Uncharted Waters Online

I have a dream.  A dream of a trading-based MMO that doesn’t suck.  I mean, it’s hard enough to get a crafting system that is both meaningful and doesn’t suck, much less a decent economy that allows for players to build their own trade empires. I need a Harvest Moon MMO.  You hear me, Nintendo?  I want to grow crops and sell them at the market and upgrade my fucking barn with the profit I make from undercutting everyone else’s turnips.  And no, not Farmville.

When I went on a hunt for a trading based MMO, the majority of hits on Google were people suggesting playing the Auction House in World of Warcraft.  /facepalm.  The rest of the suggestions that sounded decent were in games that required combat, so really it wasn’t a trading based MMO, it was a combat based MMO with some decent trading (like Pirates of the Burning Sea, with an interesting looking crafting and trade system that is completely overshadowed by the conflict involved in transporting your goods, since the game focuses on sea combat and uses the trading as a means to force you into combat situations.  Ugh).  And then of course there is EVE, but I would also like to be able to jump in and have a hope in hell of getting anywhere without years of investment first, not to mention the sheer griefing potential that I would like to avoid…
So yeah.  Basically, my ideal game does not exist.

But then one of the suggestions I stumbled across was Uncharted Waters Online.  I had never heard of it, so I took a peek.  Apparently it was a moderately successful MMO overseas, and it was just recently bumped over to North America.  So the graphics are dated (originally designed for consoles, I think, so designed for weak hardware too) and some of the translations are a bit wonky.  All in all it didn’t get a whole lot of attention but it was staying afloat, somehow.  It was also free!

I decided to check it out.

I immediately changed my mind when it turned out I needed to install the Pando media booster to play it.  I hate that piece of shit.

But then I read about the game some more and grudgingly installed Pando.  As soon as the game was installed, I uninstalled the media booster… which meant the game couldn’t patch but I figured I would cross that bridge when I came to it.

I ended up spending a good couple of days in UWO.  It was almost exactly what I wanted to scratch the trading itch.  You start out as a student and have to choose one of three professions: trader, maritime, or adventurer.  Maritime is your typical soldier who goes out and does a lot of combat missions.  Adventurers apparently go out and dig up buried treasure, which honestly made me re-think my decision to go trader because that is cool.  Adventuring takes some combat too though and I really didn’t want any combat right now.  So I went for trader, which you might have guessed is the class that trades things, complete with skills that offer you options for escaping/avoiding sea combat from pirates and things like that.  You buy commodities in one town and sail to another to try to sell it for a profit, and you do it safer than other classes can.  You start out with a crappy little ship that doesn’t have a lot of options, but as you become rich and popular you can buy bigger better ones, which is the sort of advancement I enjoy.  The skill trees were interesting and in depth too, which made me excited to get going.

And this is the world map: http://images2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20130113091612/unchartedwaters/images/1/1e/Uwomap.png
Look at that map.  Look at that map.

The game starts you off on a tutorial path through the school, with pretty typical boring little missions like “buy this here and sell it there.”  It did a decent job of explaining mechanics to you, buy there was an awful lot of corny dialogue.  Not only that but it took literally over a day for me to complete the first chunk of the tutorial.  Holy shit how fucking hard is it to buy low sell high, right?  But the interface is incredibly unintuitive at times, so the tutorial ended up being fairly necessary just to figure things out.  The towns are dinky (there are like 5 NPCs standing in a tiny little square for all the towns except “capital” cities.  Bigger cities have a few rooms but mostly it’s just NPCs standing around to serve as shops) and you have to move by clicking, which can be awkward and annoying at times because the camera is shit.  The server was pretty laggy too, so things clunkily popped into view, or maybe just their nameplate would but not their model. Despite that, I was starting to enjoy the game and I was looking forward to getting the tutorial done with and striking out on my own.

Trading as an activity really wasn’t very stimulating, and if you weren’t specifically looking for that kind of activity I suspect you wouldn’t like it.  Sailing was kind of dumb… you have to point your sails properly to catch the wind, and once they were set it would start to fill a little bar until the ship reached an “auto sailing” state.  That did not mean it was literally automatically sailing, it just meant that you were now going full speed.  Running into rocks is bad (duh), and each section of the ocean has a “wave” status that prevents newbie ships from sailing out into the dangerous areas of the world.  You need a ship capable of handling dangerous seas before you can go really exotic places. Better ships also go faster.  One of the few options I had for customizing my newbie ship was to switch my sails from ones that go faster in tailwinds to ones that go faster in headwinds.  It really didn’t matter since whichever one I chose, the opposite kind of wind would mean I was travelling at a fucking crawl even while “auto sailing”.  Bad luck with winds meant a much longer journey to whatever town you wanted to go to, which was bad because the journey is already long and tedious.  It seriously takes a long time to sail places.  It looked like you could buy auto-navigation items eventually, but not until you had a decent amount of ranks and skills under your belt.  Fair enough, right now I am unexperienced and suck so I steer manually.  I suspect this will be another big wall for people who are just jumping in, though.

