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Looking at the Early Game

William Murphy Posted:
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The ship I was captaining is relatively small and swift, but with rather weak guns. I was told that the game's larger ships hold hundreds of guns. I was okay with my handful on either side. It was the newbie tutorial after all. Ship combat is certainly a different beast from what most games have on offer, and I'd have been really sad if it was handled as simply as having ships take the places of Tank/DPS/Healer.

Instead what Flying Lab has done is offer a relatively authentic experience (I'm assuming, as I've never been in a frigate battle before) that is very reminiscent of Sid Meier's Pirates! for the PC, if albeit a little slower paced. I would imagine the pacing of sea combat is one part realism and one part due to the scope of larger PvP battles that come into play later in the game. If things were too fast, combat wouldn't be fun, it'd be a mess of people constantly turning left and smashing the spacebar to shoot.

After taking out the two ships to complete the tutorial, I was briefly confused about how to get out. You see, in ship encounters once the fight has ended you have to click a little exit button down in the lower right above your mini-map. I'm sure it was mentioned somewhere in the tutorial, but I missed it and wound up waiting for something to happen for a few moments before my horrid vision caught sight of the aforementioned flashing button.

PotBS is a game that relies heavily on instancing. Port towns are instanced, the open sea is its own instance, and each time you fight a ship on said sea you are transported to a private instance for you and your team/enemies. Still, unlike in other games where such a set-up might bother me, it doesn't here. The load times are short enough, and perhaps the necessity for having each section of the game presented in this manner makes enough sense for the loading screens to not throw off my sense of immersion. Of course I'd love it if there was nothing but hundreds of ships all over and in every port in one massive replica of the Caribbean, but something tells me that this development task would be nothing short of Herculean.

The last thing I sampled in my short reintroduction to the game was the economy. One of PotBS' biggest selling points is its in-depth crafting and trading game, and I don't think I can do it justice by explaining it here, especially when I know so little of it myself still. In short each player is given several plots of land to use at his disposal. Warehouses can be constructed to hold your various goods, lumber mills and shipyards can be erected and used for production, and the resulting goods can then be sold or used by the player towards his own gain. What I found interesting is that things on sale at one port aren't automatically on sale at another, creating a need for an actual trade system in the game. I began to wonder if there was a player-run group that acted something like the East India Trading Company or not.

After I'd done the initial tutorials for combat and the economy, I decided to call it a night and try to let all this new pirating info seep in. If I have any bad things to say about the game based on my first couple hours, I would have to point mainly at the steep learning curve. Surely some folks might see this as a way to weed out the unwanted, but if a game desires to succeed it needs to be easy to pick-up and difficult to master, not just the latter. Still, I'm the type to be intrigued by something unique, and that's definitely what Pirates of the Burning Sea is. There is plenty to like for fans of the nautical era, and plenty to learn for someone looking for a new game. The land-based combat seems a little awkward, and the visuals for this part of the game seem dated, but the ship combat and intriguing economy are enough to keep me wanting more.

Hopefully that sentiment will continue after I've lost a few ships in PvP combat. At the very least, I hope my thirst for revenge outweighs my desire to pout. It'll be a close call.

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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.