This weekend's open beta was my first exposure to the game. And I have a lot of good things to say about it and some concerns. Disclaimer: this is experience with the open beta, and full release may be different.
Someone went and coded griefing tools right into the game!
Rare knows that people like to grief on the internet right? In internet matchmaking you will inevitably get matched to an existing crew that does not want you there. Can they lock the party, password protect their lobby, or kick you from the ship? No. The only option they have is to vote to lock you in the ship brig. The crew can vote you out of the brig, but only after a several minute minimum sentence. After that, you are not automatically released, but the crew has to go into a menu and vote to let you out. OR, just quit back to the menu and play the russian roulette of matchmaking again. This is horribly shortsighted on the part of Rare, in my opinion.
My first two attempts at matchmaking ended up being unjust brig time, and I almost gave up on the game, but eventually the good people on the internet triumphed over the bad, and every time after that was fine.
The Communication Problem
This is one of those games that is voice-chat-mandatory. The helms-person has a compass but no map view. That is below deck. Someone needs to tell them their heading over voice chat. You can choose to sail a large complicated Galleon or a small simple Sloop. The Galleon has six independent controls for the sails (angle plus level for three sails). It's great fun simply to coordinate to raise anchor, get the boat moving, finding a heading, and then angle the sails to catch the wind. BUT voice-chat is pretty much mandatory for all this. So it would be great if there were more fleshed out options for finding a group. Not everyone is going to like the adventure of a team-building exercise with internet randos.
All Captains and No Sailors
I wish the game would arbitrarily nominate someone as a captain of the boat. Give them a cool hat, and put a parrot on their shoulder, give them a weight of authority, I don't know. When matching with people it takes a while for people to run around aimlessly until somebody decided to take charge and start giving orders. It would be cool if the highest level player was automatically nominated as captain, and all the lowly sea dogs got extra credit for following their captains orders. And who knows, if someone routinely didn't follow orders, they got thrown in the brig.
Working crossplay between Xbox and PC
This is the first time I've seen this in action. I'm on PC with an Xbox One controller, and was matched with an unknown number of Xbox people. I voice-chatted with a shipmate for 30 minutes, and then hit T to type a message on the keyboard sitting in front of me. He was very confused. As it turns out he was on Xbox and I was on PC, and we never even noticed. This is kind of impressive. Using a controller during PVP shooting encounters did not seem to put me at a disadvantage either. Perhaps because the aim-down-sight view of the guns is not pixel-perfect which would give the mouse players a huge advantage. They also made it hard to quick-scope with the sniper rifle, knock on wood. Quick scoping console newbs with a $100 gaming mouse is the REAL PIRACY, amirite?
Flawless Technical Performance
This game is a looker. This will definitely be nominated for the new GiantBomb game of the year category "Best Waves of 2018". I'm on a GTX 970 video card, with an i5-6600K cpu. It's not a monster machine by any stretch, and it runs this game with a frame rate in the mid 50's with the quality settings on max, running at 1440p resolution. This game seems very polished and optimized. It's of course, Windows 10 store only, not Steam, but the advantage is cross platform matchmaking.
Only Two Quest Types
I really hope this will change with full release, but the open beta had you performing the same two quests over and over:
1) Treasure Chests:
Find Island where X-marks the spot, dig up the treasure chest, and turn it in. I did this probably 20 times.
2) Find Chickens:
Get empty chicken coop, search 8-10 islands for some chickens, then turn chickens in. I did this probably 5 times. Finding the chickens is tedious.
If the full game does not have many many more quest types than these two, this game is going to be extremely repetitive and grindy.
A gorgeous game with lots of potential, fun co-op adventuring, and the looming storm of internet griefers. But I guess after all, pirates will be pirates, won't they?