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Bounty Bay Online

There are plenty of buckles on Paul Presley's swash, but they don't half chafe without a spot of lotion

Word of mouth from the beta testing of Pirates Of The Burning Sea suggests that developer Flying Lab Software is creating a fully fledged 'world' for you to sail about in, rather than just hitching the game to a single 'Yaar, me hearties' hook and be damned with the rest.

Bounty Bay Online? Well, it's taking much more of a 'we're a game' route. Plus it has all the trappings of a typical Far East grind-athon MMO, which never helps when it comes to the Western market.

For example, each port is much the same as any other, barring differences in architecture and NPC placement. It also has something of a cut-down Civilization feel to it; it's more multiplayer strategy game than online RPG. There are three trades to choose from - explorer, merchant or warrior - with a skill system that heavily favours those who spend days playing for less than a dollar in a Korean internet cafe.


Much of BBO's problem comes down to presentation. It's a Western version of an Eastern game, Voyage Century Online, with the free-to-play (and much abused by gold farmers) model replaced by a more community-inspiring subscription model.

Only without the ability to modify the UI code, the programmers are stuck trying
to force Western-language translations into areas designed for Chinese Hanzi characters. So everything looks like the gaming equivalent of a badly dubbed martial arts film - tiny text, bad 'Engrish' and not much sense. Not good when there's a far more accessible-looking alternative bearing down on the port side.

The game isn't bad per se, and there's fun to be had from the sailing mechanics and just exploring the open seas, battling pirates. But ultimately, BBO's downfall
is that you're always very much aware you're just playing a fancy resource/trading game with a smattering of other players online, and paying monthly for the privilege. POTBS, meanwhile, is promising a whole world to swashbuckle in.

We just hope it lives up to its potential; otherwise we'll all have to stay in port a while longer waiting for a decent ship to raise our mugs to.

The verdict

Adrift in the ocean

Frogster Interactive