We had the opportunity to take a first glance at the upcoming "story driven nautical warfare epic" Pirates of the Burning Sea at the NY Comic Con this past week. Let me cut to the gravy and keep it real for you. The game looks exciting and the developers have a very set opinion about their product and the direction they are heading in their game. It may not pull in the staggering numbers of a World of Warcraft , it's newer, better looking, more tactically sound, and more innovative than many other MMOs out there right now. This little gem will also give the crazed pirate zealot fans the chance to live out their ideal fantasy world and will inspire many more to foster a new love for the more classic style of adventure. This little gem will also give the crazed pirate zealot fans the chance to live out their ideal fantasy world and will inspire many more to foster a new love for the more classic style of adventure.
Pirates of the Burning Sea is best classified as an adventure driven tactical MMO. You play the role of an aspiring captain pledging your loyalty to one of three nations: Spain, England, France, or become a rebel by living a life as a pirate! These four factions work toward the ultimate goal of conquest in the Caribbean. As we sat at the Flying Labs booth you couldn't help but notice the lines of fans forming and stopping by to play. I would dare to say that it was the longest line of any of the video games present at the Convention and longer than most of the other booths, now if only they had booth babes!
The graphics, though still in beta testing, are what I would call standard for the new generation of MMOs. Let's face it; this is what games should look like in 2007, not like some Saturday morning cartoon from the mid-80s. Flying Labs uses a very detailed and highly stylized chipset with colorful backgrounds to set the bar for other MMOs. From facial expressions down to the embroidery on your coat, many details go into making your character unique and distinguishable. It's very unlike other popular MMOs where you all farm the same dungeons, get the same armor, and look exactly the same. You can customize and choose at creation from over fifty blends of colors to give yourself a unique look. Or keep it simple and use guild colors so people know who you are with. Speaking of guilds and customization, did I mention that you can design your own guild flag in MS Paint and submit it to be imported into the game? I know I plan on importing over my guild's cloak design from old Dark Age of Camelot and flying it along with the same colors just so people know we are the same group from previous games. When you can't tell your enemies apart they just all blend together, but when they look distinct you remember them, hate them, and a rivalry starts.
On display at the convention was the nautical combat in which you pilot a ship and avatar combat in which your actual character fights it out with enemies. The nautical combat was not quite what you are used to seeing in an MMO. Most have fast action or even use of twitch mechanics. This was a tactical fight as you control ships and protected yourself from oncoming barrages. Where your guns are, how long you take to reload, which direction you are facing, how far away the enemy is, and most important which direction the wind is blowing all determine the outcome of the battle. Special tactics and ammo can also be used to try different types of assault. For example, if you are the British navy trying to kill a vessel of Pirates, you would use exploding cannon balls to destroy the hull and sink the ship. The same pirates seeing the British ship has a crew built for firing cannons and not melee combat would try to use ammo to knock out the rudder and leave the ship dead in the water ready to be boarded by bloodthirsty Pirates! Yes sports fans, you can board ships and duke it out for control. Imagine this; you are a small band of French sailors in a small schooner. You see a forty-gun English warship on its way to a contested port, you maneuver behind her using the wind to your advantage and turn your side and position all of your guns to the rear of the warship. You open fire for her rudder so they ca not steer. After you successfully knock out the rudder they ca not bring their guns to bear on your schooner. You prepare to attack in an aggressive move trying to overcome 2-1 odds and take the prized ship for your own! You board the ship, cutlass and pistol in hand and a battle ensues. Just when it looks like all is lost, another ship pulls up along side the warship, it's your guild mate coming to board the ship with you and turn the tide of battle! You like that idea don't ya?
Here's another tactic; you are a civil merchant ship trying to get to Cuba until you are attacked by a Spanish warship, you can use special ammo to knock out the sails, thus preventing the ship from giving chase as you make your getaway. This takes a lot of skill and planning, but here is something to worry a lot of people, yes you can die as a higher level person to a lower level ship if you get out piloted. For example if I am a level forty trade ship who just got finished outrunning pirates and my aft is damaged, a level twenty warship with a great pilot can out maneuver me and get enough shots in at my aft to sink my ship! While this is an extreme example and normally would not happen, it's still in the game. Players with high a high pilot skill and use of tactics will find themselves excelling at naval warfare and actually gives lesser powered players a chance to add to PvP combat. Don't worry though, for all those who are more to the "might make right" mindset, there is always avatar combat!
