Ever logged into a MMO only to feel like you were the only player in the entire world?
Welcome to my Pirates of the Burning Sea (POTBS) trial experience. During my 8 day trial, I didn't see, hear, talk to or generally even find any evidence of other players, down to the auction house that had no player generated listings. Although nice to have my own server, it left things feeling decidedly empty. I even tried the perfect method of finding other players - I, in my newbie fresh meat trial form, turned the PvP flag on - but still saw no one. Hmmm.
Perhaps it was because of the trial I was on. Thanks to Gamearena / Telstra BigPond, there is a long-running free trial for POTBS available. However, given that the original server for this offer is shutting down, I don't think it was that successful.
So, picking the Defiant server - the new one, the server supposedly that players were moving to - I created a character. As an Australian, being French or British held no appeal, being a Pirate was too cliched, so I went with Spain. Since I still wanted to be a bit morally flexible, Privateer was the best class for me.
I'll start off by saying you can make some absolutely great looking avatars in POBTS even at start-up. There is a lot of flexibility to look like a sea captain straight off instead of the typical "brown pyjamas" costume that a lot of MMOs start players off with.
Even newbie captains can look good in POBTS.
From this point, quests split into one of two types - either blow something up with your ship or kill opponents in hand-to-hand combat. Ship combat was both fun and frustrating - fun because there was a definite tactical aspect that had to be learned, but also frustrating when stuck turned into the wind or against opponents you would not be able to defeat (my lvl 8 Privateer found a lvl 11 British frigate in a mission that made short work of me). And, although it was fun to pick a tactic against a target - do I take out the crew and board them? Do I take out the sails? etc - the reality was a lot of time is spent waiting for your cannons to reload to take another shot.
Hand-to-hand avatar combat also had some positives - and made for a nice change of pace from the ship missions - but it felt at times like a less flashy and slower version of City of Heroes / Villains combat. I did like that the sword attacks often had area effects in front of you like the blade was live, but there was a disconnect in action of using the sword and its animation on screen. Hand-to-hand just lacked the connection that such close quarters combat should have to make the situation involving.
Given I seemed to be the only Spanish player online, I thought I'd switch sides and become a Pirate to see if anyone else was around. Unfortunately once you pick a side you are fixed to it, so I was stuck being the only Spanish character online.
All the crafting, trading, shipyards etc aspects also seemed nice from afar, but I was bewildered at the array of options so never did anything other than assign what I collected as loot to character / ship inventory slots.
Perhaps my play experience would be different on another server, but I really didn't find much to hold me to POTBS. The ship content was different, but cursing your vessel as you were stuck into the wind and being pounded by enemy cannons eroded some of the fun of (for example) running a blockade. Hand-to-hand combat lacked that connection I needed to draw me in. Although POTBS looks good and appears to offer players a lot of options, it didn't have what I needed to keep me playing.
Besides, being the only player in a world built for thousands just makes things seem really, really shallow.