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Looking at the Early Game

William Murphy Posted:
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When Pirates of the Burning Sea first launched, I can recall being really excited to get into it, start swinging my cutlass, and battening the hatches. I had dabbled in the beta and was eager to see the game at release. Then, for some reason or another I never actually got around to joining the fray. Maybe my thirst for the Johnny Depp movies had faded and my lust to play a pirate disappeared with it, or maybe this was one time when the hype of a new launch was actually resisted by this humble writer. In any case, I've recently begun playing the title which is now two years live, and I'm slowly starting to wonder why I waited so long.

The character creation system is fairly in-depth. There's not a lot to choose from in terms of body-size and shape, but there is a wealth of options for clothing, facial hair, hats, boots, piercings, and all of the usual seafarer trappings. I decided, like so many people have done I'm sure, to create a pirate at the outset. Let's not fool ourselves, here. Maybe some people would love to be Spanish, French or English militants and traders, but I'm still vainly clinging to the childhood desire to buck some swashes and swing on a rope from ship to ship with a blade in my teeth.

Interestingly enough I was greeted with two options for my pirate's "class". Added in patch 1.4, players can choose from either the Cutthroat or the Buccaneer. The former has the ability to commandeer defeated ships, while the Buccaneer is more of a "commanding" pirate who can collect defeated ship deeds and give bonuses to allied ships. The thought of commandeering was too strong to resist, so I picked the Cutthroat. I slapped on some fancy curled mustache, gave the guy a proper pirate hat and coat, and JoBildo Murphy (catchy, I know) was born.

The initial combat tutorial started with yours truly breaking out of the cells on a ship... was it naval? I don't think so. In my confusion of figuring everything out the first time, I'm not too clear on the story. I was more concerned with what button does what and how to not die. One of the first things I did notice was that the camera control seems a little heavy or slow for my tastes. I'm used to navigating while using the mouse to steer, and it just wasn't comfortable feeling. The simple fix? Once I started using the WASD keys, all was well. Still, I'm going to have to dig into the UI to see if I can change sensitivity. This little issue wasn't a deal breaker or anything, just something worth noting.

I was then instructed to clear out some invading pirates from the ship using my razor sharp rapier... which I had no clue how to use. Luckily in PotBS, the developers have seemingly color-coded the hotkeys. Using my primal instincts, I deduced that the red buttons with the stabby-stab actions depicted on them were probably attacks, while the others didn't matter a lick of beans to me right now because I needed to stabby-stab. Flying Lab Software did me a nice favor however by placing a hotkey on the bar that pops up some basic avatar controls. I was right... red means stabby-stab.

I literally hacked my way through some poor pirate lads and made my way to the captain of the ship. In true pirate fashion, I took control of the wheel and was told the invading pirates were still out on the open sea and that I should take them out if I planned on surviving. Or something along those lines. Like I said, the story's fuzzy. I was far too occupied with trying to get my sea-legs so to speak. One thing was certain within my first few minutes of playing: Pirates of the Burning Sea is not your everyday MMO. There are a lot of new things to learn and it's all thrown at you rather quickly. While a lot of it is clearly written out for you and even illustrated at times, I still found the amount of info to take in somewhat disorienting. But that doesn't mean I wasn't having fun.

I took control of the ship's wheel and was off to more evenly-paced combat. Here things are a lot slower than most gamers might be used to. But I was glad for the more realistic pacing of ship combat, because it gave me time to figure out what everything was. I only had some basic round shot on hand, which means I wouldn't be taking out the rigging or the crew with the other two types for these fights. Luckily I didn't need to. The enemy ships were really weak, but served as a good introduction to what sea combat is all about: approach, timing, and maneuvering.

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William Murphy

Bill is the former Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.