Pirates of the Burning Sea

by Leadaria Amari
author awarded score: 80/100

Pirates of the Burning Sea Review
Developed By: Flying Lab Software
Format Reviewed: PC
Reviewed By: Leadaria Amari

Pirates of the Burning Sea (PotBS) is a massively multiplayer online (MMO) PC game by Flying Lab Software (FLS) based in the Caribbean in the 1700’s. PotBS has a player-run economy, ship combat, avatar combat (avcom), player vs. player (PvP), player vs. environment (PvE), and nation vs. nation (also referred to as RvR – realm vs. realm). It’s very unique and quite unlike any other game I’ve ever played.

Each player first has to choose whether to play a “national” or a pirate. If you choose national, then you must pick from Britain, France, or Spain, and then pick a career. The career choices are naval officer, privateer, or free trader. If you choose pirate, then no further career designation is given at this time – pirate says it all! Pirates will get to choose between being a buccaneer or cutthroat in an upcoming content patch. Which nation you join will have a vast impact on your game play because each has its own personality and goals, which are different on each server. You may have up to eight avatars; however, they must all be of the same nation if they are on the same server. You cannot understand players of other nations unless you choose the diplomacy skill, which virtually eliminates the usual trash talking you find in other games (unless you choose the skill).

When you first begin to play PotBS, there is a bit of a learning curve. Have no fear! There are some tutorial missions to get you started. From my experience on the Rackham server in the Spanish nation, the existing players are very helpful to new players. You will learn how to disable and sink other ships, grapple and board them, battle with swords and pistols (swashbuckling), and how to complete missions. Missions can net you experience, doubloons (coin), loot, new equipment for your avatar and your ship, and faction with various groups, such as the Spanish Navy or House of Trade.

There is booty to be had out in the open sea (called the OS) by sinking or capturing non-player characters (NPCs) or other players in PvP zones or who are PvP flagged. Ship movements are effected by your skills, the wind, the type of ship (hull, rigging, and sails), and by any outfitting you have equipped. Ships have a minimum level in order to be able to sail them. Currently, the top level is 50, but this is by no means a level 50 only game. You get free ships, but they aren’t as good as the player-made ships. Each ship has a listed amount of durability. When you lose your last durability, your ship is gone for good. You automatically get a new free ship; however, most people just buy another player-made ship instead.

Both ships and all of the parts that go into building ships are made by players. Players also make ammunition, outfitting for ships, consumable items (aids for repairing or boosting skills, for example), and even the structure deeds that are needed to build the structures in the first place. In order to take part in the player-run economy, you can build up to 10 structures per server per account. You choose from structures like iron mines, oak logging camps, forges, shipyards, plantations, and textile mills, to name a few. The really interesting part about crafting in PotBS is that you don’t have to grind levels to build items. There are no crafting levels or classifications. Everyone has the same 10 structure lots available and can tear down and build different structures as the needs of the economy change. Each structure has a set amount of labor available that builds up in real time, whether or not you are in game. This means there is no need to compete against people who can play 16 hours a day, which to me is the best part.

One person cannot build a ship by herself because more than 10 structures are required in order to build all of the subcomponents. I would recommend joining a good society or making friends for reciprocal trade. You can also buy parts at the Auction House where other players list goods for sale. The Auction House in PotBS is a double-blind system. As a buyer, you don’t know who is selling, and the seller doesn’t know who bought her goods. Prices are also not listed. The only reference you have is historical pricing - the most recent prices paid in various ports and the average price paid for that item in that port, in that region, and in the Caribbean. A savvy free trader will play this double-blind system to her advantage and make a lot of doubloons by listing lower than the average price and still selling higher.

The whole goal of PotBS is to aid your nation in “winning the map”. After a map win, the map resets and the whole thing begins again. The winning nation gets rewards and the underdogs get tools to make it easier for them to win the next time. The end game of PotBS is completely dynamic and player driven. There is no beating the game – only that map. The map is won by controlling enough ports for your nation to have 300 points. This is done by means of hostile takeovers of enemy ports and the defense of your own nation’s ports. Most ports in the game can be taken over by other nations, including ones in which players might have structures built. One of the results is increased taxes paid for goods created there if you are not of the controlling nation.

