Last month we saw QJ.NET’s Beta tour impressions for Flying Lab Software‘s Pirates of the Burning Sea. This time around, however, we finally get to review the full version of the game after its magnanimous launch last January. You can check out this blogger’s verdict of the game in the full article.
There’s always been this unspoken and unexplainable charm about playing a pirate. This is obviously what the developers from Flying Lab Software were banking on when they decided to field Pirates of the Burning Sea as its premier MMO game for salty seadog fans everywhere.
If you’ve been dropping by QJ.NET’s MMORPG blog from time to time, you’ll know that PotBS was a recently released title published by Sony Online Entertainment whose main selling points are the massive sea battles and highly competitive PvP environment. Also, PotBS plays on a very sensitive player-driven economy which can affect the outcome of the game in many ways.
The developers certainly put a lot of effort in making the game look good. The level of customization for your initial character allows you to choose from a selection of 8 female and 14 male faces, with different hair styles and accessories to mix and match the look for your dream seafaring swashbuckler.
Once you begin your game, PotBS treats you to a nicely written Mission Tutorial which conveniently shoves you in the position of a newly appointed captain. Thus begins your career as a seafaring adventurer with several follow-up quests, depending on your character’s chosen class, to break you into your new job.
It’s a Pirate’s (or Freetrader’s or Privateer’s or Naval Officer’s) Life for Me…
If you followed our previous coverage of the game’s Beta tour, you’ll realize that the full version of the game features a whole lot of added content since then. To compliment the heavy character customization feature already included are three more character classes, which you can choose out of the available three nations.
Of course, nothing’s stopping you from playing the same old Pirate which you started in Beta, however it is rather interesting to see how the other character classes give a different perspective into the swashbuckling dynamics of the game.
The biggest advantage of playing a black-hearted rogue Pirate is the fact that you can continue accosting ships from any nationality (except for fellow Pirates) and strip them of all their booty, making a quick doubloon off them. Let’s not forget the added thrill of throwing all your nefarious deeds in the faces of the more law-abiding character classes.
Speaking of the other career paths, playing the Freetrader class is certainly one of the best ways to earn some quick cash as you run the trade lanes trafficking (sometimes illegal) products to your many demanding customers. However, since one of the major attractions to the game is playing a pirate on the high seas, it’s really all a matter of personal taste.
Quickly going over the other two character classes, the Naval Officer and the Privateer basically allow you to play the flip side of the pirating business as you essentially work for “the government”. The biggest difference between the two lawful classes is that the Naval Officer represents the official arm behind the nation you’re working for, while the Privateer puts you into the role of the “secret police” for your nation – pseudo-pirates, if you will.
With the possible exception of the Freetrader, most of the other character classes’ skills vaguely mirror one another. Aside from the obligatory skill descriptions on each class ability, there isn’t much difference between the different career skills in terms of effects. Naturally, there would be cookie cutter skills which help you sail better or fire your guns faster, but the lack of unique skills which set apart one class from the other was something that gives the game a somewhat bland feel.
However, the good thing about the game is that it rarely relies on any broken skills that one class has over the other. Since PotBS is really about how well you can captain your ship on the high seas, most of the abilities merely complement the already skill-based heavy combat featured.
The Power of Instancing
One of the biggest features included in the game is the gratuitous use of instancing. There are several pros and cons to this aspect in an MMO game, so let’s break it down for everyone.
On one hand, this removes all the inconveniences of competitive questing in the midst of all the other players rushing to kill the one quest monster on the entire field. The proper instancing found in the game ensures that all the missions are executed without any outside interference, a very annoying nuisance in some of the older MMOs.
On the other hand, since practically everything in the game is instanced – from the PvP and PvE battles, as well as all the major quests – this doesn’t leave you a lot of co-op interaction with some of the other players outside of the Port Contention battles.
However, since the main focus of PotBS is really about the ship battles and the ability to actively affect the game’s economy through these fights, playing co-op with another sea-going captain isn’t really one of its major selling points.
Hoist the Sails, Tie that Jib, and Swab the Deck (and All Other Things Pirate-y)
There’s no doubt that a large part of the game relies heavily on the PvP aspect. This is where the root of all the player rewards can be tied to. Engaging in massive PvP campaigns allows players to directly affect the economy tied to the game.
This is where the ambitious beauty of PotBS comes into play. When enough strife is generated in a port area, the vicinity around the port suddenly becomes an area of contention. This means, Unrest points slowly rise until characters of opposing nations can enter the area at will and engage in a free-for-all battle against other players who belong to port owner’s faction.
Eventually, a Contention Battle will occur and that will decide which nation will control the port. With fights growing as large as 25-on-25, this is where all the alliances, team strategies and backstabbings happen. After a winner is decided, the port then reverts back into its uncontested state until someone causes bloody mayhem again.
Combat is divided into two portions, the land and the sea battles. However, the biggest highlight would have to be the awesome ship battles included in the game.
As mentioned earlier, ship battles really rely on skill rather than “l33t” equipment and class abilities. You may have somehow outfitted yourself with the biggest Ship of the Line, but if a smaller and faster ship with a smart captain takes advantage of the upwind, he or she can pelt your ship’s backside with cannon fire until you can kiss that very expensive ship of yours goodbye.
Fortunately, death isn’t a permanent aspect in the game that everyone has to mull over too much. Excusing my previous statement about paying for your expensive ship getting blown to smithereens, the only time that you have to replace your craft is when it loses all of its durability points after repeated sinkings. After which time, you should already have a replacement ship bought with all the quests that you’ve done in the course of the game.
Failing the ship battles, you can always go out and get involved with the numerous quests you can find in virtually any friendly port you can land on. Most of them involve the standard fetch and kill quests, however a lot of them always go back to the naval combat – something that definitely takes some time getting used to if you haven’t played enough Sid Meier‘s Pirates or Ancient Art of War at Sea.
Walking the Plank
One of the biggest issues noted in the game, however, is the fact that the user interface leaves a lot to be desired. For one thing, the Chat interface leaves a lot of players lost in the amount of text being displayed due to the lack of filtering.
This can become especially annoying when you’re in the middle of a major firefight (say, a Port Contention battle) and you try to work with your fellow buccaneers or faction members to take out the opposition. The next thing you know, the system messages suddenly scroll all your chatlogs to the top, making you lose all semblance of trying to organize a proper strategy.
That said, a possible solution might be to properly isolate the UI into different collapsible windows or allow the use of customized UI frames, similar to Blizzard‘s World of Warcraft, to help sort out the mess of text that sometimes assail the players.
Fortunately, the developers have expressly made it their personal quest to clean up the interface for players to have an easier time around the game world. To date, some of the newer patches have slowly been implementing the changes people have been clamoring for in the PotBS forums.
All in all, Pirates of the Burning Sea has the potential to grow a lot bigger given time to improve on its unique and enjoyable aspects, while doing away with the more cumbersome elements weighing it down.
With a solid player-driven economy, heavy customization options, and a robust PvP system, PotBS definitely has the makings of an MMO that can get the attention of gamers who are looking for a skill-based and highly competitive game.
If you still find yourself apprehensive about giving Pirates of the Burning Sea a try, you just have to realize this: “Hey, it’s a pirate game! How can it possibly go wrong?”
With that said, this buccaneer is off to trade a couple more tons of high grade ammunition on the black market for those scurvy seadog customers of mine.