We all joined up in the starting Pirate town, and the rep from FLS talked us through the early parts of the game (that I had played through before). She explained that every level, you get either a swashbuckling or a sailing point, and that at the trainer you can then spend those points on various skills. Some are pretty standard for MMOs-- there's a taunt skill for swashbuckling, and both schools offer skills that up your defenses while fighting-- while others are a little more piratey: you can train in a skill that will let you elbow an opponent in the face while at the swashbuckling trainer, and at the ship skills trainer, you can spec into a tree called "Flogging"; beating your crew while out at sea causes them to reload faster.
But once we were specced up and ready to go, we were transported off to Port Royal, a replica of a real-life British town, straight out of pirate history. Once there, the FLS rep took us to meet a monkey.
No kidding. They could have showed us anything in the game, and instead they show us a quest where, using a world drop called "Monkey Island
Rum," you can make an organ grinder monkey throw a tomato at a guy in a stockade. Not exactly what I would show off if I was given the task of leading a tour around the game, but that's their call, I guess. "Where to next?" our host asked, and I said I wanted to see the Ghost Ship (and the game's little-previewed supernatural elements
), so off we went.
This is the first time I'd ever seen anything supernatural in game, and so it was no surprise when our host said that it was definitely a high level area. Unfortunately, while they did take us out to the Ghost Ship area, it wasn't complete at all-- while the textures were all up, there were no NPCs, enemy or otherwise, to be found, and we were told that the quests for this area hadn't even been completed yet. As you can see from the shots in the gallery, the map we were on is still called "p_ghostshipdecktest_short," so even though the beta has been going on for a long time, most of the supernatural late game quests and maps aren't even in yet.
Still, it was a pretty spooky ghost ship-- it was night out, and eerie ghost shapes floated around and across the bow of the creaking ship. We weren't able to go below decks at all (or at least I couldn't find a door that led below), and when I asked if the ship would be something players would see on the open sea and be able to approach, our host answered that yes, that probably would be the plan.
After the ghost ship, we were taken to Tortuga, a huge midgame city with a volcano at the center of it. Our host explained that while the starting towns were some of the first created in the game's development cycle, Tortuga was created much later, and as a result, the graphics were better and more detailed. I had been disappointed, earlier in the beta, to realize that I couldn't see my ship-- or any ships-- when looking out over the port waters from the starting town, but that wasn't the case in Tortuga-- there were huge, dark ships out on the water, firing back and forth at one another.
Inside the town, things looked excellent, too-- a huge cavern smouldered with magma, and at the very center, a fortress over a lava pit held its own secrets. Unfortunately, the NPCs and quests didn't seem to be done there, either, but Tortuga was much more impressive than the other areas we'd seen.
After that, we ran two encounters-- one swashbuckling mission, and a ship-to-ship encounter. I'd played through both of those kinds of encounters before, and while we were playing at a higher level than I'd ever played (they powerleveled us to 16), I didn't find the experiences much different than they were at the early levels. You can read more about how those work on our mission preview
, or just go play the open beta
yourself. Stay tuned to Massively for more on how combat works in the game, both in swashbuckling and ship-to-ship encounters.
From what I saw in the press tour, there are some interesting areas in the endgame of PotBS
, but it's too bad that mood and atmosphere isn't really seen as spectacularly in the early parts of the game. The big question will be whether players stick with the game long enough to get through the early levels and stay for the long haul to see what FLS has done with the endgame. Both the Ghost Ship and Tortuga look like they would be interesting places to play through as pirates, but players won't actually know for sure until they work their way up through the midgame.