In avatar combat you will engage the enemy without the aid of your ship. You can finesse powerful strikes with Rapier Style fighting, go more defensive and fight Florentine style, or even get down and gritty with the less honorable Dirty Fighting. Each style has advantages and disadvantages and equally balance one another out making your play style the real choice. For example, I was able to play as a dirty fighting Spanish captain. I was in a fight against a Florentine style brute and was more on the losing end of the combat. Well I kicked dirt in his eye to blind him, as he held his eyes to recover, I stomped on his foot. He reacted to by grabbing his foot and hopping up and down in pain. I took this opportunity to turn and run down the street around the corner into the alley. It was at this time I was able to load and cock my musket and bring it to bear and shot my pursuer in the face as he rounded the corner in chase of me. Now that's gangster! Well you aren't going to be like Scarface and shoot down whole rooms filled with people, but you can be like Scarface in other ways and beat people in their pocket before you beat them with a gun, more on that later.
Another part of the PvP is the elder game where you attack ports and try to wrest total control of them to eventually gain total domination of the Caribbean. Sinking ships, blowing up ports and burning everything to the ground however is not the only way to victory. You play the destruction route to maim, murder, and cause havoc with your warship. Or you can play the smuggler route and have a fast ship to outrun trouble. You can even be an adventurous Captain Jack Sparrow type where you find riches and rare wealth. You can also make friends in very high (and low) places to secure the power you need. As a premier smuggler, err I mean "entrepreneur" you can undercut the market and off set the local economy to weaken it for your teams control. Players create the PvP zones. You can choose to stay away from the action around ports (then again why would you) or you can enter the fight. Ports are stable for a time until they become weak and then once in conflict they become an open PvP area. This goes on until one faction gains control. Ports become weakened in three ways, by hurting the economy, through quests to earn favor or "conquest points", or by just blowing up everything you see then coming on land and stabbing them the old fashion way. When the port goes into conflict a red PvP area opens up on the map. Anyone who sails into this area is flagged for PvP and thus fair game. So if you have to deliver goods to Cuba and it's in conflict, you better have a fast ship or you may be making a "donation" to the opposing faction's treasury. When a port goes into conflict the defending faction tries to re-establish it. One faction must defend while the other three fight over who can lay claim to the area. The faction that puts the most "conquest points" into taking over the port then fights it out with the defending team for ultimate control. So no matter what type of gamer you are and what your play style is, you can get in on the PvP and take an active part in the games conquest.
Keep in mind the other nations and careers will have access to separate types of ships and weapons. However with the player run economy things can be bought and sold. That's right I said player run economy! Think of the supply and demand type of player structure that is in EvE Online. To put a cherry on top of it, you can get XP and money from trade and craft as you further become a prominent member of the faction's economy. So yes, you can really be a smuggler and never get in a fight in your life. Get a fast ship, large sails, a bright crew and craft, trade or sell your way into becoming the ultimate nautical gangster.
Players will also have available both epic and legendary quests. In epic questing you will have the standard get twenty five people together to tackle a very hard menace for rewards, recipes, and perhaps even rare ships! The emphasis on epic questing is working together to attain your ultimate goal. Now the cool part is also legendary questing in which you relive actual historical events. This certainly brings the historical appeal to Pirates of the Burning Sea. Players who are fans of the old school pirates may get some fun role playing opportunities here.
In speaking with content director Jess Lebow, he assured me that the team will actively work to balance the game and undo mistakes. I was promised even things like admitting a mistake was made and removing skills abilities or items will be part of the process. Fun is the main focus at Flying Labs, but not at the expense of balance. Look for Pirates of the Burning Sea to provide fun, excitement, and especially a breath of fresh air to the landscape of MMORPGs.