When I first heard the mechanics behind Pirates of the Burning Sea, I was a little skeptical. I had played Sid Meier: Pirates and the game overall seemed exactly the same, just on a slightly larger scale. Nevertheless, being an avid pirate fan since early childhood, my husband and I picked it up. Needless to say, I was surprised.
I have read other reviews of this game and whole-heartedly admit that it has a lot in common with Sid Meier: Pirates, but in fact it's a lot more complicated than that. The naval battle system is engrossing and very strategic. A few wrong moves and you are in Davey Jones' Locker. At first, this frustrated me because I kept dying (a couple times losing my ship permanently), but with practice and changed tactics, I became a "great warrior of the waters". The melee combat is fun and it, too requires a certain level of strategy. If you want a game that is a simple button-mashing twitch-fest, you are looking in the wrong place. This game requires calculating and planning if you ever want to succeed. To some, this may seem like it has the world's hardest learning curve, but to me it breaks the monotony of missions, because even though many of the missions are "Defeat X" or "Rescue Y", no mission feels the same. Wind direction, ship type, type of shot used, and line of sight are just some of the factors in your victory or defeat.
The visuals of the game are gorgeous! I find myself mesmerized by the realism of the tides and the vast Caribbean settings. Character creation is highly customizable. With the exception of the many cliched pirates I have seen around, no two people look exactly alike. I play City of Heroes religiously, so character creation was one of the factors I had in whether or not this game was worth it. This was a problem I had with World of Warcraft, but that's a whole other review.
But with the good comes the bad and unfortunately this game has a few glaring flaws:
1) There seem to be too many servers and not enough people to completely fill them. As such, you will come across ports/towns that have little to no people within them, sometimes making them pointless to go to in the first place. This also poses a problem for the PvP factor. After all, how can it be player vs. player if there are no players? It poses an additional problem for the factions themselves, as there is a great imbalance. The Pirates and the British seem to be the most popular, followed by the Spanish. The French, however are just plain outnumbered and, from the looks of it, SOL.
2) As with a lot of games in their infancy, PotBS has a rather sizable list of bugs at this time. They range from lag issues (lag-death can be a big issue) to glaring and annoying glitches and server crashes. While I know the devs are working hard to fix these problems (the many forum posts make that clear), it can and has driven a sizable number of people away
3) The travel times between ports can be excruciating. While travel times in other games can be very long and tedious (such as World of Warcrafts fly points), you can usually leave your computer be while you travel. This game does not give you that option. After all, the seas are a dangerous place! You must sit and navigate your way around other pirates or risk being sunk.
4)The game is very vague when it comes to teaching you things. The tutorial explains things very briefly then sends you on your merry way. While you end up grasping things eventually, PotBS really leaves you to your own devices. Trial and error is your best option right now. In fact, despite having played the game for countless hours, there are still some things that I haven't fully figured out, such as the deeper mechanics of melee combat (right now it's a bit of a gamble) and the workings of the auction house.
All that aside, it is a very, VERY addicting game. I find myself glued to it for hours on end. My only advice to anyone turned off by any of the aforementioned flaws is to be patient. Pirates of the Burning Sea is a fledgling MMORPG with innovative and revolutionary ideas implemented in the best way possible. Enjoy and see you on the open waters!