Pirates of the Burning Sea Review (PC)

Flying Lab Software has unleashed a Battle Royale on a young Caribbean with Pirates, Colonial Empires and the honest merchant all looking for their slice of the coffee bean.

Despite its appearances Pirates of the Burning Sea is as much about economic survival and exploitation as it is leading a naval legacy.† Underneath those clear and murky waters lie an entrepreneurís financial dream and nightmare combined, there are so many goods to be gathered, made and bartered itís nigh impossible to think where to start.† In fact the game has a harsh learning curve that any sea dog or MMO enthusiast will find startling.† Poor UI design hinders things along the way making the journey from newbie to novice.† Still its battles at sea are fantastic with ships dancing around one another ready for the kill, blasting cannons into lofty nationals and pirates are well thought out.

Speed can make a difference during combat
The open sea is open game for piracy

Creating your infamous Captain involves customizing him or her, face type, type of shirt, coat, shoes etc and what colour schemes go with them.† You can have the peg leg, eye patch too with more options like the complimentary shoulder parrot being earned which you can then add at a tailors shop.† Aesthetics aside, youíll then choose what nation you serve, Great Britain, France, Spain or Pirate.† Once youíve sworn your allegiance you then have to decide your career as either a Naval Captain ready to serve and command the largest of vessels, a Privateer commissioned by their superiors to cause sanctioned havoc, a Merchant ready to trade chests of doubloons and master finance or the 'free' life of a Pirate who answers to none.

The strong point of Pirates is undoubtedly the ship-to-ship combat; it is after all a naval simulation at its core.† Land or onboard battles are far less spectacular and feel greatly inferior to the majesty of cannons and sails.† Not surprisingly the range of ships on offer is big, there are over 50 different vessels altogether with each carrying detailed statistics much like youíd expect a weapon would in any RPG.† Itís when these bad-boys are taken into combat can you really see how they measure up but simply having the most cannons on deck to unleash hell isnít enough.† Each battle demands tactics from the player, armour, hull integrity, speed, wind direction, crew morale, crew size, sail integrity, distance Ė all these are constant factors which can work for or against you.† Boarding an enemy vessel can be one sure way to end an engagement but only if your crew outnumbers theirs and if youíre confident of your swordsmanship.

Most actions contribute in some way to the Nations war effort
Sword combat is at times hectic and flawed

Like any role-play game youíll be levelling up but being a lowly five doesnít mean you can contribute to battles involving more hardened Captains.† You can also start providing support for your nation from the moment you enter the game world, thereís no need to spend gruelling hours grinding away for experience just so you can hope to earn the chance of participating in epic struggles.† The little guy or gal can be just as useful amongst the veterans, smaller ships after all can move a heck of a lot faster.† This cohesion of levels and skills is fantastic in Pirates of the Burning Sea; all degrees can join in and feel a part of the struggle for the Caribbean at any time.

You can store a number of ships at a dry dock so taking the war galleon out for a quick spin doesnít mean youíre now stuck with it.† Additionally the ships themselves can be upgraded just like equipping new gear works for your avatar, effectively you have two characters to nurture, the one with two legs (real or wooden) and the big floating egomaniac looking to own the water.† Gear can be produced through manufacturing, bought from others directly or by auction house Ė standard stuff.† The auction house itself is something of a muddle as thereís little in the way of filtering through the mass, a level applicable option would have been helpful but alas.

The player economy thrives off businesses or lots that each player can develop and use to produce their wares.† Gamers looking for a simple economy model, like World of Warcraftís, will be daunted but with such a vast array of goods comes greater freedom to try your hand at the marketplace.† Before setting up a plantation, manufacturing plant etc you first need to build a warehouse which all your goods will transfer to automatically.† Each plot also has designated labour to be spent so you canít work them constantly and certain materials are only available at certain ports.† Where ever there is a public port you can start building your financial empire, thereís advantages to putting all your eggs in one basket but should that port fall under new management then prepare to suffer the consequence.† Likewise if you spread out your operations then goods that need to travel to your other sites may well come under attack from pirates.† Warehouses can store items you pickup along the way and also you have foot the bill of maintenance to keep your businesses running.† The whole economic model could do with a greater tutorial, preferably one that doesnít involve an annoying quest line that asks you to keep entering and exiting the same darn room again and again.

The quests are well written and have a pinch of humour about them; theyíre fun to participate in so plunging into PvE for a few hours isnít a boring chore and usually will land you with a few handy items.† You can choose to sail into the open sea and go for an old fashion grind, picking on pirate stragglers for booty and experience.† PvP is every bit as fun as well, fighting another player is completely different from AI ships and grouping with other players to take on infamous bosses for hordes of glory helps keep the heart pounding.† Joining a Society (guild) is an ideal goal to help keep your own ships and monetary interests afloat; the solo life is just as entertaining though.

All these high sea shenanigans are the life-blood of the meta-game playing out constantly even if a player doesnít bother involving themselves much.† Completing certain PvE missions, randomly attack national vessels or peddling your wares into a foreign port all help create unrest points for your chosen nation.† When these go high enough a battle timer will start and when that time finally arrives a naval battle erupts for control of the settlement.† These battles can be large with twenty-five ships aside, a perilous and exciting gauntlet of cannon fire plays out so if youíre a small fish its best to weave throughout allies for cover.† Of course thereís a major incentive to see your nation the dominant power in the Caribbean, if at any time one side controls 75% of the conquerable ports then victory is declared and the server resets with the winning nation justly rewarded.† An excellent lure to throw players into a never ending tug-of-war for ports; some canít be taken for reasons of the economy, balance and to help new players get adjusted.

Quest stories are rarely a bore to read through
Naval battles are beautiful to watch and play

Land battles are an interesting thing but suffer from UI flaws the most, you have to manage health and balance above all.† Balance is what enables you to keep blocking and parrying but is used up when you go on the offensive.† Waves of reinforcements can be called to aid you unless a mission is scripted otherwise, these have to be managed carefully and afford you the chance to comeback should you fall in battle.† Taking down the crew number of an enemy ship greatly increases your chance of surviving a hostile boarding encounter.† Itís always best to aim for their captain, if they have no reinforcements then their crew will surrender otherwise you can respawn and get another chance.† There are three schools of swordsmanship but donít provide that tight and balanced feel of the sea.
Like most MMORPGs youíll be using skill trainers to help you improve abilities and hopefully last longer at sea.†

The UI as mentioned earlier is no friend in this department, abilities are vital to win through tactics, some will sacrifice crew morale but let you quickly repair some damage to your ship or increase defence.† Naval Officers for example are good for support roles, boosting stats of their nearby allies to help put down opposition.† Hopefully a major overhaul is planned to alleviate the woes of sorting through the UI, not a lot is explained in how to customise it.

Thereís no doubt that Flying Lab have created the best online sea-faring adventure there is for players to get their fix of the Caribbean with such a large, intricate and growing community.† Battling in the name of empires has stirred up some fierce patriotism and its fun to defend or lay siege for the glory of your nation.† The biggest flaws are the UI and lack of a robust tutorial system which is enough to cripple interest and morale of a new player.† Thereís so much action on offer and an economic model just waiting for overzealous accountants to wrestle with that itís still worth the unfortunate confusion in the beginning.† Pirates of the Burning Sea is definitely worth a good long sail for anyone in love with the Caribbean of the 18th century.† Way anchor and claim your fortune, ship by ship, port by port Ė just donít forget your parrot.

Top Game Moment:† Watching a fleet of your nation lay waste to scurvy backstabbing pirates never disappoints, especially when thereís booty to be confiscated.