Pirates of the Burning Sea Review
Pirates of the Burning Sea box art
System: PC Review Rating Legend
Dev: Flying Lab 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: SONY 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Jan. 21, 2008 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1-Multiple Online 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Teen 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
You're in for the long haul, and possibly a keehaul...

by Cole Smith

Until I played Pirates of the Burning Sea, I was not sure what keelhaul meant, but it always sounded like something I didn't want to experience first hand. "Scurvy dog," "swashbuckler," "mizzenmast," are all part of the pirate lexicon. Pirates of the Burning Sea will introduce you to these terms and let you experience them virtually first-hand as you take part in a world that existed hundreds of years ago.

Pirates of the Burning Sea screenshot

This massive online multiplayer game is not meant for cheap thrill seekers. This is a thinking man's game, one that offers plenty of adventure with the requisite economics. It's deep, fun, loaded with action, and has more depth than you can possibly imagine. It's all combined to give you months, if not years, of playability.

Pirates of the Burning Sea is all about sugar and spice and everything that's not nice in relation to 1720s. The sugar and spice is a semi-metaphor for the commodities that will be traded, bought, sold, and plundered. As a pirate you have a mandate to invade ships and steal their goods. But as exciting a life as that sounds like, you don't have to play as the bad guys. You will have your choice among playing as the English, French or Spanish. As any of these factions, you will be concerned with amassing as much fame and fortune as you can muster. There are several ways to accomplish this. You can start a respectable business and become a merchant or you can become a despicable rapscallion and give everyone the business. The choice is yours.

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Taking place in the Caribbean, all of the main ports of call are under the control of one of the European factions. Controlling the port is key to the control of the entire area. This is where you begin generating revenue and building up your defenses. Pirates cannot control ports, but they can do so indirectly by attacking ships near the entrance. Such actions destabilize a port, making it less inviting for ships to conduct business. At the same time, the plundering builds up the pirates' coffers, giving them more power.

Pirates of the Burning Sea screenshot

Pirates of the Burning Sea contains many RPG elements. Among them is the ability to level-up your character by performing various missions. These missions are more interesting than the standard fetch quests, often involving combat and treasure hunting. The main thrust of the game is economics. That may sound more clinical than fun, but in fact it's much more fun than any study or lecture in economics that I've experienced. Since the game is a massive online multiplayer, the gameplay is designed to last for months, possibly years. Now, many of us already know the inherent dangers of this type of design. Eventually they bog down through repetition, and/or players have leveled-up to ridiculous levels and can beat the living crap out of you before you even get into the game. While I can't guarantee that Pirates of the Burning Sea will never get redundant, there are some well-designed safeguards to keep it fresh and exciting beyond the shelf life of the average massive online multiplayer.

Pirates of the Burning Sea screenshot

As characters level-up, they don't necessarily become stronger. There aren't a lot of combat moves to begin with and only a few special attacks. Combat comes in two forms: Hand-to-hand and ship-to-ship. The melee (or hand-to-hand) combat consists of guns and swords. What's a pirate game without swordplay?

You can stab and slash your enemies or shoot them with a musket. Different styles of fighting range from dirty tactics to elegant swashbuckling moves that would make Errol Fly proud. Instead of increasing skills in any of these areas, the level-up system gives you better balance. Having better balance gives you more footing during battles. This is especially more evident when you're flanked by enemies that can make you very unsteady and prone for a piercing. Keep in mind that you're on a boat, and there are not very many places to run and hide should you find yourself in trouble. Personally, I find the whole balance thing a little on the weak side. It just seems kind of arbitrary, as though the developers couldn't think of anything else. It's just not very exciting, but at least it does tackle the issue of players getting too powerful for newbies to defend themselves against.

Screenshots / Images
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