on a

dime. This makes for extremely unrealistic battles and removes the game

from the category of space-sim to space-action. The collision zones of the

ships in the game extend far beyond the visual boundaries of the ships,

leading the player to collide with small fighters and capital ships that

actually appear to be meters away. The games AI also leaves much to be

desired, enemy ships pull few combat maneuvers, largely relying on a series

of fly-by attacks to get the job done. Although this makes fighting easier

early on in the game, as one progresses in difficulty it becomes merely

repetitive combat. The pace of combat is also a lot slower than in other

games of this series. The unrealistic physics, along with the

weak AI and slow space combat, takes away a lot from the entertainment

value. The game is still a lot of fun to play, however one

must not have any illusions of playing in a space “sim” of any sort.

Yet, after all this, there comes the always necessary bit about the details.

The little bugs and irritations that can make or crash a game. Privateer

is unfortunately rife with these “little” details. At the forefront

is the fact that Privateer 2 is a surprisingly unstable game. The

game’s video is often the cause of a large number of these problems,

crashing the game at inconvenient moments (i.e. while your playing it). The

game’s joystick calibration routines are also highly unreliable. Already

Origin has released a patch in an attempt to fix or at least alleviate

these problems somewhat, however random crashes and video glitches have the

tendency of persisting through out the game.

Thus, Privateer 2 ends up being quite a mixed bag of blessings and

failings. The game’s video and plot are extremely entertaining and highly involving.

The look and feel of the graphics, in space and in space-ports have been updated

and are highly impressive. The new arsenal of weapons, ships, equipment, and

types of missions also help the game along. It is, however, the series of bugs

and bad designs in the game that finally keep it from reaching its true potential,

turning a good-looking sim into a mere arcade-shooter with a affinity to crashes.


Good Graphics.
Intriguing plot.
Slow battles
Crashes a lot