Blackbeard was an accountant. I'm not kidding. This pirate-themed MMO has no truck with comedy voices, parrots, wooden legs, or curling your lip and growling "Yeargh!" at your guildmates.
In the virtual Caribbean of Pirates of the Burning Sea, you're more likely to talk about your new warehouse, a problematic 10% increase in your labour costs, or how the State is taxing your profits.
I worry that expectations of knockabout comedy with wooden legs might doom Pirates before it's had a chance to flourish. Because beyond an awful opening lies a fun and smart game of economic conflict - you just have to get past the horrific presentation, wooden animation, and sword combat that's as exciting as watching Windows install.
You've got two modes of play to 'enjoy'. The Galleon simulation we'll come to later. First, sword-fighting, which takes up about a third of your time. It features one of the worst combat engines I've ever seen in a game. The idea is similar to World of Warcraft and most other MMOs: you select attacks from a menu-bar and gradually whittle away your opponent's health.
However, it's slightly complicated: every player and enemy has 'balance' and 'initiative' bars. Balance equates to their chance to block incoming attacks - if it's been beaten down to zero, they'll be unable to dodge or parry a thrust. Initiative has to be built up through a sustained exchanges of blows. Once the bar is at least half-full, you can hit an enemy with very strong attacks. A swipe. A double stab. And a kick in the balls.
The problem: it boils down to 30 seconds of hammering the same move. Most scraps can be won by hitting the 'beat' button for 30 seconds - this drives down the initiative - before following up with a foot in the 'nads.
It's entirely at odds with the Errol Flynn school of swashbuckling: no using the furniture, no swinging off chandeliers, no snogging the princess between slicing goons. And no fun.
This wouldn't be too bad if you could avoid melees, but quests demand you confront enemies on land. Grin and bear it.
Now we get to the game's other dirty little secret. Piracy has a very small role in the overall scope of Burning Sea. The top end of play is a game of faction warfare between the British, French, and Spanish rather than a Jolly old player-versus-player Rogering. Each faction is trying to win 'Victory Points', by attacking and securing dozens of towns, looting enemy ships, and beating up passing merchants.
Eventually, one side will 'win' the game; they'll have a party, and grab treasure. Then the Caribbean will reset with some handicaps and head-starts to even up the playing field.
There's a pirate nation too, but by joining it you're unlikely to ever be in a position to win; you're just there to cause problems for everyone else.
Why are we fighting? For property and conquest rights. Owning towns means you can harvest their resources, needed to build top-of-the-line ships and their upgrades. The faction that owns the means of production will a) get rich and b) win.
Production is complicated. First, you'll need to buy a warehouse. And factories. And recipes for refined goods. And timber. And all the other materials needed to build the warehouses. And you'll need to pay for your upkeep and labour costs. And transport your refined goods to central markets where they'll fetch a good price.
Once you get going, it isn't long before you realise that you're playing Elite on the high-seas; trading with other players for the goods they need, and running a profit/loss spreadsheet in a separate window.