Pirates of the Burning Sea

Written by Joe Martin

January 30, 2008 | 08:13

Tags: #burning #guybrush #island #lotr #mmo #mmorpg #monkey #online #pirates #pirates-of-the-burning-sea #sea #ship #soe #warcraft #wow

Companies: #sony

Rig the mainsail

Unfortunately, my plans of character creation were limited somewhat. I spent at least an hour sculpting my character to be look as much as possible like the Monkey Island 2 iteration of Guybrush Threepwood. Blue coat, gold buttons, stupid shoes, laughable stubble and long hair – you certainly can’t fault the character customisation aspect of the game.

Then I found out that Sony had blocked players from using the name Guybrush Threepwood in the game. It wasn’t that somebody already had the name – it was specifically blocked. I felt sad and resorted to naming myself after another Lucasarts creation; Mancomb Seepgood.

That was blocked too. Distraught, I came up with a hononym. I introduce you Gaibrush Thiftweed. Ugh.

Now, Sony’s main focus in Pirates of the Burning Sea has clearly been to try and get players thrown into the action as quickly as possible and not leave them stagnating in tutorials. The developer is smart enough to know that MMO games need to have massive amounts of players in order to be fun, so they want to funnel players into the game proper as quickly as possible.

Unfortunately, that knife cuts both ways and, though I was quickly able to get on the high seas and start my gallivanting, I didn’t have a full understanding of the game mechanics and had to pause to re-read the in game-help several times.

Pirates of the Burning Sea Gameplay
I'm Gaibrush Thriftweed, Mighty Wanna-be! Marvel, as I speak without a mouth!

The basic control system is streamlined and very simple. WASD to move; number buttons and mouse buttons to are used for targeting and using skills. It makes combat seem a bit dull at first, just charging into battle and pressing a handful of number buttons, but the reality is that the tutorial doesn’t adequately explain the intricacies of combat.

Pirates of the Burning Sea is built on a very classical and dramatic presentation of swordplay – therefore there are three stats to pay attention to; life, balance and initiative. Life speaks for itself, but balance and initiative are a little trickier. Balance, which is represented by the circle around your player, is another word for defence. Good balance means you are more defensible, harder to knock over and so on. Balance can be knocked down by prepatory attacks, which do less Life damage, but focus on knocking you off-balance.

Next is initiative, which is a measure of your boldness. Initiative is useful for special moves and finishers which do high Life damage.

There are also three schools of swordplay style, each of which has strengths and weaknesses. Dirty Fighting was my method of choice and was the style best suited to a pirate as it tends to focus on using a cutlass and pistol to do damage. Fencing, the speediest of the fighting styles, is best suited to Naval Officers and those who have a sense of decorum, while Florentine is a balanced and very showy style that uses a sword and dagger combo.

Pirates of the Burning Sea Gameplay Pirates of the Burning Sea Gameplay
Character clipping seems to be a big problem for the game (right)

I know, it all sounds a little complex. It isn’t though. Ship combat on the other hand – that’s complex. Ships all differ in terms of speed, range, weapon types and so on for starters and players have to learn the different types of ammo and how each is suited for different situations. Loading your cannons correctly and firing at the right time is critical to succeeding.

Controlling the ship is the hardest part of all though as, naturally, your direction is mostly dependant on the direction and strength of the wind. This facet of ship navigation means that ship combat is realistic, but a tad frustrating and dull. All too often it’s a case of performing massive turning circles and spending a long time sailing against the wind at minimal speeds.

One thing that is especially praiseworthy about the whole thing though is how the game layers consequences and tactical choices into the whole thing. Do you sink the ship quickly and claim a few small bits of booty, or do you destroy the mast, grapple the deck, go about and risk your life in an attempt to claim it all? Decisions, decisions...
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