It's been a year and a half since I last looked at Uncharted Waters Online, a nautical adventure MMO that will probably remind many of you of EVE Online or Pirates of the Burning Sea. I was excited to see how things have changed, but the gulf of time between the last time I really dived into the game and now has made it so that I've forgotten a lot about my initial experience. Chalk it up to growing older, I guess.
Luckily, the game is still as fun as it ever was. It seems, on the surface, pretty simple and straightforward. Its Anime characters and simple yet effective, graphics might give players the feeling that they are embarking on adventures that only younger players would enjoy, but the true depth of the game emerges soon after you begin.
This game is complex. It's not impossible to figure out, but it was nearly impossible for me to revisit in just a week's time all of the old stuff I remember and the new stuff that has been added to the game since my first voyage.
One of the great things about this job is that I am often offered a press account to use to look at a game. That usually entails a higher-level character or one that comes with in-game cash loaded up already. You'd think that this makes for a perfect experience to base an article on, but it actually makes it a bit harder. After all, I do not have the experience of growing a character in this game to nearly max level, and I have no way of recalling the experience that comes from playing a game that much.
In this case, the developers made for me a higher-level character, gave him a great ship, and stuck him in the major port of London. When I logged in, I found out that I wasn't even supposed to start in London; I needed to hightail it down to Spain. Don't worry -- it wasn't exactly torture. Sailing in Uncharted Waters Online is probably one of its best activities. And fortunately, I remembered how to load up supplies, hire sailors to staff my ship, and get on my way.
As you can see from the embedded video, I barely had any memory of combat tactics. Nevertheless, it took me only a few minutes to get the hang of attacking other ships, since the design of the game allows for noobs like yours truly to figure it out relatively easily. In fact, one of the strengths of Uncharted Waters Online is its skin of simplicity, one that covers up all of the more complicated guts underneath. If you want to really dig in and play perfectly, you can, but if you just want to sail local waters and gather fish to sell for a little money, you can do that as well. I rarely find players who are content to just sail around like a slow-witted pack of seamen, but my point is that the option is there, and it's quite relaxing.
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As I mentioned before, I had been given a higher-level character, but he hadn't gone through the extensive tutorial that new players experience. While I should have just gone through that long series of basic quests that teaches the game to newbies, I remember it taking forever, so I skipped it and instead ran around seeing what I could find. I eventually found avatar combat, a semi-turn-based event that was actually quite interesting. I also discovered all of my abilities that I could use on the sea, like fishing and steering clear of enemies and even giving the crew a round of drinks to soothe their nerves. Granted, I was lucky enough to have these higher-level abilities given to me in the first place, but my character's level is by no means impossible to achieve. In fact, most players I saw were the same level or higher.
Once I sailed back to my home port, I tried my hand at trading. I just bought some local goods and sailed around looking for a buyer. I made a bit of money here and there, but I knew I could make even more. My character was an adventurer, more of an explorer type who specialized in finding rare artifacts, but I kept going back to sailing and shipping goods. I enjoyed sitting back and watching my ship move through endless seas as the days literally passed overhead and I tried to assess which goods would sell or languish in my holds. Even after a week, I still am not entirely clear on the best ways to make money, but there are reasons we have entire columns dedicated to games like EVE Online: Uncharted Waters Online would take several columns just to explain.
After a lot of exploring the game, I knew it was time to go off and explore the new areas of the game that were introduced in the latest expansion, Great Plains. I had no idea I could just sail off toward North America and search the coast for landing points for colonies. I ended up finding several but found nothing of much interest... yet. I like the way that the sea is open and massive; excepting the occasional zone line, the water just keeps going and going. I worked my through Cuba and found myself in the gulf, looking for landing points. I was attacked several times and would have been sunk if not for the ability of my captain to repair the ship. I thought I was going to run out of food for sure, but a lucky midway stop in Havana helped me refuel. At the time of this writing, I am still in the new area and trying to find secrets, but I need to learn many of my abilities all over again. It's a huge and exciting new area to explore, but be sure to bring a lot of goods with you or bad things might happen.
I think I'll go ahead and redo many of the newbie tutorials, just to get caught up on the things I have forgotten. I'll try my hand at locating some rare artifacts and will see whether I can hook up with the friendly player who volunteered to show me much more of the game. Another thing I had forgotten was how underappreciated Uncharted Waters Online is, how fun it can be, and how relaxing it is. It's an easy game to get into but a very hard game to master. Look, I know I'll never master it, even with a free high-level character, but I'll have a darn good time. If you want to find me, I'll be sailing between towns, attempting to make a buck.
Next week, I am looking at Dragon Eternity, a cool browser-based MMO that feels basically like a semi-graphical MUD, with more emphasis on graphics than MUD. Don't worry; I'll explain later. I will livestream the game at 5:00 p.m. EDT on Monday the 16th of July right here on our Twitch.tv channel.
Each week, Rise and Shiny asks you to download and try a different free-to-play, indie or unusual game, chosen by me, Beau Hindman. I welcome any suggestions for games -- drop me a note in the comments or email! You can also follow me on Twitter and Facebook!