QJ.NET beta tour impressions: Pirates of the Burning Sea

Pirates of the Burning Sea - Image 1We’ve heard quite a lot about Pirates of the Burning Sea, but is it just a mere drop in an ocean of MMORPGs, or something that rises out of the water like a voracious sea monster ready to devour a ship or two? We find out ourselves as we review the official beta tour of the game. Check out the entire story in the full article.

Originally posted on January 21, 2008 at 1:45 PM.

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Everyone, at some point of their lives, wishes that they could be a pirate. To leave your worries behind and sail for the high seas, where your only concern is where the next port is and if you’ll catch a very nasty disease related to awful dental hygiene (read: scurvy). You’ll pillage, raid and ransack every civilian ship you come across, and you’ll have wicked accents to boot – as well as some neat limb replacements in case you lose a hand or a leg during your tour of duty.

Bottom line: pirates are awesome, and if it weren’t for the fact that people like matching them up against ninjas (that’s a very lopsided match right there) more people would celebrate Talk Like a Pirate Day and like it.

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Apparently, some people at Flying Lab Software had the same exact idea, and thus Pirates of the Burning Sea, Flying Lab Software’s latest MMORPG, is an MMO that does exactly what I outlined above and more.

Yes, you can leave home and throw caution to the wind and be a cigar-chewing, rum-swilling, swashbuckling pirate and sail for the seven seas – but you can also be one of three other classes that, while historically accurate and have good points in their own right, fall to the wayside when compared to the awesomeness of being a pirate. We appreciate the ability to pick and all, but is it really necessary to choose? Come on, Pirates win every time. Every time.

Ahem. With all this talk about pirates, you can imagine how excited we were to score a beta key – as well as an invite for the guided tour – of the game’s open beta. We installed the program, registered, and logged in on the dot – well, not exactly, as we spent quite a bit of time customizing our very own Pirate avatar.

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Yes, we picked the Pirate class. Yes, we made it to be a female Pirate avatar.
Stop judging us.

Anyway, we ran a little late for the guided tour – and the main reason is that the character creation menu is probably one of the deeper and more in-depth ones we’ve seen in an MMORPG.

There’s a lot of features to play with, and lets you customize pretty much everything there is to tinker with your avatar – right down to what eye she or he gets the eyepatch on. Unfortunately, we couldn’t give Quilyassa Janora a peg leg or a hook hand right off the bat – it appears that we’ll have to finish some high-level mission before we can. Not to nitpick or anything, but why would it have to be part of the long grind for you to have your avatar’s hand or leg cut off?

It’s not a particularly annoying quirk, just one that makes us scratch our heads. Having wooden or hooked prosthetics in place of actual limbs should be something of a given for a pirate class. Then again, it makes sense too – with the oldest and most wizened pirates often sporting the dubious but admittedly-awesome accoutrements.

One thing we saw right off the bat is the attention to detail, in terms of the outfits. While the in-game models certainly do their job, it’s the garments that’ll have you writing home about. Suffice to say, the garments are gorgeously-detailed and have that authentic feel to them. Unfortunately, that’s only for the proper-looking wardrobe choices – if you want your Pirate (or Naval Officer, or Free Trader) to look like a battle-worn old seadog, you’ll have to deal with the odd-looking jaggies here and there. Not that noticeable, however, but if you’re one who can’t tolerate the rare clipping issue here and there, you’re good to go.

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After a moment of contemplating whether or not to simply go crazy with the randomized appearance button, we deemed Quilyassa Janora sea-worthy and logged into to the then-only available server, Blackbeard. We were then promptly dropped into the game’s tutorial, where we learned how to make Quilyassa move, draw her sword, activate combat skills and so on – and so far, things went pretty smoothly.

The camera needed some getting used to, but thanks to the WSAD control setup, it wasn’t long before we were able to move and look with ease. The zoom feature (done by messing with the scroll wheel of your mouse) made for a psuedo-FPS view, and it was entertaining for a bit before we had to go fight some scallywags. As well as fight off the MMORPG camera-sickness.

Combat in Pirates of the Burning Sea is somewhat elegant, somewhat methodical, somewhat exciting and (wait for it) somewhat stilted. Called Swashbuckling, combat in this particular MMORPG revolves around Balance points. The more Balance you have, the more you can dole out heavily-damaging attacks, as well as dodge or parry incoming strikes. The less of it that you have stored, the more you’ll get slit up. It sounds easy, it plays solidly, but we couldn’t shake off the feeling that something was missing. Despite this, however, we were able to easily fight off the enemies that the tutorial threw at us. Hah!

