Now that the bold new year of 2015 is upon us and we’re striking out into unknown territory, I felt like it was only appropriate that we take a look at MMOs that let you embark on grand voyages of your own. When doing research for this list, I noticed that there are shockingly few MMOs with robust sea-based content. As a result, some of the games on this list feature sailing as an extra feature, while some of the games have sea adventures as the primary gameplay mechanic.
There are of course many games that I missed – so feel free to give a shout out to some of your picks down in the comments below. All in all, it seems that sea-faring adventurers aren’t as popular in MMOs as they are in other mediums. Perhaps that will change in time – until then, these are your best options if you want to set out on the open seas!
5) Darkfall: Unholy Wars
Exploring the open seas is a super focused subgenre within an overall sandbox experience. Rather than limit this list to just sailing games, we wanted to give shoutouts to some of the other sandbox games that offer great sailing mechanics as well.
Darkfall: Unholy Wars is easily the most “sandboxy” game on this list. With very few things limiting your options, you can go from lording over your guild in a large player-owned city, to ruling the open seas from the deck of your warship. Seeing as how the entire game is founded upon full-loot open-world PvP, it isn’t for everyone, but it features some of the most exciting and elaborate naval battles I’ve seen in a game.
4) Voyage Century
Voyage Century has a big benefit in that it’s actually loosely based in our real world. Taking place during the 17tb century, it borrows heavy influences from realistic environments, even down to the classes and how the game is generally structured. Some of the translation leaves a bit to be desired, but it’s easy to look past.
This is also one of the older games on this list, so it’s definitely showing its age, but fans of the genre will surely appreciate its depth and variety in spite of the aging visuals and mechanics. It boasts a huge game world to explore and some character classes, such as the Armed Businessman or Treasure Hunter, offer highly specialized and unique play styles. For game that’s strictly focused on this time period and genre of adventure, this is a solid starting point.
3) Pirates of the Burning Sea
Similarly, Pirates of the Burning Sea also attempts a more “realistic” approach to the genre. However, this time, it’s focused on a more specific region in the Caribbean, allowing players to make characters in Spain, France, or England. While PvP is encouraged in all of the games on this list, Pirates of the Burning Sea has a very meaningful system.
In Pirates, it’s about more than just fighting other players and boosting your kill-death ratio. You can actually go to battle over port control, economic resources, and even levy taxes. Thankfully you can disable PvP by opting off your PvP flag, but it can still be very intrusive if you’re only interested in PvE combat. Overall there are lots of options in this one, which earns it a rank higher than Voyage Century, although it does have a pretty steep learning curve.
2) Uncharted Waters Online
Out of all the games on this list, if you’re looking for the most robust, polished, complex, and focused high-seas experience in an MMO, then Uncharted Waters Online is the game for you without a doubt. It doesn’t have the flashy visuals or additional features of some other games on this list, but it has the most intricate and deep naval options out of them all. Many fans of the game compare it to taking the popular EVE Online and putting everyone on the sea instead of in space, and that’s pretty close to what you’ve got here.
Gameplay is generally split into three different buckets: Trade, Adventure, and Maritime. Trading encompasses everything from crafting, to shipping resources, establishing trade routes, and what seems like an endless number of other possibilities. Adventuring covers your standard questing stuff, with a sea-themed flavor such as treasure hunting, finding artifacts, and finding new areas. Maritime gameplay offers a lot of customization for making your ships unique. Uncharted Waters is dated, rough around the edges, and has another steep learning curve, but it makes up for it. There’s ton of depth here and a super friendly community, so if you want to be a pirate or ship captain and you’re looking for a game that caters to that exact type of theme, then this is easily the game for you.
Deciding between where to rank ArcheAge vs. Uncharted Waters was tough, but ArcheAge won out in the end. It ranked in the top spot partly because it’s fresh and new on the market with a big influx of players right now, but also because it offers a more complete and approachable experience. While it is far from being an easy game to pick up and get into without any guidance, it’s a far cry from the walls of text and tutorials present in Uncharted Waters.
Taking that and also factoring in the fact that the rest of the game is incredibly polished and fun to play, and you can realize that ArcheAge is a more well-rounded and complete experience. When it comes to the actual sailing and sea-based experiences, it truly feels like something you’ve had to work for. You don’t start the game with a ship – you have to actually work for it and earn it over time. The hostile PvP environment and pirate clan of players make the open seas an incredible dangerous place, which adds even more entertainment to an already exciting game. Check out our ArcheAge review for more details on what ArcheAge has to offer, but as it stands right now, it’s your best bet to get your sailing fix.
The subgenre of sailing isn’t quite as well represented as say, traditional high fantasy or even sci-fi MMOs, but you’ve still got options. If you want something a bit more old-school and complex, check out Uncharted Waters or Voyager Century. If you’re looking for a more polished and approachable sea-focused adventure, then maybe Pirates of the Burning Sea is more up your alley. Then if you want something that’s more dangerous with a focus on overall PvP and robust options for land and sea combat, Darkfall and ArcheAge are great options.
What are some of your favorite MMOs to play to get your sailing and sea fix?