Pirates of the Burning Sea

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Overview

Pirates of the Burning Sea Overview

Pirates of the Burning Sea is currently the only MMORPG that takes strategic naval combat straight from Sid Meier’s Pirates! and shoves it into the MMO model.  This isn’t your usual Saturday-night grindfest; there is no tanking and spanking. Strategy, planning and coordination are the order of the day.  For the niche it fills, it’s extremely well-implemented, and there are few things more satisfying than demolishing an enemy with a well-placed broadside.

Once you’ve spent some time creating your character by selecting from an impressive range of colonial clothing, you’ll be prompted to choose your allegiance: Spain, France, England or Bretheren (pirates). If you choose a nation, you will notice no difference beyond aesthetics.   These “national” factions all have access to the three core classes:

Naval Officer -  The only class in the game that gets access to the enormous ships-of-the-line.  Don’t expect to get those zippy little corsairs lined up with your broadside often, but when you do, expect them to explode into a plume of splinters and gore.

Privateer – Privateers do well in packs, and can enter pirate PVP zones to disguise their faction and attack  ships without incriminating their nation.  Their skills are centered around stealth on the open sea, disabling, and boarding combat.

Freetrader – The economic hit-men. Run blockades, work the system and buy high, sell low. Your skills revolve around enhancing production, trade and the ability to evade harassment on the open sea, as well as escape combat when intercepted.  Arguably the most important class in the game, as ports must be attacked economically to throw them into contention.

Pirate – Pirates are the only unique faction.  They can’t take over ports, but they can attack them and loot them when vulnerable.  They also have the ability to steal the ships of enemy players upon defeating them.  It’s a hard life, though, as everyone is out to nail your hide to a post.  Since patch 1.4, pirates have been divided into two classes – the Cutthroat, which steals ships and focuses on pure combat, and the Buccaneer, which can redeem ship deeds for rewards, and focuses more on support.

Pirates of the Burning Sea Screenshots

Pirates of the Burning Sea Featured Video

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Full Review

Pirates of the Burning Sea Review

By B. Olivia

PotBS began development at Flying Lab Studios way back in the days of 2002.  Once it began, they realized they had a complex beast on their hands, and development took far longer than initially anticipated.  We didn’t see the release of this game until early 2008, clocking the development at around six years.  It’s easy to blame this for the dated graphics, but it’s also nice to see a company that doesn’t rush release dates and demand payment for a half-baked product (I’m looking at you, Age of Conan.)  What we have as a result is an MMO that resembles a union between EVE Online and Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean – this is a good thing, as EVE’s charisma is sorely lacking.

For years, many have complained that nearly all games since the birthing World of Warcraft have been shaped crudely in its image (as befits a deity), and that there is no escaping its influence in the realm of the MMORPG.  Well, these people obviously haven’t played Pirates of the Burning Sea: this is about as far away from WoW as it gets.

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PotBS – He’s a Complicated Man

The learning curve is about as gentle as a sheer cliff, but if you stick it out and learn the basics (the tutorial is decent, but not enough), you’ll find mastering personal strategies, unlocking and customizing new ships, and opening up new abilities to be weirdly fun.  The game is entertaining solo, but coordinating with fleets of player ships in real-time is one of the most unique and deeply satisfying gameplay experiences I’ve had. The sheer range of tactical options available in combat is staggering, all of which are affected by your choice of ship, class, and rigging.

Every Battle is a Snowflake…

Do you want to disable their sails with chain shot and board them?  Outmaneuver them with your faster ship, avoiding their broadside and punching holes through their prow?  Or would you rather load up on cannons and armor, becoming a nigh immobile, but extremely dangerous floating fortress?  Whatever you choose, managing the wind and maneuvering the battlefield is extremely challenging and rewarding, and no two skirmishes are ever really the same.  Not a lot of MMORPGs can claim that.

16842  500x375 pirates of the burning sea travel seas

Blood in the Water, Coins in the Purse

So, what about the big picture?  It’s all about PVP, taxes, port control and shipping goods.  We can’t exactly have the colonial era without faction-based conflict and squabbling over spices, can we?

