Pirates of the Burning Sea Reader Review
Since the game is still hot on the shelves, this isn't a comprehensive in depth review. Having said that, the tutorial seems to guide you swiftly through the three main mechanisms of play. Armed combat, Naval Combat and Exploration/quest gathering. I must say the first thing that hit me straight away is that I've seen this sort of thing before, a few years previous. 1999 on the original Xbox a game called Pirates: The Legend of Black Kat. Except it was a single player console game, and there wasn't as many quests. Your character configuration is not as varied as you would like, but there are enough costume decisions make you look the part. The classes you can play didn't seem to have much in the way of defined variety, they all come across a bit the samey, with perhaps just factional differences. A Navy person would be similar to a Privateer, but more regimented sort of thing. A Pirate is just a Privateer but evil. Obviously many people are coming to this game because of the popularity of Pirates of the Caribbean, and indeed there were quite a number of variants on the Jack Sparrow theme running around the villages.
Questing seems to follow MMO tradition, with a bit of textual flavour, kill a few brigands, sink a few ships and heres some money at the end. Villages and outposts are like instanced city hubs, and some quests actually step into a personal instance of the city, for you to tackle a specific enemy. These hubs seem quite small and have just the basic NPC's for trade, and questing. Although plenty of NPC's are milling about so that they don't seem empty places.
Have at Thee
Every now and then you will be drawn into armed combat, whether in a town or on a ship (mainly for boarding purposes). Melee combat doesn't seem to be the games strong point. Its in there, and you have a few skills that you need to juggle to make the kills, but the swordfighting animations didn't fill me with enthusiasm or excitement at all. In fact theres no tactile feel to the combat, you press a block a couple of times to build up your fencing power and then you press a main attack or a finishing move. I'd have preferred a much more "twitch" based combat, where position and sword strikes matter more than building a series of skill keystrokes. The skills are gained as you level up your character through questing, and the skills on offer range across the fencing and defence, through to naval combat prowess and even ship endurance.
Where the game does shine is in its naval combat, battles on the sea are quite frantic, require a measure of skill to position the boat at its optimum firing solution, selection of appropriate ammo (sail/mast ripping grape shot, anti-personnel shot to assist boarding etc), and damage management. One on one encounters include a lot of zig zagging in and out of the wind, to get a strong position to let rip, multi-ship encounters are where it gets interesting, trying to find gaps in the enemy's position to sail in and release your salvo and have the wind behind you enough to get out of there before your shredded. Although I haven't tried any grouped fleet battles, I think this is the area I would be most excited about.
Sail into the distance
Apart from specific questing you can venture out into the Open Sea and join in generated ship battles there. In Open Sea, your ship moves much faster, and you don't see the crew on board. This is your main travel mechanism, between ports and cities, and anyone venturing into the trading business will no doubt be in this mode quite a lot. There is a whole player based economy, but with my limited try out, I haven't managed to delve into that yet.
The Old Crusty Curiosity Shoppe
Overall, I'd have said Pirates of the Burning Sea will be a curiosity for most, with the naval combat fuelling most of the enthusiasm for it. The Armed combat and character progression simply fuelling the fitting out of your ship for combat purposes, or for travel and trade. I'll play around with it for my 30 day free allocation, but whether it attracts masses to the game I'm uncertain. If you enjoy real time naval combat from days gone by, its worth the price of admission to experience that with others in a multiplayer environment.
6 / 10