MP RPG Report 3


Do I like ANY of these smeggin things? Yes. Yes, I do.

As previously stated, I like Pirates of the Caribbean a lot. I also like Uncharted Waters Online, another pirate/shipping game.

Uncharted Waters Online


 

This is a game to play if you have a lot of time on your hands, and want to relax. This is not your ‘go out and kill things’ MMO. It is your run around hither and yon, learn things, invest in things, sail your ship, tote cargo, and try to make a profit game. It is a lot like Sid Meier’s Pirates. (Oy, have people been buying this from my previous link? Why’d the price go up from 3 bucks to 6??!?)

The thing about Pirates is, you could never stop, because you were always in the middle of doing something. You outfit your ship, you hire some crew, you buy some cargo. You sail out to a port where you’ll make a good profit on the cargo. On the way, you’ll stop off to dance with some officials’ daughters, maybe get into a fight in a tavern, hire more crew, repair your ship, attack ships from some country you hate, start building up a fleet….

When you finally get to the port you were going to, you sell off your stuff, you upgrade your ships (you have more than one now, since you defeated a couple), and look, here’s cargo you can buy for cheap and make a killing in another port, so load up on that, and off you go again. Remember to come back around and woo those noble daughters. And find treasure maps, and run around digging up stuff. And annoy pirates. One of them was really cheesed I dug up his treasure. :X

Uncharted Waters is like that, but a heck of a lot more complicated. You can specialize in adventure/exploration, trade, or warfare. You start off in the Maritime Academy and have to attend numerous lectures on the different aspects of the game. At first, it teleports you to where you need to go, but soon you have to run around on your own. The streetmap will let you autopilot to any of its points of interest, though, so it’s pretty easy.

MMOhut’s review says the graphics are dated. Well, I don’t think so! I think the game is gorgeous. The figures are nicely modelled and smoothly rendered — unlike say Pirates of the Caribbean, where they look a little clunky. The cities and towns are lovely, and sailing is beautiful. Sometimes I just look up at the stars, or watch the sun rise or set while I’m sailing along.

The amount of information in this game is insane. Fortunately, the players are very helpful on the School channel. You can get answers to all kinds of questions like where you can get jute, how you can make rope, where to discover a flying squirrel, how you use the accounting skill, how to haggle, where to sell poultry, what goods are the best to ship to the mediterranean, ad infinitum. You can trade with players, you can get a tow if your ship is disabled, you can find someone who speaks Turkish or Portuguese to interpret for you (in the game, not real life). You can turn pirate and attack players, but that isn’t the main point/fun of the game. Or simulation, if you prefer.

The best thing about Pirate games is… you learn a lot of geography. When I was playing Sid Meier’s Pirates, I knew where all kinds of places in the Caribbean were. Cuba, Barbados, Port Royal, Maricaibo. And I suck at geography. Of course… it’s been a while since I’ve played, so I’ve forgotten most of it :X But now my home port is Venice (which I used to confuse with Vienna), and I’ve been around The Adriatic and Ionian seas to Syracuse and Naples.

The scary thing about Uncharted Waters, though, is lack of a map. Well, there’s a minimap/compass when you’re sailing that shows your general location. And a surveying skill that will show you a slightly larger land/sea map and your spot on it. But nothing is marked on these things. Some quest wanted me to go to Ancona, but didn’t tell me where the dip that was supposed to be! The only other map is your port permits — that one showed me east of Italy and Greece, but there sure as heck was no Ancona on it. Nor any other part of the world!

Luckily, there’s an online reference site: olous.

You don’t need to know every last motherlovin thing about the game to start playing it. You should figure out if you want to specialize in military (fighting, duh), merchant (trading), or adventure (exploring), because you have to pick one branch of the school to enroll in. Like a lot of MMOs, the first thing you do is learn how to play the fool game. But the Maritime Academy make so much more sense than some of the tutorial levels I’ve seen. (Yeah, kill five gobbling slugs to save the ents, right.)

Mostly, the instructor just yaks. There’s illustrations of the game interface. Finally, you get to go out for one practice sea battle. ONE, just one. Then you have to sail to another city to find a book. Eventually, you graduate from the beginner academy and have to sail off to the intermediate academy. But that’s not ALL you should be doing. Don’t travel in an empty ship, bring some cargo with you to sell! It’s harder than SMP, where you can look up prices of any city from the map. In UWO, you pretty much have to guess. But if you see something fairly cheap on the market, you might as well give it a try.

There are other quests you can do, as well. The only drawback is, you can only ever do one quest at a time. I took a quest to go from Ancona to Naples for fishing information. That was on the way to the Intermediate Academy in Syracuse. But when I got to the Academy, I couldn’t take any lecture-quests, until I went all the way back to Venice to turn the fishing one in!

When I got back to Venice, I was in for a big surprise. There’s a story in there, somewhere. I had to go rescue some damsel in distress, who turned out to be the sister of one of the politicians. Apparently, Uncharted Waters was originally a single player game, which has been ported to online MMO. The storyline doesn’t have a lot of leeway, but you DO get some choices in the dialogue responses. Which is more than any other MMO I’ve seen, where the only choice is ‘take the quest’ or ‘take the quest later.’ :X

In fact… that’s more than Dragon Age 2, where if you say you’re NOT going to do the quest… the next part of the quest is to go do it anyway. :X :X

Another thing it has is player housing. You get a dorm room at the academy, and you can buy bigger and more ostentatious quarters. Plus furnishing and decorations you can put in it. I did see a woman who deals with pets, but I haven’t found out anything more about those. Except someone said that Aides you hire are pets. Well, pets that can sail some of the ships in your fleet for you.

 

Story: It’s not highly story-based. I’m not sure where this thing with the ‘princess’ is going, but it’s entertaining. The concept of going to the Maritime Academy and learning a sailing trade is a solid one. Plus, it leaves a lot of room for freeform.

Role-Play: Well, right, it’s a buncha people playing a game about sailing. You can RP if you want, but I don’t know as anyone *does*. You can form a party/group and RP within it, though mostly you’re going to be busy investing and sailing. The story is not made for multiple players.

PVP: Possible, but I didn’t see a lot of it. Um, or any of it, really. I haven’t found it all that hard to avoid sea battles, and the seas are riddled with small pirate ships. You just steer around them. I did get ambushed twice, but I ran away. Sea battles are not the arcade-style battles you’d find in SMP or POtC, so you can’t joystick your way through one against a bigger opponent.

The second time I escaped cleanly, only to have my crew accidentally SET MY SHIP ON FIRE, ONE DAY OUT OF PORT! Aaaaaaaaaaaaugh! My entire ship burned, and I lost half my cargo! Luckily, in the lower levels, you can get a free tow from the harbor patrols. But now I want to know when I can go on that quest to make a Cat o’ Nine Tails I heard about…!!!

 
Summary: It is very engaging, it is pretty, it has a tonne of activities to get into. It is slow, though. If you know how the game works, the Academy can be pretty excruciating, I expect. It can be frustrating with no map, no instruction book, and sometimes no information (like when/where/how you can buy skills). However, the playerbase is most helpful, plus there are online resources.

If you want rip-roaring adventure for 20 minutes or so, fire up Pirates of the Caribbean with your bud, hop on his ship, and go terrorize the Navy! If you want to relax for a couple of hours, fire up Uncharted Waters Online and go shopping, trading, and sailing to build your fortune.


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