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‘Tis but a flesh wound! But seriously, that hurt! Ow.

After we got our sea-legs and ran a few scurvy scum through with our own shiny cutlass, we were given command of our very own ship – mainly to have us blast the everliving crap out of another ship. Now we’re talking! Cannons! Explosions! Pillaging! EXPLOSIONS! Oh, and some deal about manning a ship. But we were more focused on blowing stuff up with the cannons, yeah.

Ship combat in Pirates of the Burning Sea is pretty much the same thing as close combat, but at the same time a completely different beast altogether. There are more than a couple of things to take note of this time around – namely, where the wind’s going, where your ship’s headed, what sort of ammunition you’re firing – and if the other ship you’re about to try sinking is within range.

It sounds like a lot, but once you get the hang of doing all these things at once, naval battles will feel like second nature – and you’ll be circling around your prey, taking pot shots at their leaky hull with the greatest of ease.

With the ships being one of the main draws in Pirates of the Burning Sea, we can’t help but mention just how awesome they look, in or out of combat. The latter version is definitely more detailed, as you can pretty much zoom in on things to the level where it feels like you’re a part of the crew – and you can see them, literally, scrambling to do the tasks you’ve ordered them to do.

From bracing themselves as you command them to fire the cannons to shimmying up the ship’s masts to unfurl the sails, your ship looks, moves and breathes like a living object – and it also takes realistic damage too. Yay!

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Yes, your ship takes (and shows) damage. In Pirates of the Burning Sea, ship integrity is shown via a large health meter in the shape of a circle, divided into five sections – the bow, the stern, starboard, lardboard, and the sails (that’s the front part, hind part, right side and left side of your ships, for the non-savvy). So you really have to be careful where you place your shots – and what side you expose to enemy fire – or you just might get a premature scuttling, and a premature swim back to the nearest port.

We – or should we say, Quilyassa Janora – should know, as a naval battle encounter with the rest of the tour group almost made her the first casualty. Thankfully, one of the administrators handling the tour took notice, and bailed our leaky bucket out of the sticky situation by taking care of the enemy all by herself. Awesome. (Thanks, TheresaP!)

Ah, yes, the tour. Let’s get to that. We were quite surprised about the tour itself – as not only did we get a first look of the game with other game journalism website correspondents, but we were also given the privilege of talking to the game’s administrators themselves while we playing the game.

No, not chatting in-game, but through a media conference call – and suffice to say, it added quite a lot of insight as to what amount of work was put into the game, as well as some key points about the environments we were all so busy gawking at (and getting lost in). It doesn’t sound like much, but it was definitely a big thing for us. Not a lot of developers are willing to do something like that, and it’s here we give our thanks to the staff of Flying Labs for giving us that opportunity.

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Anyway, the tour started off quite quickly, with Quilyassa being buffed a few levels in order for us to be able to take up a particularly-challenging quest that had us taking on quite a few seadogs with our own cutlasses. As mentioned above, it took us some time to get used to the balance-based combat – a few false starts had us spamming the heavy attack without much success – but we were able to take down a few of the enemies ourselves.

We explored many of the game’s locales, from sprawling port towns to a village that seemed comfortable enough inside a dormant volcano – and it was all just frankly a lot to take in. Not that it wasn’t a good thing, but we found ourselves often getting lost due to the fact that we just HAD to look at this NPC, or that part of the map, or even just stop for a moment to let everything sink in. And yes, we saw monkeys. Awesome monkeys. All in all, it was a great tour of a great game, and by the looks of things, one that barely scratched the surface.

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So, what’s our verdict of Pirates of the Burning Sea? In all honesty, it’s a game that demands your attention, moreso if you’re into the whole pirate thing (and we are). Great visuals, a very solid (and addictive) combat system, great music, a very big sense of scale and historical accuracy – there’s a lot going for Pirates of the Burning Sea, and it shows in spades even in the beta.

The user interface is easy to understand and get around in, the learning curve is pretty low if you want to get into the game right away. There’s just one thing that could have really gotten us hooked to Pirates (if it hadn’t already) – and that’s the part of having sea monsters in the game.

Yes, that’s right. Sea monsters. Pirates of the Burning Sea NEEDS instances where you’re just sailing along a coast when suddenly you get attacked by a huge sea serpent, or a giant squid, or even freaking Moby Dick. While it doesn’t really tie with the whole being-historically-accurate jig, it’ll definitely make traveling by sea a very exciting affair. And think of the battles! Flying Lab, you have the ball on this one. Make it happen!

Originally posted on January 21, 2008 at 1:45 PM.

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