During the past few weeks Flying Lab Software has been working hard to improve performance and stability of the game. Unfortunately during this first week of the launch there were still some major issues, that were readily fixed. Besides that not too much has changed to the game itself yet. So, to get a general impression of the game, please read my preview that I wrote during the last weeks of the beta. In general the game is very well playable. But as I concluded in the review there are still things that need improvement.
Right after launch FLS has setup a special forum for suggestions on three parts of the game they are currently focusing development on. Not as if they don't have enough ideas of themselves, or received in the past from the players. But that does show their commitment to the community. Hopefully there will be a lot of small improvements in the next patch. And more improvements and also extra content to come after that.
That certainly doesn't mean that the game isn't ready to be played though. The server list clearly shows plenty of people that like the game already. From a rough estimation I think there are 10,000 to 15,000 players online at this exact moment. And there's plenty of reasons to be:
- Producing resources and ships for hopefully a good price.
- Following one of the many elaborate and well told missions for which a writer known from (RPG) fantasy books was hired.
- Cause unrest around an enemy port in an attempt to eventually capture it in a massive naval battle.
- Maneuvering ever bigger ships, shooting all your cannons into the broadside of others with deafening thunder, what else would one want?
Though focus in an MMO are on gameplay, graphics are very important too. Here FLS decided to go for a special art style, well used in adventure fiction. No photo realistic characters, but stylized models with vivid colors. It's a shame I can't run the game on the highest graphics settings(yet). But the character models look really nice, with a lot of clothing variations.
Players can design their own flags and sail decals, obviously requiring approval of FLS employees. Player content actually doesn't stop there. During the development of the game, many of the ship models were created by fans. So far I've only seen a few ship models from up close, but they all look great.
Distribution and Billing
It can help a company a lot not having to spend time on this themselves. But then the other company does have to do things flawlessly. Unfortunately Sony Online Entertainment could have done better. Though it is in line with the problems FLS is having with the game at the start.
Pre-ordered boxes didn't always arrive till a few days after launch (though it was mostly Amazon at fault there). And in at least three European countries the game wont be on the shelves till February 2nd. Especially for the people that participated in the pre-launch (to jump start the player economy), that is a long wait. They could have ordered the game online from Sony Station, but that requires a credit card. And there are still a lot of people without them. I could start a whole discussion about that here, but that's outside the focus of this review.
There are also still some billing issues, preventing people from enabling their accounts. Apparently as with other Sony MMOs you have to setup a subscription plan before you can start playing. For this you either need a creditcard, or a game-time card. And that's the last issue. Game cards aren't widely available in stores yet, and the general Sony game cards don't completely work yet. So, the only way to get a game card is, trough the Sony Station Store, which in turn requires a credit card. It's clear that there are some issues here that need to be improved.
SOE has a portal at PayByCash where you can buy game cards for the other five MMOs they are distributing. I assume that people without a credit card can get their PotBS from there soon. And otherwise there should be game cards in the retail shops soon too.
All issues aside, the game is lots of fun. And I have no doubt that Flying Lab Software will soon come with a patch that will improve the game interface a lot. And besides that there are lots of features even they themselves can't wait to get in the game. The forecasts look promising though and I hope to report on that when time is due, telling you tales about my adventures in the Caribbean.
At this time there is no free trial available yet, but every box sale contains a buddy key. So if you want to try the game, go scout for a real pirate!