Nations create unrest for an enemy port by supplying the rebel agent in that port with guns and other needed equipment. You can also defeat nearby NPCs of that nation and complete a blockade mission to generate additional unrest. Beware – the enemy nation will most likely mount a defense by supplying the port’s garrison commander with defensive equipment, sinking your nation’s ships, and by completing a patrolling mission.

Once the amount of unrest in a port reaches 5,000, a red circle pops up with that port as the center. This is full PvP glory! Anybody can attack anybody else of a different nation. A favorite saying is, “There is no crying in the red circle!” If you enter it, be prepared to fight! If you are defeated while defending your nation’s port (within 100 miles), the enemy nation gains more points of unrest. If you defeat a player or NPC of the enemy nation within 100 miles of the port, you reduce the number of points of unrest at that port. The person defeated loses durability on her ship, maybe some outfitting, and unsecured cargo in her hold. The winner might gain the cargo, depending on whether the defeated ship surrendered and whether that surrender was accepted.

If unrest continues to rise to 7,500, open PvP erupts in an outer ring of lighter red around the first ring. Inside this outer ring is pirate PvP. If you venture into a pirate PvP red circle, then pirates and privateers with the sanctioned piracy skill can attack you. You can also attack enemy nation privateers with sanctioned piracy and pirates in that red circle, regardless of your career choice.

Once the unrest reaches 10,000, the port is considered “flipped”. Two days later, a port battle (PB) is scheduled. Up to twenty-four players from both the defending nation and attacking nation are chosen via a lottery system. The more unrest points you have personally generated at that port (called personal contention), the better your chances of getting into the PB.

During the two-day period prior to the PB, players will generate conquest points. These conquest points determine wind advantage, choices in starting locations, etc. Whichever nation wins the PB will take control of that port. Each port has a list of available resources like copper, teak, or a deep natural harbor (needed for large ship construction). Controlling ports is essential to each nation’s economy. Once a nation takes over a port, they keep it until another PB decides a new controlling nation. Pirates are a bit different in that they can capture ports for only three days and then the port will automatically revert to the control of the previously controlling nation. Also, pirate ports can only be suppressed but not captured.

FLS has a lot of plans for the future of PotBS. The game launched in January 2008, and we’ve already had a lot of improvements and new content. Most people feel that the PvE part of PotBS is still lacking, although they did add in a group raid-type mission in a recent build called Bey’s Retreat that I enjoyed. Here are some details of what’s in store for the future of PotBS (condensed and edited from a developer log):
• The skirmish system.
You can build whatever battle you like, with custom rules, sides, sizes, and consequences. This is kind of like a first-person shooter game lobby.
• Port governance.
This is an upcoming feature that will allow you to control ports as the governor, set taxes, build infrastructure, spread your reputation far and wide, and convince others to support your cause. Societies will be able to seize control of ports in the name of their society, flying their flag over the port and tagging the port’s name with their society’s name. Many special benefits will unlock for societies lucky enough to control a port, including expanded guild halls, exclusive services, and tax breaks for members.
• Social spaces.
This is an upcoming feature that will allow you to build social structures – taverns, houses, shops, theaters, estates, cafes, and so forth. They’ll be expensive to build and expensive to maintain, and will be the third leg of the economic endgame tripod (ships and governance being the other two).
• Epic missions.
This will be like Bey’s Retreat but bigger, more complex, more awesome, and targeted at skilled level 50 players. We’re doing several of these, as well as a handful of smaller (but still difficult) missions. We’re going to saturate you with epic content.
• Society warfare.
This is an upcoming feature that will allow your society to set itself hostile to another society, and become PvP flagged towards its members. Societies will be able to fight over resources, port control, and prestige.

If this review has you interested in trying out PotBS, get a hold of a buddy key. Each current subscriber has three buddy keys to hand out. The game costs $49.99 to buy and $14.99 per month for a subscription to play. It is part of Sony’s Station Pass, so if you already pay for that, then you don’t need an additional subscription. Visit the official website here.

I hope to see you in game! I am part of the Spanish nation on the Rackham server. My society is Los Bucaneros de Tarifa (LBT). I suggest you visit our website for additional information and assistance with learning about PotBS. Don’t forget to post a hello there. I’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have.

As we say in LBT....The Sun Never Sets!
Leadaria Amari, Shipwright
Los Bucaneros de Tarifa
A Spanish society on the Rackham server