Pirates of the Burning Sea review

Finding fun on the high seas is harder than Jack Sparrow leads us to believe

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Production is complicated. First, you’ll need to buy a warehouse. And factories. And recipes for refined goods. And timber. And all the other materials needed to build the warehouses. And you’ll need to pay for your upkeep and labour costs. And transport your refined goods to central markets where they’ll fetch a good price. Once you get going, it isn’t long before you realise that you’re playing Elite on the high-seas; trading with other players for the goods they need, and running a profit/loss spreadsheet in a separate window.

Other issues? Even if the sea-scapes are pretty enough, the towns and colonies you’ll visit look outdated. The interface is awful. If you start the game as a Pirate, it won’t even bother to assign your first skills on the taskbar, leaving you to figure out on your own how to even punch a man. The opening quests and storylines are repeated between all factions, making members of each nation indistinguishable. There’s too much reliance on instancing, making it an oddly unsociable game, especially in the early levels. And you can’t select a wooden leg from the (otherwise excellent) character customisation menu.

However, Pirates has one saving grace. It turns out piloting boats is all kinds of fun. We didn’t think that to begin with. In fact, we hated it at first. Our first sloop felt clumsy and unwieldy. We were just circling enemies, spamming the ‘fire cannon’ button until their sails crumpled and their hulls cracked. But then the intricacies began to become clear: the effect of wind, the management of fire arcs and reload times, and the influence of the different types of shot, and of armour plating.

We’d be mad to recommend Pirates of the Burning Sea to everyone; it’s so fundamentally flawed that most gamers are going to simply bounce right off it. If you’re going to try it out, be aware of its faults. We very nearly gave up after just a few hours. We’re very glad we didn’t.

Feb 4, 2008

More info

GenreRole Playing
DescriptionIt could use more swash and less buckling, but an all-round fun pirate experience once you get your boat going.
US censor rating"Teen"
UK censor rating""
Release date1 January 1970 (US), 1 January 1970 (UK)