You can avoid conflict by avoiding the pirate PVP zones, and by never opting to have your PVP flag on.  In fact, you can theoretically get all the way from level 1 to max without every being accosted by another player at sea, but like many theories, this one falls apart when you throw human beings into the mix.  By attacking ports economically, opposing nations can turn the area around them on the world map into pirate PVP zones, and eventually attack the port itself, taking it over for their nation if successful.  It’s exciting, but it can get frustrating when all you want to do is quest around, while all the big boys and girls are slugging it out.

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Fair Game

Running away is usually (usually) a viable option, and naval officers of any nation can potentially come to your aid if you’re intercepted by pirates or privateers at sea (assuming you aren’t one yourself.)  It’s also worth mentioning that this chaos only lasts so long.  On a weekly basis, all of the ports are reset, which removes every PVP zone, and puts everything back to square one.  This means that nations that are underpopulated (like poor Spain) won’t be spending eternity getting themselves ground into dust.  In fact, there is implementation that allows members of underpopulated factions to gain double XP, and more frequent drops from NPCs!  Quite an incentive.

So there it is.  PotBS is essentially a much lighter EVE Online, except without the inhuman, maddening void staring at you from your monitor at all times.  Which reminds me…

16833  500x375 pirates of the burning sea naval combat

It’s got character!

It seems like a trifle, but I liked this game’s aesthetics so much, I had to give them a special mention.  The music is delightful, the port towns are full of life, and while the graphics aren’t cutting edge, the game makes up for it with personality.  I absolutely love the character creator and the outfits.  Some of the ambient sounds and NPC conversations are rather hilarious (especially in the bars in French ports), and it’s very clear just how much love Flying Lab Studios put into this game.

And Now Its Free!

Pirates of the Burning Sea started its journey as a subscription based game, but on November 29, 2010 the game completed its transition to a free to play (F2P) title. PotBS isn’t the first MMORPG by Sony Online Entertainment to make the switch, EverQuest 2 made it earlier in the same year. An optional subscription called a ‘Captain’s Club membership’ is still available and gives players access to premium content. Alternatively, this premium content can now be purchased in small pieces through the in-game ‘Treasure Isle’ shop. Free to play users still have access to much of the games content. In fact PotBS is much more “Free” than games like EverQuest 2 and The Lord of the Rings Online, which restrict free to play users a bit more. This new micro-transaction supported model removes many of the barriers to entry and opens the game to a much larger player base. One of the biggest flaws in Pirates of the Burning Sea has been its shrinking playerbase, but the switch to F2P should quickly remedy that problem. Expect future SOE games to make the same transition in the years ahead!

Final Verdict – Great

PotBS is a charming game that dares to be different in a market where everyone is terrified of deviating away from what “works” economically.  Of course, given that development began well before WoW was released, I can’t exactly give Flying Lab props for breaking the recent trend (by the time WoW did come out, they’d probably invested too much to back out – points for following through!)  The community is surprisingly kind, the dev team is colorful, and if you’re into strategic gameplay,  then I encourage you to give this one a try.  Sample a title that really does break the MMO mold, and actually doesn’t fail because of it.  That alone should be indicative of high-quality design.

Screenshots

Pirates of the Burning Sea Screenshots

Videos

Pirates of the Burning Sea Videos

Pirates of the Burning Sea Character Creation Video

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Pirates of the Burning Sea Official Trailer

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Pirates of the Burning Sea Naval Combat

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Pirates of the Burning Sea Gameplay Video

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Pirates of the Burning Sea Gameplay Trailer

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System Requirements

Pirates of the Burning Sea System Requirements

Minimum Requirements:
OS: Windows XP / Vista
CPU: Pentium 4 1.5 GHz / AMD XP 2500+ or better
RAM: 512 MB or more
HDD: 6 GB Free
Graphics Card: NVidia GeForce FX 5700, ATI Radeon 9600, or equivalent 128MB VGA Card

Recommended Specifications:
OS: Windows Vista / XP
CPU: Pentium 4 2 GHz
RAM: 1024 MB (1 GB)
HDD: 6 GB Free
Graphics Card: NVIDIA GeForce 6600, ATI X850, or equivalent 256MB VGA Card

 
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