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E3 Preview

Reed Hubbard Posted:
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An Englishman surveys the town square

Down she goes as the pirates win another battle

The French fleet awaits as an English 64-gun dreadnought approaches

Live from E3 – Thursday, May 19

The ATi booth is the showcase for a number of games, including the upcoming swashbuckling ship combat title from Flying Lab Software, Pirates of the Burning Sea. John Tynes and Rusty Williams of Flying Lab spent some time showing off their new game and did a fine job of impressing all who saw it.

The game takes place on the Spanish Main during the colorful time of pirates and privateers. Players will have the ability to choose from three nationalities (English, French, or Spanish) or may opt to become a pirate. Tynes showed off some of the character customization options, which currently include 14 areas from hats and bags to peg legs and hook. No parrots on the shoulder just yet, but players will be able to change just about everything to create their own version of Captain Kidd or Horatio Hornblower, depending on one’s leanings.

“Each player will have his own unique supporting cast,” Tynes explains, meaning that one player will visit one set of NPCs for his quests, where another will meet with an entirely different set while running the same quests. The interesting aspect comes in when one player’s deadly nemesis may be another player’s cousin. How these intersecting relationships will manifest themselves within the actual game remains to be seen, but suffice it to say there will be some interesting story arcs.

The Spanish Main will be populated with over 100 ports, each of which will be controlled by a different nationality. Players will be able trade between towns, bringing in an interesting commodities trading feature to the game. Want to be a trader? No problem, but beware of pirates who may attack and plunder your vessel somewhere between Tortola and Curacao. NPC pirates will abound, but player pirates may also attack in PvP areas, which Williams estimates will encompass at least 30% of the map at any given times. If a city is owned by the Spanish, English players will be able to run several quests to destabilize the city. Once the city becomes vulnerable, the area around the port will become a PvP zone where Spanish players may retaliate, French players may choose sides to become a kingmaker, and pirates may just sail in to cause some general mischief and loot those big merchant vessels.

Pirates will not be allowed to destabilize a town nor take it over, but they will be able to raid ports and plunder some rather nice loot. There will also be pirate ports that are full-time PvP. Nationalities won’t be able to overthrow pirate ports, but they will be welcome to sail in and exact a bit of maritime justice against those who may have hit their port earlier.

There are four main classes of ships planned, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. Scout ships, Hunter ships, Support ships, and Dreadnoughts will be available to players who earn the ability to captain them. The exception is the pirate class, who will only be allowed to start with a scout ship. Pirates may attack and take over other ships, however, including a 104-gun class 1 dreadnought. This will take some doing, but a determined pirate is a formidable foe and seeing one on the horizon at the command of a large ship will certainly be met with fear.

Battle is most impressive. Crewmembers pull ropes to position cannons and cover their ears when the guns are fired. Different types of ammo may be loaded to do various types of damage. Chainshot can be used to tear up sails, barshot may be aimed at masts, and grapeshot is fired at crewmembers. As a ship takes damage, holes appear in the hull, sails become tattered, and cannons explode, throwing crewmen overboard in the process. There is the option to drop sails and repair at sea, but if your opponent is still active, you become a sitting duck.

According to Tynes, the game will enter beta in the fall with a scheduled release for winter. Flying Lab Software will be distributing the game via Steam, so players will be able to purchase online and receive streaming updates, eliminating the need for scheduled patches. With beautiful graphics (water effects are particularly gorgeous), highly detailed ships, and engaging combat, Pirates of the Burning Sea is one to watch. For more about this title, visit the official website at http://www.piratesoftheburningsea.com.


Reed Hubbard