I wanted to like this game – I still want to like this game. It’s strange. I felt bad about not liking it – beyond my own disappointment. I thought about seeing what other people thought before posting my own impressions. Then I decided against that because this is a blog – my blog, and should be about my impressions. Good, bad or indifferent, my own opinions are valid as just that – my opinions.
First let me talk about why I wanted to like PotBS when it wasn’t previously on my watch list or agenda. Vanguard lured me with the idea of building and sailing ships, along side a solid on-land gaming experience. Before their hype over it, I’d never given sea combat a first thought, much less a second. You know the story with Vanguard – it released, farted in my face so I left. The thought of building and sailing ships however, did not leave.
My next hope of new worlds to conquer was Gods and Heroes. I wasn’t
so sure I’d like the setting but the idea of a more elaborate minion
system – something I’d liked very much from GuildWars, was appealing.
To Vanguard’s credit at least they came to the table, whereas Gods and
Heroes put out a weak-sauce excuse, pulled the plug, and vanished like
a thief in night. With nothing much to look forward to I started
paying more attention to other bloggers hopes and dreams of adventures
on the high seas.
Depending on the target audience, what PotBS is delivering could be right on the mark. However, if the audience is a mature gamer, with moderately high standards for quality, game mechanics and engaging interactions, uhm not so much on the mark.
The “It’s Good Enough” Part…
- The tutorial although not close to the best I’ve encountered, was certainly enough to get you going. Both hand-to-hand and sea combat were covered in short order, and you were sent packing to get some quests in the local town a.k.a. starter area.
- Very common iconography was used for quest-givers, quest-completers and important points of interest on your map. If you’ve played any recent MMO you know exactly what to do within this questing system.
- Customization of your character had many, many options. I liked that I could change the colors on everything – not just my hair as in most games. One glaring omission was if you wanted to be of color, you got ONE face. I tried changing the skin color of the other faces but no dice. PotBS seems to be taking the, “they all look a like anyway” to the point of making it a reality. *rolls eyes* I hope that I’m wrong and just couldn’t figure out how to do it correctly.
- I’ve never sailed a boat other than as a passenger. I’ve never played a seafaring game. Yet I was able to navigate my ship, fire and destroy the bad guys easily enough. So I would say that those mechanics must have been implemented extremely well, since I did it with little effort or confusion.
That’s about where the good stuff ended for me. Yes it’s BETA but hell it’s open now so I don’t expect any drastic overhauls before release.
The Not So Good Parts…
- The character models are fugly! And for those not in the know, that translates to fucking ugly! My female character had a man chest but with boobs. WTF is that about? The models might even be uglier than Vanguard and that is saying something. And the forcing them into those pretentious officer stances every time they stop moving gets old in three minutes.
- The questing, NPC, map mechanics and iconography are similar to WOW, EQ2, et al but done with much less quality. LOTRO’s mimicking of them was a degraded version but this was just flat out sorry. The mini map is too small in comparison to the icons they were squeezing and overlapping on there.
- Character animations aren’t much better than the models and the sword fighting looks sissy-fied. While fighting, I felt like I was the Mad Hatter at a tea partying playing footsies with a friend. It didn’t feel like hand-to-hand combat. Nor did it conjure any strong emotions of fear or imminent danger. On more than one occasion I had 2 to 3 baddies attacking me and I took almost no damage. I put my back to a wall and just kicked their asses. There was no excitement it was ho hum.
- I thought we’d already learned from GuildWars that players don’t like invisible barriers! Is GW doing away with that nonsense in GW2 not example and reason enough, for no one else to put that in a game??? I see arches in front of a door but I can’t even pass through the arches let alone reach the door. And you know what, I HATE when you create buildings with doors that never open and parade building after building that I can’t enter. It wasn’t cute in LOTRO and it ain’t cute in PotBS. It ruins the game experience and immersion. I immediately feel like I’m on a Hollywood set, looking at a building façades versus being in a virtual world. It’s not a world when so much of it is just window dressing, so please, stop that BS. This is especially annoying in this game because the towns are TINY to begin with that they could have at least done the interiors of every building. They don’t require NPCs – just interiors would do.
