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Pirates of the Burning Sea: Head Start Preview

JR Sutich | 21 Jan 2008 20:05
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One thing I want to talk about first is the Crafting and Economy. I'm in love with the system in Pirates of the Burning Sea. That's right, I like a crafting system. I know, I was shocked as well but a lot of it has to do with how it was set up. I don't have to go kill 4000 Lesser Bunnies of Doom in order to collect 5 Ratty Hides to make 1 Cloak of Not Really Better Than What You Had. In PotBS, you sail to a port, build a warehouse, build a mine and start getting resources. It's a bit like Star Wars Galaxies, but with a bit of a limit to how much can be produced. This is good because in SWG, there were people making tens of thousands of items, flooding the market and making the economy a joke. But we'll get into another part of the economy that I like a bit later.

I started my career as a Pirate, using the fairly detailed character customization to make the baddest motherlubber to ever sail the seven seas. After getting through a short tutorial that covers how to move, interact and fight both on land and sea, I found myself in Marsh Harbour, holding onto a mysterious treasure map. Life as a Pirate is everything you picture in your head it would be like. Rum, cannons, rum, wenches, rum, tall masts and short planks are everywhere. I could have hung around and performed a bunch of tasks for guys who never seem to leave port, but I decided to set sail and make the seas burn.

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Ship combat may seem to be a bit slow at first, and I've heard some call it boring. Pay no attention to those who do, because by the time you have finished speaking, their ADD will have them licking a store window trying to get to the shiny object inside. The fighting is a lot more tactical and you have to really have good situational awareness to avoid making a wrong turn and ending up with a pirate shooting his giant cannon into your stern. I am addicted to it, though. What can I say; I like to hear the cannonball a-roarin'. Pirates have the option to board their enemies and if they succeed, can then take command of the ship, or salvage it hoping to get more loot items. Boarding your enemies also allows you to hear one of your crew chanting "Rum, rum, rum, rum!" as he charges into battle.

Avatar Combat is how those boarding situations get resolved. Fighting on land is faster-paced, but can seem a bit simplistic. The breakdown for each style is Fencing is best for PvP/Single Target killing, Dirty Fighting is great for PvE with its AoE attacks, and Florentine is good if you want your enemy to die of old age while you get up for a sandwich. There are only a few skills in each of the three fighting styles that are worth getting, however. Once you figure out what those are, you will load 3 or 4 tool bar slots and every battle should be easy.

Graphically, PotBS looks wonderful. The amount of detail on the ships is simply amazing and has almost resulted in me getting my ship shot out from under me because I was oohing and ahhing instead of paying attention to the large French frigate with 34 guns trying to make large holes in my pretty boat. The avatars and land based environments are well done. However, there is one detail in some sea battles that I cannot fail to mention, and that is waterfalls. Some of them are quite beautiful and looks like they should be in the ads telling you that it's better in the Bahamas. It's little details like this that make the game special for me.

The client also has a lot of sliders and can be scaled back for those who don't have the latest and greatest video cards, which should open it up to a wider range of systems than many of its competitors.

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When it comes to sound, PotBS has successfully captured the essence of what makes the lure of the open sea irresistible. The waves crashing against the sides of my ship, the sounds of the surf crashing into the shore while it port, or the absolute thundering cacophony of cannon-fire ripping another ship to pieces are all reproduced with stunning accuracy. Sometimes simply sailing from one port to another can be a quite relaxing trip as you listen to the sounds of the open sea. The music is exciting and sound effects, especially the ambient conversations in taverns help complete the immersion.

Ah yes, back to the economy. I set myself up to produce cannon ammunition, which can be done on one character. I do like a bit of risk though, and here's where I get interested. PvP can have an effect on the economy. Economic warfare can affect PvP. If a port becomes contested, it becomes surrounded by a zone that automatically flags players for PvP. If the right ports are contested, it could cripple an entire nation's economy. Conversely, traders could go in and buy up all of the critical supplies needed for battle, as a pre-cursor to a full-scale assault. There are some interesting times ahead for the New World.

There's much, much more to Pirates of the Burning Sea than I've been able to discuss here, but that will have to follow in my full review of the game. For right now, I'm having a hell of a lot of fun sailing around the Caribbean sinking ships of the European nations. Except for the Dutch. I like them. Now, get your sea legs and come aboard!

"Now some men take delight in the drinking and the roving,
But others take delight in the gambling and the smoking.
But I take delight in the juice of the barley,
And courting pretty fair maids in the morning bright and early"

Yarrr!

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