So on to the second test. Am I then getting enough new stuff to do to keep me interested as I move from the novice to the intermediate stages? Well, again, PotBS does it right. The missions start sending you further afield, and you begin to move up and down the ports in your home region, getting a little bit further every time. The player economy is a big deal here – PotBS is designed so that player manufactured goods, ships and upgrades become the bedrock of the system – and you’re encouraged to get involved fairly early on. Whether all players will get their heads around the demands of building and maintaining the various resource gathering, manufacturing and warehouse facilities remains to be seen, but you can’t fault the game for depth or for trying to make those features accessible.
Plus there’s always the lure of new ships as your fortunes increase, giving you more cargo space (for traders) or more offensive/defensive capabilities (for Privateers and Pirates). While your fallback ship (the one you start out with) and player-created ships can be sunk several times, bought ‘civilian’ ships are less durable, and some can be sunk only once before they’re lost for good. This doesn’t half make you tread carefully with your new sea-going beauty.
Cleverly, PotBS doesn’t penalise solo players or force them to group-up for every major mission, though most ports seem to have some specialised group-based tasks. And when you’re ready, there’s a big world of Player vs Player combat awaiting you. Actions and ad-hoc battles around the major Caribbean ports can throw them into contention, at which point players from the different Nations can battle each other in the PvP zones around. This can culminate in a Battle Royale, where up to 24 players from each side get involved in a mass battle that decides ownership of the port (or the pirates’ right to loot it). You can switch in and out of PvP mode as you wish, and carry on your regular adventures without worry either way.
Now for my final test of an MMO: are the servers packed and is everyone having a good time? Well, I’ve been playing on the English-speaking European server. There are plenty of people on there, the costumes are getting more and more fantastic (I suspect there are a lot of men playing as buxom wenches, so try not to get too excited if you chat one up), and the feel is upbeat, friendly and bustling. It’s still early days for the player economy, so there’s not much going down in the auction houses, but there are plenty of people out there racing about on the open seas. Basically, it’s a pirate-friendly party where everyone feels welcome. Bring your own parrot, eye patch and bottle of grog.
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