Publisher: Sony Online Entertainment
Developer: Flying Lab Software
Release Date: January 21, 2008
Pirate fans across the world have been looking at two MMORPGS recently: Pirates of the Burning Sea and Pirates of the Caribbean Online. Pirates of the Caribbean Online by Disney promises a linear MMO set in the world from the popular movie trilogy, "Pirates of the Caribbean." Pirates of the Burning Sea by Flying Lab Software focuses on a more realistic era of pirating and seafaring. Set in 1720, Pirates of the Burning Sea not only allows the player to slay their enemies in land combat in addition to sailing the seven seas, but it also introduces an immersive and very intricate crafting system that proves to be the heart of the game.
When creating your character, you have four different nationalities from which to choose. You can choose to be from one of three nations — Britain, France, or Spain — but if none of these are appealing, you can simply opt to be a pirate. Pledging your allegiance to one of the three nations allows you to enroll as a naval officer, privateer or freetrader, while becoming a pirate only allows you to be, well, a pirate.
The various careers in PotBS have different strengths. The naval officer excels at face-to-face combat, as well as managing large ships to do his bidding. Privateers are proficient at maneuvering small ships in and out of combat, blasting their opponents little by little. They're also good at swiftly boarding enemy ships to engage the crew and captain in swashbuckling contact. Freetraders have skills in trading and production, allowing them to make money (doubloons) easily and at a faster rate. They're also capable of destroying opponents in combat, but certainly not as well as the naval officer of privateer. Pirates are skilled in all sorts of combat and can take over enemy ships and siege enemy ports on their own, certainly adding to the title's PvP aspect.
Along with choosing your nationality and career, you have the option of customizing your character. PotBS has a plethora of options to let you create your ideal sailor, including cool hats, crazy hairstyles, and the requisite eye patch.
Pirates of the Burning Sea has two types of core combat: land and sea. Land-based combat is quite strategic and utilizes an interface similar to most MMOs. You target the enemy you want to attack, and then use an arsenal of swashbuckling, fencing or "dirty fighting" skills via hotkeys to fight. Slaying a foe in land-based combat doesn't yield much experience, so you should stick to other means to attain XP. Whereas you can grind and get up to a respectible level in other MMOs, you won't get anywhere with that tactic in PotBS.
Sea-based combat is also strategic, although in a more real-time setting. You command your ship through the seas using the A and D for movement left and right, and W and S to respectively increase and decrease speed. When an enemy is within the range of a loaded cannon, you'll be shown the percentage likelihood of a successful hit. Firing the ammo will send it sailing in your foe's direction, using the percentage to divvy up the amount of hits and the damage you've done. You may also use multiple skills in naval combat for various reasons, such as "Fortress," which lowers your speed but increases your defense or "Thundering Broadside," which deals more damage to your opponent the next time you fire.
In naval combat, you're able to load your cannons with many different types of ammunition. Langridge, ammo compromised of forks and knives, will wipe out a ship's crew, while Starshot will destroy a ship's sails. Basic Shot is plain cannon fire, although it can be found in a couple of upgraded forms, like Heavy Shot and Bronze Shot. Each type of ammunition has a different use, cost and rarity, so knowing when to use which ammo plays a huge role in PotBS.
You can pick up missions in every port throughout the Caribbean Sea. Each mission is done by either talking to a certain NPC or clicking a certain object to be teleported to the mission area; missions are carried out in separate instances of the world, never in the open world. Grouping up with fellow sailors will allow you to embark on missions together, but it's often not necessary.
When you're not busily engaged in missions, you're given the option to sail the open sea; you can visit ports of your nation, siege enemy ports, or engage in naval combat with pirates and enemy ships. With a decent ship, it took close to an hour to circle the bottom half of the game map, and that was with the wind in my favor!
Attacking an enemy port and taking out its fortress and defenses will create unrest and lead to a PvP zone to open. For the next 24 hours at this port, an all-out war will wage between the two nations, and the one with the most victories will take command of the port. An interesting point about PvP in PotBS is the importance of player skill as opposed to level. In theory, a level 20 can take down a level-30 player. Levels only affect the ships you're allowed to purchase and the skills you're allowed to learn, but they do not increase stats in any way. While a level 30 may have a huge warship, the level 20 — if mindful of his enemy's weaknesses and his own strengths — may be able to maneuver around his foe and take him out. The level cap in PotBS is currently 50.
Crafting is a crucial part of operation in PotBS. Each player is allowed 10 plots of land throughout the game world in which he can construct various structures to produce resources, manufacture goods or construct items. Each port has certain available resources that allow a player to construct the structure of importance. This causes the economy to be truly player-based, and the importance of societies — PotBS's version of a guild or clan — becomes that much more important.
For example, if your main warehouse and base of operations is on the far southeastern side of the sea, and you're interested in constructing ships, you're going to need the resource fir wood, which isn't found in the area. You'd need to construct a fir lumber mill on the northwestern side of the sea, which would demand hour-long trips between the lumber mill and your warehouse every time you wish to transport resources. You could also buy the resources at the auction house, but chances are that they won't be cheap. A society must really work together to harvest and pool the necessary resources so that a crafter can construct ships and items as needed.
PotBS looks great. While most of your time is spent sailing the open seas hurling cannon balls through your opponents' hulls, it's an aesthetically pleasing experience. The water looks realistic, and the reflections look perfect. Pieces of wood fly off of enemy ships when they're battered by your cannons, and masts collapse when they're damaged enough. Everything of importance in the game looks great and creates a truly immersive pirate world.
Pirates of the Burning Sea looks to be an innovative and breathtaking game. Anyone who's looking for a new type of MMO or an immersive and fun pirate-themed title should certainly give Pirates of the Burning Sea a try. It has perhaps one of the best crafting and economy systems I've seen in an MMO, and the combat is fun. If you preorder it now, you'll be able to play the game immediately (with a level cap of 20 until release), but you'll also get a cool-looking parrot. No pirate is truly complete without one.
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