Publisher: Flying Labs Software
Developer: Flying Labs Software
Release Date: June 2007
Pirates of the Burning Sea is the other underdog MMO to come out of this year's GDC, alongside Gods & Heroes. It's one of a handful of MMOs that isn't going with a fantasy setting; instead, you're a pirate or privateer searching for treasure amongst the islands of a pseudo-realistic Caribbean Sea.
The underdog factor comes from the competition. Burning Sea is a self-published game by a relatively unknown developer, Flying Labs, which dropped Delta Green to focus on this. Due to their setting, though, they're going head-to-head with Disney Online's Pirates of the Caribbean Online.
Aside from their piratical backdrops, though, the two games couldn't be aimed at more different demographics. Burning Sea has a much more adult sensibility and style, along with a lot more attention to detail and a player-run game economy; it's what happens when a bunch of serious MMO players sit down and decide to make their own sort of game.
You can opt to play Burning Sea as a free trader or privateer in the service of Britain, France, or Spain, or as a pirate, and if the latter, you have no citizenship. You can customize your character's look extensively during character creation, and change it in-game by visiting tailor shops in major towns. As you play, you'll be able to "unlock" disfigurements, such as eyepatches and hooks.
At the start of the game, your ship is under attack by enemy pirates, and you defeat the last of them a bit too late to save your captain's lifem, which leaves you in command of the ship. Shortly thereafter, a friend gives you a treasure map that you must decode, which sets you along the first obvious quest line.
There are a thousand quests in Burning Sea as of this writing, a hundred of which have to do with the main storyline. Along the way, you can work with your nation, if you have one, to take control of various contested Caribbean islands. If you prefer a more supernatural sort of feel to your MMORPGs, you can sail out to Summer's Isle, also known as La Garza or the Bermuda Triangle, where you'll be able to find haunted ships and the like.
Each player in Burning Sea gets their own ship, of which they are the captain; you can also get up to 20 crew members to help you with ship combat. At this point in the game's development, you can customize your ship's sails and color scheme at any time using a simple drop-down menu, but this may change before launch. What won't change is how you upgrade the ship's capabilities, as things like guns, sails, and a new hull must all be bought from other players.
The level cap in Burning Sea is 50. A character receives a skill point every level, a ship skill every odd level, and a combat skill every even level, with each of the available weapons in the game qualifying as its own skill. You'll also be able to gradually earn tokens which you can trade in for a respec.
Flying Labs will be giving away hundreds of beta keys when the game's ready to go live, so you should be able to play the game relatively soon. The piratical setting is interesting enough on its own, but the game as it stands has an interesting sort of do-it-yourself feel to it; the developers made it sound to some extent like they're a bunch of Dark Age of Camelot players who sat down and tried to make their own sort of spin on the MMO. When the beta goes live, I'll be in line to give it a try.
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