The universe has a funny way of reminding you that you aren’t as smart
as you think you are sometimes. I have been known to rail on against
the majority of gamers for their dislike and distrust of free-to-play
games. I would deride them for dismissing these games as bad based on
preconceived notions and prejudices. Well guess what? I too have been
found guilty of doing exactly the thing I so ardently campaigned
against. I could attempt to construct a defense for my overlooking of Pirates of the Burning Sea
but my case would be so flimsy it would make Orenthal’s lawyers blush.
Yes, I made the fatal mistake of assuming – assuming that the game was
an attempt to cash in The Pirates of the Caribbean phenomenon.
While there is a strong influence from the Disney ride and movies,
Pirates of the Burning Sea is far from a cheap rip-off. An ambitious
departure from the typical trappings of a fantasy game, PotBS can be a
rewarding experience if you have the patience to wade through its
somewhat deep learning curve.
CautionsPirates of the Burning
is relatively tame by today’s standards, but the high
seas can be a treacherous place full of bloody combat. As always, the
MMOG disclaimer of gameplay experience changing over time is also
It may seem cliché to call Pirates
of the Burning Sea
a niche game, but it truly is one. Set
in the colonial era Caribbean, this multi-faceted title throws players
into a world ripe for the picking and wide open for exploration – and
exploitation. Players choose one of four factions; the empire minded
British, the ruthless Spanish, the cunning French or the catch all
faction of the privateers – the Pirates.
Play opens with a well designed tutorial that walks you through the
major elements of gameplay and sets you up with your own ship to
command. Even early on it becomes obvious that this isn’t the sort of
game where one can simply grab a fistful of quests and rip out into the
open world with little more than a hunch and a pointer on the mini-map
to guide you – reading the quest dialogue and doing a bit of research
is a must.
While the introduction quest line may afford you a basic familiarity
with the game mechanics, it really does little to prepare you for the
brutal open sea. Steep learning curve aside; there are some genuinely
fun moments to be had as soon as you load in. Patient players will be
rewarded with a unique experience that can be as fulfilling to both
casual and hardcore gamer alike.
Character creation is fun and engaging; with thousands of possibilities
available no two captains should ever look exactly the same – however
the popularity of Captain Jack Sparrow seems to have spawned an endless
supply of lookalikes. Customization also comes in what sort of combat
style you chose to train up. Skill points are gained as you level and
are spent in various talent trees along the way.
Combat comes in two distinct forms that sometimes overlap – ship to
ship naval warfare and hand to hand avatar combat which is known here
as Swashbuckling. Where the game excels at ship to ship engagement it
struggles with melee. Perhaps its due to the more real time aspect of
the sea battles and the awkward turn based nature of hand to hand, but
the later feels a bit like an afterthought. Boarding enemy ships during
naval combat is a major component and because of that one cannot escape
the melee element, but don’t get me wrong – melee combat isn’t so bad
that it’s a deal-breaker, it simply isn’t as robust and fulfilling as
exploding your enemies starboard side with cannon fire.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect is just how interconnected each
player becomes to their faction in the effort to exert control over the
territories. Each element of the game, no matter how benign or how solo
oriented, will at some point contribute to your factions greater goals
– giving greater weight and meaning to almost everything you do.
Pirates has every major gameplay element present from PvE quests and
PvP battles to raid instances.
Graphically is where the game owes the most to the
Disney franchise, not so much to Pirates of the Caribbean Online
per se, but to its other major components. Avatars have the full array
of hats, bangles, sashes and eye makeup to choose from to replicate the
look of all the major characters. The world itself is populated by NPCs
that would be just as easily at home inside the original ride in
Anaheim as they are here. Pirates abscond with wenches, townsfolk tarry
at sweeping their porches and drunks lie about in various states of
consciousness while music is played and songs are heartily sung.
The graphics themselves are nothing bleeding edge or worthy of any
special accolades, but they give the game a warm and authentic feel.
They also aren’t terribly taxing on hardware so feel free to ratchet up
the settings to achieve the best possible look.
Where the graphics set you up for the hard sell of believing you are
sailing about the 18th century Caribbean, the sound closes the deal.
Ambient sounds of waves lapping at the shore, floorboards creaking,
various birds calling out and the boisterous music of the locals help
immerse you in the period. Voice work is also well done here with a mix
of cliché and nostalgia that rarely feels forced (unlike your
co-workers on National Speak like a Pirate Day)