Pirates of the Burning Sea is the first MMO from developer Flying Lab Software. It opened its doors for pre-orders on January 7th of this year and officially launched on January 22nd. I have been playing it pretty aggressively for the last month and will be playing it again as soon as I finish this review. To find out why, read on.
Pirates of the Burning Sea had me at "ahoy". As a big fan of PC games such as Seven Cities of Gold, Curse of Monkey Island, Sid Meier's Pirates! and tabletop gaming's Wooden Ships, Iron Men, I had been looking forward to this title since I heard of its development. Besides, pirates are iconic legends in their own right and this is another chance to immerse yourself in that romantic fantasy of sailing the Seven Seas, minus the scurvy.
I had written a bit about my experience with the game during its two week Pre-Order Head Start and since then I have managed to hit the current level cap and see a great deal of what PotBS has to offer. Continuing to play the character I made then, I've joined a society, taken part in large-scale port contention battles, captured close to 100 ships and in true pirate fashion, spent all of my gold. Twice. I'm currently finishing up the storyline missions and have rolled a National character on another server to see how the other half lives. Speaking of creating new characters, let's get on to the review.
Players are given the choice between four different factions at the start of the game: British, French, Spanish or Pirate. Picking a nation will allow you to pick one of three careers: Naval Officer, Privateer or Freetrader. Pirates get to be Pirates. Naval Officers get access to the most powerful ships in the game and excel at group battles, especially for port contention. Privateers could be considered the hybrid career, sharing similarities with Pirates with a bit of Naval Officers thrown in. Freetraders make and move goods in large quantities. They also make money in large quantities. Freetraders are the backbone of the player economy and should be appreciated, thanked and boarded at every opportunity.
After choosing a nation and career, the character customization begins. There are a great deal of color, clothing and body choices available and it is quite easy to make a unique looking avatar that will set you apart from other players, unless you're a pirate. Black is the new yarrr. If you do find that someone has hijacked your look, changing your character's appearance is easy to do at a Tailor and costs nothing. New clothing items and accessories can be gained from completing missions and add even more opportunity to stand out.
Once your character is made, you will enter the Tutorial Mission. After learning the basics of gameplay, you will be in your nation's starter town and will be able to begin taking missions. Missions in PotBS are a bittersweet affair. They are well written and I actually enjoyed reading the text. The storylines are engaging and made me feel like a part of the game world. Many Easter Eggs can be found and are really worth taking the extra time to pay attention to the details. Sadly, the actual mission mechanics overshadow this.
There is an internal slider that has to be set to one of two options: Ridiculously Easy or Insanely Difficult. The AI, either enemy or ally, causes a majority of frustration. Any escort or protect mission will be Insanely Difficult because the allied "flagship" you are always burdened with is going to be a bass boat made of balsa wood in 90% of your encounters. A saki-chugging Japanese man whose last job was driving Mitsubishis in 1943 will captain this bass boat. The AI will find the most dangerous enemy in the mission and make a beeline straight for it, all two guns blazing. Good plan, Captain Kamikaze. Your allied warships? They will make a beeline for the enemy and block your shots. Avatar combat has some AI-control skills; it would be nice if ship combat had them as well.