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FEATURED VOXPOP oblivion437 Update: I was unfortunately not aware of Shamus Young's severe criticism of Fallout 3 available here to link in the original piece and I regret that.  It dovetails rather nicely with what I've written and it's much better executed than my piece.  I strongly recommend anyone...

Pirates of the Burning Sea Preview

Duke_Ferris By:
Duke_Ferris
07/20/07
PRINTER FRIENDLY VERSION
EMAIL TO A FRIEND
GENRE MMORPG 
PLAYERS
PUBLISHER Sony Online Entertainment 
DEVELOPER Flying Lab Software LLC 
RELEASE DATE Out Now
T Contains Blood, Mild Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco, Violence

What do these ratings mean?

Shiver me timbers!


One of the great things about working for Game Revolution instead of one of the bloated corporate sites like Gamespot or IGN is that I often get to pick and choose the games I want to talk about. For example, Parappa the Rapper was recently released for the PSP - There's a copy right here on my desk. Here's your two word review: It's Parappa. Which leaves me free to pour a drink and get on to more interesting things.

click to enlargeIf Gamespot (C-Net) and IGN (Fox News Corp) are the soulless, faceless giant mercantiles, hauling their wares to market in vast cargo ships, then we at Game Revolution are the pirates. We go where we want, when we want, throughout the gaming industry, plundering and partying as we choose.

Sure, they may have bigger offices and nicer carpets, but at GR we're fond of the occasional beer stain. For thar be a tale of adventure behind every one of 'em. Yarr!

Which brings me to one of the best things I saw at E3 this year - Pirates of the Burning Sea.

The MMORPG market is already glutted with wizards and orcs, so if any game stands a chance of wooing some players away from World of Warcraft, it might just be this semi-historical pirate MMO. How cool is that?

Pirates all takes place in the Caribbean, at the height of Europe's struggle for imperial dominance. The French, British, and Spanish all coexist in bouts of uneasy peace, and occasional war as they vie for control of the New World. One navy's hero is called pirate by another. And of course, there are always those who serve no allegiance but their own, and fly under the black flag. All these paths lie open to prospective captains, but choose wisely because you cannot change your affiliation.

click to enlargeYou also get to choose how you like to fight, with three different schools of swordfighting. Fencing is formal and precise, while Florentine attempts to confuse opponents with flashy moves and spins. My favorite was, of course, Dirty Fighting. Throw sand in their eyes, then stab them in the gut. Or better yet, just pull the musket from your belt and fire. Honor, shmonor.

But what pirate game would be complete without a barrage of cannon fire? The ships of the line are diverse and ready for war. Cargo ships can haul sugar, rum, cloth and guns for profit, while pirate sloops aim for speed and punch. Only the European navies will have access to the largest ships of war. They're hugely powerful, but slow to turn; leaving them vulnerable to more maneuverable ships. Ships even have different characteristics for how close they can point into the wind, and which tack allows them the greatest speed.

But Pirates of the Burning Sea isn't just about running missions and leveling up, what kind of game would it be if you couldn't pirate? So player vs player combat is central to the game. It's all based around the ports, most of which can be captured and governed by any nation (pirates can only plunder, not govern). Conquer the whole map for mighty rewards.

click to enlargeEnemy nations can destabilize your ports by rustling up the natives, or by shipping in lots of booze and guns (my favorite cocktail). At this point the area around the port becomes fair game for the human pirates, so watch your ships. If it stays unstable, eventually all ships of opposing nations can fight it out. Finally, it culminates on a 25 vs 25 naval battle for ultimate control of the port itself.

And don't think you get to just respawn and jump back into the fray, because like in Eve Online, you can actually lose your ship and cargo for good. Sorry, mate. You've been plundered.

If that weren't enough, Pirates also supports a robust player economy. You can even go through the whole process of growing sugar cane to eventually distill into rum to sell to the other players. This is where it really gets me because I can't decide whether I want to be a pirate, or the Lord of Rum.

Either way, I'm installing a keg 'o rum under my desk and buying the pirate keyboard.  And you'd best be stockpiling your own grog as well, because the game is already in beta testing and the pillaging will be coming to your port later this year. Arrrrrr!

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