- It's too heavily instanced, in ways similar to GW, except that this feels much worse, forced and static. It's just the Caribbean, so I don't expect an expansive world but the ports/towns/cities are ridiculously small. None of the ports I've entered are as big as Ironforge. Please imagine that - entering a city that is smaller than the Commons in Ironforge. Heck, I think they're smaller than the Trade District in Stormwind. Wait, correct, I don’t think they’re smaller than the Trade District, THEY ARE SMALLER. This makes the game feel limited and as a player, I feel boxed in a corner. With cities this small what is the fucking point of having to zone into the very few building interiors??? This implementation feels hack.
- The scenery and view from your ship is lackluster at best. Even with the graphics turned up, they didn't bother to try and fill in the gaps between ports. It's nothing but clumps of trees that aren't even detailed models. No majestic views or lush landscapes to view along the shorelines - it's just sand and tree clumps.
- The general user interface is just…It’s worse and uglier than LOTRO’s so I don’t think I need to dwell on it as a whole, other than to say, it needs a do over.
- Quest-giver interactions are really low-brow. They need to clean-up the interface and make it look like it’s for adults not 5 year old or add some voice-overs like EQ2. Even Tabula Rasa used VO instead of plain ole boring walls of text.
- Pirate ambiance is no where to be found in my opinion. Sure I have the clothes, the ship and the stances but where’s the beef? We should be hearing and feeling, the “Yar” and “Shiver me timbers,” of this world. But I didn’t’. There’s more pirate and seaside ambiance in Booty Bay, then the whole of anything I saw in this PIRATE GAME. From where I sit, they forgot the “P” in pirate and just left me with, IRATE.
My biggest complaint is that for the very little landmass provided in this game, it should have been spot-on. There is no adventuring really. You won’t be sailing or wandering off to discover any lesser known places of this “world”. As a result, I would have expected what was provided to be delivered with exceptional quality and a high degree of detail.
Perhaps none of what bothers me about PotBS is the primary focus of the game. I’m am more than willing to allow that the on-land encounters – all of it, having an avatar, melee combat, cities, towns, interactions, etc., are just a side order. It's possible the real game is the sea combat and trade only. If that’s the case, then I can’t fully judge its merit because I didn’t get to do much captaining. However, I will caution that if I’m really expected to live my life on that ship ala an Eve Online experience, they have a high expectation to compete against. As much as I’d like to have an avatar in EVE, the in-ship game play is flawless – visually, aesthetically, mechanically – everything about it screams and oozes DEEP SPACE. I’m inspired and awed by what I see, the combination of which, provides strong RP appeal and opportunity even though I was never more than a static photo. I didn’t get 1/2 of that feeling in PotPS – on ship, off ship, avatar or not.
Probably on the merits of being a sailing SIM this game is good enough as it stands. On the merits of an MMOPRG for adults or mature gamers, I’m not seeing it – yet. I’m going to conclude that game development must be so much harder than I can possibly comprehend, even though I’ve been on the SW development side of technology for the past thirty years. I have to assume it’s just insanely difficult to do well, otherwise, I don’t understand the poor execution and delivery on the hype I’ve experience in the games that released in 2007.
I don’t understand what yard stick they are using to measure their quality and value against - it doesn't seem to be against the current leaders in the MMORPG space. I don’t see how they expect to lure people away from their other games for more than a couple of months – if that. As it stands now, the only possibility of me buying PotBS is predicated on the fact that I subscribe to Sony’s Station Pass, so there’s no additional monthly cost for me to play. I just buy the box. Even that being the case, I'm only "eh" on it still being worth my time.
I’d love for someone to reply with some corrections or pointers to what I could be doing for a better experience. As I’ve said, I want to like this game. I want something new to play, but they aren’t convincing me it’s worth the box price. I think if they’d left it as just an on ship experience my expectations would have been different. The time they did put into the very little there is to do on land, could have instead been spent on final polish and detail of the rest of the game. And as much as I think the avatar part of the game is complete weak-sauce, the instancing is just over the top.
You can expect at least two follow-up posts:
- This game is instanced in ways you haven't even imagined, and I don't it.
- This is a good sailing SIM so if that's your thing there is good stuff here.