So I went on my merry way, exploring (every time you explore a new city or find a new item you get a card, which gives you things to collect.  You can turn the cards in to NPCs in certain locations), and doing the tutorial.  I learned the fishing skill so I worked on that while sailing along from place to place, picking up fish to sell at my next location, or to cook into food to sustain my ship’s crew.  It was great, really.  I quite enjoyed it!

Then I got to the “end” of the tutorial, and they said “okay now you’re done.  Next you have to go to a city in another country to start the second tutorial” (there is a SECOND tutorial?!? I just spent a day and a half on the first!).  “Here is 80,000 bucks to use the fast travel to get there.”  I started in England, and they wanted me to go to Italy for the next thing.  While it was good to know there is a fast travel, 80k was a lot of cash for me… and I like exploring.  I decided to wisely invest the cash in the bank and just sail my ass over to Italy, trading the whole way through Europe.  I am a smart investor, you see!

Perhaps you can imagine this did not go quite as planned.  It turns out each country has its own language!  How realistic!  But in UWO, you have to equip languages in a skill slot, which means you can only have so many.  And I did not have many… so my wonderful plan of trading across Europe didn’t pan out because no one would talk to me.  I did collect a number of exploration cards but mostly I just wasted an hour or two sailing from place to place.  Then I got back to countries that spoke English and French and we were back in business.

Until I got to the school for Tutorial #2.  The school people apparently have no language attached to them, so they spoke to me, but he immediately instructed me to go to a nearby town which spoke a language I did not.  I thought “Oh okay so they’re going to teach me about languages now” but at no point did the game explain any of it.  I got to the spot and the teacher NPC appeared and was like “Now ask that guy about [thing] then talk to me again!”.  When I talked to the guy it would just say “He doesn’t understand you”.  I talk to the teacher and he says “Just talk to that guy!”  I had to go look up where to buy the language skill in order to advance.  Nngh.

After a few more lessons, the school explained they were going to teach me a bit about the other professions I could be, since you can switch professions at any time and try other things out (for a cost, of course).  The adventuring went well, but then it asked me to try Maritime.

My instructions were basically “Go out that gate and fight a guard.  Don’t worry, you’re really strong so it will be easy!”

I went out the gate.  I spotted a lone guard.  I double checked and yes, this is the name of the mob the quest told me to go find.  Alrighty then… charge?

Combat is… not inspiring.  It’s pretty much 100% autoattack watching your character trade swings with the NPC.
I hit the guard for 2.
The guard hit me for 10.
I went “oh shit” and tried to run, but the guard used some item that took almost all my health away in one shot, which slowed me to a crawl.  I died.

This was my first time dying.  My ship had gotten stranded a few times before I figured out how the crew status worked (you have to keep their food/stamina/morale up through various methods) but I was under a sort of newbie protection where some ship comes and saves you.  It had warned me that after awhile it would cost me to be rescued like that, but I was nowhere near leaving newbie status.  Apparently land combat did not have some sort of newbie protection, because it cost me roughly 1/4 of my entire savings.  I lost pretty much all the profit I had gained through trading so far because I followed a tutorial that said “go attack that guard”.  I talked to the school guy who I was supposed to hand in to and he had the same instructions, because I hadn’t succeeded in defeating a guard yet.

I later looked it up and the “tutorial” is apparently an “epic quest” in the original translation, and the quests are significantly harder than most other missions.  It did seem to be trying to teach me how to do combat, though, so I’m not sure I was into the “epic” part of it… the problem is I apparently need far better gear to be able to succeed.  But I have absolutely no interest in spending my money on that gear because I had no interest in doing combat in this game.  But I couldn’t continue the missions without doing it, which meant I couldn’t take other missions, and I was in danger of losing even more of my starting-out cash if it went badly again.

I ended up logging out and not looking back.  Which is too bad because I was actually quite interested in the game.  I still am, actually, because it’s so unique!… but it’s just so badly designed.  I went back to playing Patrician instead.  I might log back in at some point, but I think I actually uninstalled it to make room for Secret World (damn MMOs taking so many GB…) which means I have to install Pando again and nnnnngh.  Unfortunate.

About tagracat
I am not a professional, I don't get paid to review shit, I am just opinionated and I seem to have some sort of disorder that results in spewing my opinions onto the internet. I enjoy writing long-winded posts about things and sometimes I like to pretend people want to read them, so a blog seemed an appropriate place to stuff it. But mostly I just like writing about things.

2 Responses to Uncharted Waters Online

  1. Pieter says:

    Your style of writing is very enjoyable to read! It’s a shame the game didn’t meet up to your expectations. I was thinking of trying out UWO, but maybe I’ll just wait a few months.

  2. Tom says:

    I played this game sense the beta version. It was a awesome game before it moved to USA. Now it is being ran by a bunch of egotistical morons who go to great lengths to reinforce their very twisted idea of this huge power trip they all seem to be on. GM POLICE is a term you will quickly come to know and learn as they lurk about interfering with chat and game play. If you want to see an example of HOW NOT TO MANANGE A GAME then this one you will enjoy.

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