This pirate-themed MMO has no truck with comedy voices, parrots, wooden legs, or curling your lip and growling “Yeargh!” at your guildmates. In the virtual Caribbean of Pirates of the Burning Sea, you’re more likely to talk about your new warehouse, a problematic 10% increase in your labour costs, or how the State is taxing your profits.
You’ve got two modes of play to ‘enjoy’ - first, sword-fighting, which takes up about a third of your time. It features one of the worst combat engines we’ve ever seen. The idea is similar to World of Warcraft and most other MMOs: you select attacks from a menu-bar and gradually whittle away your opponent’s health. However, it’s slightly complicated: every player and enemy has ‘balance’ and ‘initiative’ bars. Balance equates to their chance to block incoming attacks - if it’s been beaten down to zero, they’ll be unable to dodge or parry a thrust. Initiative has to be built up through sustained exchanges of blows. Once the bar is at least half-full, you can hit an enemy with very strong attacks. A swipe. A double stab. And a kick in the balls.
The problem: it boils down to 30 seconds of hammering the same move. Most scraps can be won by hitting the ‘beat’ button for 30 seconds - this drives down the initiative - before following up with a foot in the ’nads. It’s entirely at odds with the Errol Flynn school of swashbuckling: no using the furniture, no swinging off chandeliers, no snogging the wench between slicing goons. And no fun. This wouldn’t be too bad if you could avoid melees, but quests demand you confront enemies on land. Grin and bear it.