Updated Wed, Dec 16, 2009 by Ralphedelominius
Hello, there. How *you* doin'?
Flying Labs Studios' "Pirates of the Burning Sea" MMOG (PotBS) has been out on the waves officially just under two weeks (as of this authoring), and I can honestly say that I've been having a great time bounding across the Caribbean with my keyboard and mouse. There are four character classes to choose from - Naval Officer, Freetrader, Privateer, and the nation-eschewing Pirate. In this, my first article on this new title, I have jumped into a Naval Officer. This isn't meant to be a full-blown Class Guide like you'll find one one of our many Community Sites here at Ten Ton Hammer, but more of an introduction to the class that might give you an idea of how it plays. Make sure to read Ralsu's recent review of Pirates of the Burning Sea to get the general overview of the game.
The Naval Officer definitely falls into the 'tank' category of character classes, as the largest ships in the game are available only to you. At the higher levels, the sheer volume of firepower these ships can pump out is staggering, and can reduce smaller ships to splinters in one volley. If the allure of the game for you lies in destroying your enemies from the mouth of your cannon while being able to absorb tons and tons of damage, then this is the class for you.
Since just before game launch on January 22nd, 2008 (the 'pre-launch boarding party' allowed people that had pre-ordered PotBS to play up to a Level 21 cap) I have been able to get to Level 28 with my Naval Officer, Ralphedel O'Minius. In that period of time, I can say that the Naval Officer appears to be extremely soloable as a class - rarely did I have trouble with missions or open sea confrontations with NPCs. In fact, a low 20s Naval Officer in a good ship (I'm partial to the Postillionen Frigate at the moment) can take on NPC pirates and rival nations at levels far in excess of your own, something you don't see in many games. My (at the time) 22 Naval Officer in his frigate was able to take down Level 35-39 NPC Pirates with some close attention to what you're doing - I don't recommend taking on more than one at a time, but it should go pretty smoothly provided you have a good stock of consumables to replenish armour/crew/structure as needed and you play the fight smartly.
There are eight streams of Naval Officer Skills: Defense, Desperation, Disabling, Discipline, Dominance, Escort, Gunnery, and Prestige. The Desperation line is widely thought as 'totally useless', and I have to agree somewhat. The skills help increase damage, reload rate, crew protection - but only when you're heavily damaged yourself. What's the point of that? If I'm getting my butt kicked, I can't imagine that this would be your saving grace. If there's a way to play these that makes sense, someone please let me know. The rest of the lines all have skills to make you into a tough and powerful force in whatever ship you sail. I don't know what I'd do without the Defense line's 'Emergency Repairs', which repairs 20% of your armour, hull and masts with a single click - and with no consumption of materials. Freetraders get a comparable skill that requires Hemp Canvas and Oak Planks with every click (albeit 25% of repair instead of 20%),but I much prefer the 'free' one Naval Officers get. Disabling skills are for the player that likes to board the enemy ship and take it at the point of a sword. Me, I'm more of a 'blow them out of the water' type, so I've invested mostly in Discipline and Gunnery skills for awesome buffs to my reload and accuracy. I haven't played enough to be able to tell what the optimal build of this class would be, but I'm sure that will come out soon enough. Note that there are far more skills than you will get skill points by Level 50, so there is definitely room to personalize your character as he progresses. Luckily, skill respecs are available - meaning, you can wipe the slate clean and re-allocate your skills as you go, should your play style dictate a different build.
The Naval Officer is pretty solo-friendly. Your superior firepower, ability to take large amounts of damage (with the right ship and defensive buffs active) make for some fairly straight-forward play. One of the only times where you may run into some difficulty is when faced with faster, more maneuverable opponents - the ships you sail are generally larger and more cumbersome, and therefore slow to turn. A smart opponent will try to stay in your bow or stern arcs to work on you from there, where your armour is thinner and your broadsides can't touch him. If you find you're having trouble catching a ship, load up on your favourite sail-shredding ammunition (bar, chain, star-shot) and use that to slow him down by taking away his ability to maneuver. You only have to hit them a couple of times to make difference, then switch back to round and pound the hell out of his hull.
