It's 1720 A.D. and the seas of the Carribean are the new battlefront for the powers of Europe. Pirates, Privateers, and Free Traders cruise the waters in search of their fortunes, while Navy ships of the line keep as much order as one can with fleets of Pirates sailing their dark colors from the mast. Like pages from a Patrick O'Brien novel, Pirates of the Burning Sea brings the life on the sea to your computer with fantastic success.It's All About You
Starting with character creation, Pirates of the Burning Sea (PotBS) gives you many choices for customization of your avatar. The usual choices are present, male and female, as are several classes. There are four nations you can choose from: Pirate, France, Britain, and Spain. Nations and Classes
Pirates are only able to play the class of Pirate, which is unavailable to those who choose one of the other nations. They have their own towns, and cannot enter towns controlled by other nations without stiff penalties. They do have one of the best skills in the game, in that they can capture a ship and use it as their own. Instant ship upgrade.
The other nations have three unique classes: Navy, Privateer, and Free Trader.
The Navy class is just what it seems. You begin as a midshipman in the Navy, and progress through the game from a small schooner to the large, 104-gun Ships of the Line. These players are the heavy hitters in the late stages of the game. I've had ships shot out from under my feet from one broadside from these monsters.
Privateers have been given letters of marque from their nation to attack ships from any of the other nations. Think of it as legalized piracy. They have skills that parallel the pirate class, but can enter any port, provided their faction standings aren't too bad with the nation in control.
Free Traders are the commerce kings of the game. I'll speak more about the fantastic economy system that has been developed later in this article. One word of advice I will pass on is that if you play Navy or Privateer for a nation, make friends with your local free traders. The best ship enhancements, most of the epic level (Level 50) ships, even the ammunition that you use in your guns is created by players using the economy system. And with their economical skills, the Free Traders build things faster and cheaper than anyone else. Choices, choices, choices...
As I was saying before, your character can be male or female, and from any of the nations and classes above. Most parts of your avatar are customizeable, though I found the female line a bit limiting. Hats, shoes, buckles, shirts/blouses, vests, coats, pants/dresses, hairstyle, facial hair (male only. No bearded ladies), gloves, eyes/patches, and face are all things that you can modify. Just about every clothing option has 2 or 3 options for patterns, and they all have a full pallette of colors to customize.
One disappointment is the lack of being able to customize your face. You choose from a list (A-Z for males, A-H for female) and the only real customization seems to be skin tone and scars or no scars. There also is no body style customization. Everyone is Viggo Mortenson or Jessica Alba. And not one gym in sight.
While I was disappointed with some of the customization options, my better half was able to make a very attractive Spanish Free Trader who looked like she could have stopped 18th Century traffic. And I wasn't disappointed too much with the final outcome of my pirate-ghost avatar. (Selecting all white tones from the color pallette for clothing options makes for an interesting, ghost-like avatar.)Naval Combat, Questing, AKA The Good Stuff
Quests are what get you started in the world, and consist of two types. One type takes place on your ship at sea, and another uses the swashbuckling system, where your avatar uses swords and pistols on land or the deck of a ship to complete. A few quests combine the two, either through boarding a ship or combining a fort fight and fleet action. Many of the quests have an interesting plot to them, usually tied to several others in a chain of quests from each giver.
I played from level 1 to 15 on quests alone, and found myself still entertained. Some of the quests do drag out a bit, blending into a "kill this, kill that" mentality. One option you have is that you can venture into the Open Sea. In the open sea, you can sail around the world map and engage in battles with other players in PVP areas or NPC fleets and random encounters.
Or, and I did this a few times, you can just enjoy sailing over the huge map. And it is huge. PotBS covers the entire Carribean, from Florida in the north, Mexico in the west, the northern coast of South America in the south, and the eastern islands of the Antilles in the east. To give you a scope of the world, it can take a half hour to sail from the Yucatan to Puerto Rico.
The Open Sea option also introduces the PVP system. As NPC and player fleets are attacked near certain towns (Capitol cities and those with no resources cannot be contested), there builds up an aggression counter in each town. If the number gets high enough, the town becomes "contended". This creates a PVP zone in the seas around the city, where any player who enters is free game. This is not without risk to the attacking player, however. Players can shoot off a signal flare, inviting those from their own faction into the battle to assist. Also, while a ship of the line will normally defeat a schooner, a group of two or three schooners can maul a ship of the line.
If a town is contested for long enough, an invite will be sent to players nearby to join the battle for control of the town. Players can sail into battles between the two factions fighting for control, and the outcome of the battle can change the town's occupants accordingly.You Want Player-Driven Economy?
The economy in PotBS is where this game really shines. All towns that can be contested have a random set of resources that are available in each port. These are resources that determine what industries are best to build in each port.
Each account is allowed to have 10 player-run industries per server, an announcement that Flying Labs has made official as the Open Beta begins. These slots you should reserve for your Free Trader character, who will maximize these industries into profit for you. Each industry operates as a business of it's own, with you being the man or woman who signs the checks. They store labor hours, with 1 real hour = 1 labor hour. You use these labor hours plus money, raw materials and goods to output new products. Lumber camps cut wood, mines bring you ore, and forges turn both money, stone and ore into ingots. While 10 industries sounds like a lot, it still is quite an effort to be self-sufficient. If your goal is to produce ships in a shipyard, you will need to buy supplies from other players in order to be efficient.
This means going to the Auction House. I give credit to Flying Labs for one of the best ideas to come out of the economy in an MMO in a long time. We're all used to the auction system of other MMOs, where a player lists a starting bid and the instant buy price. If you use this assumption in PotBS, you will find it difficult to make a profit. The way the auction system works in PotBS is that a player lists a price for the goods they are selling. When you, as a buyer, venture to the auction house, you will see only the price that goods last sold in port for that product. You then can make an offer and see if anyone's list price matches. The most useful button in the system is the "fill partial order" button, which allows you to accept a portion of your offer.
For example, you wish to buy iron nails for your shipyard. You need 100, so you offer to buy 100 iron nails for 10 gold each. The problem? Only one player has nails listed for that price, and they only had 30. If you check the partial order box, you buy the 30 nails. Without the box checked, your offer fails. As you can see, there is more to this economy than just buying 10 widgets to make 10 other widgets.In Conclusion
Pirates of the Burning Sea enters a public beta process on December 7, with a release date during the first week of 2008. While there are still a few bugs to work out, I definitely recommend giving it a shot. The core system is well planned out, and the servers the past few weeks have been very solid. The economy and crafting system are great for people who prefer that type of play. The PVP battles are simply amazing, especially when you can get large fleets to meet in the open sea.