Reviewed: March 7, 2008
Released: January 1, 2008
Pirates of the Burning Sea is a game that may meet a burning desire of many MMO players out there. I know I was excited several years ago when I met the developers of Pirates at E3 and talked to them about their infant project. At that time, it was a game built entirely around a highly developed ship combat system. Since then, they added a “swashbuckling” aspect to the game which allows players to duel, fight on land, and conquer other ships in boarding combat.
Also, there is an involved story for the RPG aspect of the game and a really cool conflict system between the different countries (British, Spanish, French, and the non-countried Pirates) which allows the different ports in the Caribbean to fall under the control of the various factions, even to the point where one side can eventually become “victorious” giving all their players a reward for when the map resets. Also, there is a very highly developed player-driven economic system built into the game that is very intriguing and could probably have been a game all of its own, for those of us who like to turn a pittance into a fortune.
One thing that has always bothered me about most MMO’s is the fact that the combat is entirely based on your character’s level and not at all on any kind of skill that you may be able to contribute to the game. In Pirates, they have somewhat combated this problem in the ship-to-ship combat system. In it, the saying, “It’s not the size of the ship, but how you use it that counts” really does come true. Wind direction, ship facing, and hit-location all play a major role in whether or not you will be victorious in any ship battle. If you get stuck facing the wind and can’t turn fast enough to face your broadside cannons to an approaching enemy, he will get behind you and blow away your weak aft deck and sink you faster than you can say “rubber ducky”.
I was really happy with this aspect of the game. I would have to say that I spend a large amount of my time in ship-to-ship battles. As do many other players in the game, since it seems that even in PvP it becomes very possible for a sailor who knows what he or she is doing to take down a larger and higher leveled opponent, with the right strategy, which is very rare in many MMO’s.
I was disappointed, however, that this skill-oriented combat system didn’t translate very well into the land-based sword-fighting system. In this combat system, it goes back to the tried and true method of clicking the various attack buttons over and over until your opponent dies. Granted, you have to get them off-balance first by using specific attacks that then allow you to hit them with damaging attacks and you have to defend when you don’t have the upper hand, but still I felt like I was just mashing buttons instead of actually using some kind of skill to defeat my opponent, which after the success of the ship combat, was irksome, to say the least.
Still, it is better to have the ability to fight someone sword-to-sword than nothing at all, like they had originally planned, so I won’t complain too vocally.
The missions, as I said are enjoyable and they are designed in such a way that you don’t feel like you’re doing the same generic mission over and over again like in many other MMO’s. Also, there are so many different kinds of ships and equipment and things to add-on to your ships that no two encounters will ever be the same, even between two people of the same level. There is no “best” ship in the game, which is really nice, for once.
And, as I said, there is also the economy system, which allows players who aren’t as interested in blowing their enemies out of the water to spend their time making a fortune in the Caribbean. You can build properties that allow you to manufacture certain goods that you can then sell raw or learn to put together to make other, more valuable items that you can then put up for sale in different ports (wherever it is needed the most) for the most profit.
All of these different aspects of the game flow together really well in a very authentic-feeling environment that is a breath of fresh air from the typical D&D style MMO’s. Anybody that likes pirates (which by the success of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, there are apparently a lot) will most likely really get a kick out of this game. Also, since the developers were far-sighted enough to allow their own players to add their own content from sails and flags all the way to new ship-designs, this game is nearly infinite in its possibilities.
Simply put, this game is beautiful. Sailing on the open sea in your ship with the glistening waves lapping at your hull is one of the most serene experiences and they really duplicate it with amazing detail and clarity in this game. The water effects are brilliant. The ship designs and crews are so minutely detailed it’s amazing. The different ports are each unique and have a different ambiance all their own. It really brings out the dormant explorer trapped inside all of us.
There really is nothing more to say than that the developers really nailed the nail on the...erm…nail when they designed the look and feel of this game.
Going hand-in-hand with the graphics, the sound effects are phenomenal with this game. When on land, you are surrounded by the sounds of gulls calling, waves crashing, people going about their port-associated business like calling for “All hands on deck” and so forth, and other amusing and amazing little things that make you really feel like you are living the life of a sailor in the time of pirates.
The combat sounds really suck you in, as well. The canon fire sounds devastating and the swords clashing sound deadly. Also, the music that plays really feels right for the different parts of the game, though sometimes I would say a little limited.
The game is the standard 15 dollars a month subscription fee that goes with almost all MMO’s nowadays. Taking that into consideration, I would say you are definitely getting your money’s worth from this game. If you like MMO’s and are looking for a change of pace from your standard magic and swords and dragons style MMO, this would be a great place to start looking. You’re in for a long, long time of constant fun.
MMO developers that are working on new designs really need to take note of what the people at Flying Labs did with Pirates of the Burning Sea. Incorporating player’s skill into combat, rather than just relying on clicking “attack” over and over and over, ad infinitum, is something that really adds an amazing amount of enjoyment to a game for me, and for many others.
Also, allowing players to contribute their own content allows for a practically infinite amount of potential for the game. The economy system is also well-thought-out for those players that are playing the MMO for the community aspect and who want to try and succeed by making as much money as possible.
And to top it all off, this game breaks the too-tight boundaries that have begun to strangle the MMO industry by only setting the games in either sci-fi or fantasy environments. Break it out, MMO designers! Give us more games like Pirates where we get to live in different worlds, not the same ones redesigned a little differently.
For a great MMO with so many features that you just aren’t a gamer if you can’t find something to entertain you in this one, you’d be silly not to at least try this one out for the 30 days free that comes with purchasing the game.