In groups, the Naval Officer is the mainstay of ocean-going power. With good leadership, you can expect to come out on top even against larger or higher-leveled groups. Just as a 'for instance', on the Antigua server this week there was a Port Battle between Spain and Britain, where 24 players from either faction were called to fight over Turtling Bay (Spain was attacking). The Spanish, as a group, on Antigua have levelled like mad since pre-boarding and game launch day, and were several levels on average above what the British could field. Even so, because they were ably led (several luminaries of the Lords of the Burning Sea society were present) they were able to successfully defend the port - one British ship casualty to 24 Spaniards sent to the bottom of the bay! As a Naval Officer, you may be slow and ponderous but you'll never be turned away when a fight is in the cards. I have yet to be in on one of these epic battles personally, but I'll continue working on it and see if I can't write up one of these battles from a participant's perspective.
What ship should you sail? At the lower levels (under 20), it hardly matters. Personally, I kept upgrading to ships with more guns as I could afford it. You'll quickly outgrow your starter ship, and I recommend the Mediator Cutter as soon as you can afford one at Level 12. At that level, its 12 guns pack a fairly solid punch while your ship is still nimble enough to be able to deal with the smaller opponents you'll face off against. The player-built Mediator is what you'll want - the Civilian and Fallback variants, as is true for all ships in the game, are inferior in stats across all categories. Save your pennies and buy quality! I flirted briefly with a Curieuse Snow (Civilian), but wasn't happy with the performance. It all paid off when I hit Level 21, though, and I bought my first Postillionen Frigate - 20 glorious guns, twice the armour of my old ships, with good speed, turning, and acceleration. I thought I was in heaven, until I got my first Stralsand frigate at Level 27. I think this is the first of the 'big boy' ships, so I still have a long way to go!
Say 'Hello' to my little friends!
Levelling is pretty easy to do as a Naval Officer, and you can go a couple of ways with it. If you're happy to grind missions for experience and loot, the starting area for each nation is well-stocked with missions and storyline adventures that will push you to Level 20 and beyond. In fact, there are so many that you might find yourself with too many options! I found it was better to do every mission available in a given port before moving to the next location down the coast, as it helped minimize downtime (less sailing back and forth on the open sea) and kept confusion to a minimum as to where I needed to be (all the missions in one place!). Some missions in particular can be played to your advantage. There's one I played two dozen times (I forgot to write the name down, something with 'Viejo' in it) just to farm easy experience and doubloons. I was tasked with protecting three Merchantman from an enemy fleet of 5 ships, with another 4 or 5 allied ships with me for support. By just letting them fight it out over and over again and picking off the stragglers, I was able to make thousands of doubloons and a couple of levels-worth of experience with almost zero effort. In fact, the last time I played it I was a little distracted and accidentally completed the mission successfully - dammit! Now I need a new cash-cow!
If missions aren't your style or you need a break from that grind, you can do equally well (some say better!) fighting on the open seas. You still amass experience and cash from your kills, and get the added bonus of advancing your nation's cause on the high seas. Preying on enemy ships near their home ports will generate unrest at that location and can create PvP enabled zones with enough work. Accumulate enough points as a nation (collectively with your fellow patriots), and you can force a port into contention and possibly participate in a large port battle like I described a couple of paragraphs ago. It's a lottery system based off of how many points you've contributed, so keep at it and you, too, can be a part of the big picture.
Personally, I've always been a fan of the pirate game genre - Sid Meier's "Pirates!", anyone? I played that to death, both the original way-back-when and the newer one this millenium. Playing a Naval Officer in Pirates of the Burning Sea is, for me, much like Pirates! in an MMOG context. That just makes it all the sweeter! And luckily for us, Flying Labs didn't add a dancing mini-game component (Sid, what were you thinking???)
There you have it, thoughts and observations of the Naval Officer in a nutshell. I'll continue to level up the Naval Officer for a future look closer to 'end-game', so stayed tuned for that and other reports on the Freetrader, Privateer, and Pirate classes.
What do you think, am I totally out to lunch? Have I been hitting the rum ration too hard? Give me Hell in our forums.