At this moment, I played exactly for 1 month on the PvE server, and I would like to share my experiences about the 'grind', many complain about. I hope that this will be an interesting read for both fellow (new) players, as well a useful list of suggestions to the developers (in italic). I played for 260 hours this month, please take that into account: this is a time commitment not everyone can devote to a single game within 30 days. Also I've played the game a bit back in the days (2016), but didn't get too engaged at that time.
9 January, one month ago, I downloaded Naval Action and started with my career. However, first a few decisions had to be made. PvP or PvE? And which Nation? Having no clue, I used google to search a bit, and found out that as an Independent player, the PvE server would be the most relaxing experience. With that being chosen, I still had to choose a nation. This gave me quite a headache, as it is impossible to switch from nation once started. It took me 3 hours of reading and searching on Google before I took the decision, and started playing as a Brit.
This worked out very well, as on PvE the easiest nation to start with is UK. You start next to an important trade hub (La Navasse), where you can easily trade your goods and start making a bit of cash. Once started, I looked at the nice port UI, and decided to take a look at the chat. Being a lucky guy, I got the chance to sell my Christian redeemable for 2 million reals immediately, giving me the ability to ignore the initial credit deficit, so I could focus on fighting. I did that, by doing the tutorials, which I can heartily recommend to everyone. After a single day, I finished all the exams up to the boarding exam, the next day I finished the Endurance Exam, giving me 155 crew and a Rattlesnake note. Another day of learning the ropes gave me access to the Master and Commander rank by finishing the Final Exam and a Hercules.
Feeling a bit bored, with not knowing what to do next, I bought myself a Belle Poule with a part of the money I had acquired. Using the ship, I started doing some missions, hunted down some traders and got more and more feeling about the game. After 2 days, I bought a Pirate Frigate and switched to Open World hunt & search missions, and with 7 days into the game I earned enough XP to get 400 crew.
Findings: I found out that the UI takes some time to get used to, but is perfectly fine. Slight improvements could be made by giving access to both a sail and tutorial button, as it was frustrating to find the 'Sail' button. A tough thing which stands in the way when getting started, is your initial wealth. You start with absolutely nothing but your free ship. This is harsh, as you can't even put cannons on the ships you got gifted for the exams, nor starting to trade with your basic cutter. I would suggest new players receive 10k reals for finishing each exam and an additional 50k for finishing the Final exam. This will give players enough cash to start trading, or buy a ship with some cannons so you can collect doubloons to sell.
Furthermore, I found it hard to find accurate game information as a lot of wiki's are not up-to-date. Once I found https://na-map.netlify.com/, I got all the information I needed and asking other players did the rest. It would be nice however if there would be an in-game list of ships and modules, or a link to an external site. I think that information is absolutely crucial for anyone playing Naval Action as the game is not self-explanatory.
Lastly, I think the game really needs something like a captain's dairy, also see my suggestion in this thread. This will help new players setting up goals, as well as being an ideal place to integrate data about which ships are in the game for example.
The second week
Being playing for a week now, I switched to play in the Indefatigable I captured from an AI. I bought a forge, an iron mine and a coal mine and crafted myself some 42pd carronades. I opened a few outposts around the Caribbean, so I could search for targets more effectively. I also discovered that the level of AI ships depends on the region you're in. With this information, I opened an outpost in the Upper Antilles, so I could hunt 5th rates much more effectively. I also enjoyed chattering in the global chat, which for me adds a lot fun while experiencing this game. You're making friends, helping others out and being helped yourself. This was also the time I started exploring. I sailed around Hispaniola, looking into different ports, and found a Sealed Bottle with a skill book in the wreckage. By asking in the chat I learned what they do, and decided to buy some additional books in the admiralty shop.
After grinding half my way - 10 days in now - I got gifted an Agamemnon. Having this ship with 400 crew was a blast, and from now on, playing no longer felt like I was grinding, as she was a properly built ship, having a Cartagena Caulking Refit, strong bow/stern as well as being made from live oak/white oak. Fighting AI become now much more easier (and more fun). I started attacking larger fleets (of 5th rates), and even took on a fleet of 8 x 5th rates while still being under-crewed. I mastered the art of enabling and disabling guns (F5) and gun decks (F1-F4). Also, finding targets became easier now I could fight different kind of fleet sizes.
Findings: I love the way skill books work. It's lovely to get those bonus effects, as well as giving me a long term goal to complete collections like the Gunnery Encyclopedia. Things I was having trouble with at this stage, was finding out where the AI ships were hiding. A common complaint heard on the PvE server. However, as soon as I discovered where I could find them, it no longer was a problem for me. I think the spawn rate of AI's is good enough currently, giving an believable view of the Caribbeans. When I was looking for ships, I could find them easily, but they weren't that abundant that I could go into battle without searching. I love the blend between just sailing back and forth, and fighting.
For me, it was relaxing to sail around, without being attacked by the AI. However, It felt that nation's are a bit useless on PvE. You can attack all PvE ships, but that from your own nation, which makes up for a nuisance, as 30% of all ships sailing around on the PvE server are British. This means lesser targets to hunt. Furthermore, it's infuriating you cannot add players of other nations to your friend list. I met a lot of nice people, and I would love to add them to my list.
Ship building and sailing a Victory
At this point in time I started ship building. I bought the DLC, as I found out that without enough building slots, it is very hard to get all your buildings up you'll need for shipbuilding. As I love to play independently, I decided I need as much space as possible, and started crafting random ships here and there. The next few days are unremarkable, as I started sailing around to get resources, used my labour hours, while also fighting a bit here and there.
18 days into the game, I ranked up again and got 650 crew. I asked around who could craft me a Victory, and after getting a blue 4/5 one, I loved this ship. I made her a DPM monster, putting my poods on her, medium cannons and 68pd carronades, further improved by a -30% reloading buff by adding skill books and Extra Rum and British Gunnery Sergeant. On my other ships - I had already 15 ships at this point - I started trying to experiment with different kind of upgrades and setups. I bought the Forger DLC to switch to the Pirates, as this allowed me to attack much more targets, making gathering experience more efficient. By fighting I managed to complete the Gunnery Encyclopedia, which is nice as it further improves my cannon skills for the Victory.
After 21 days, I made a big plan. I wanted to become a real ship crafter - level 50, that is. I started with gathering data, e.g. where to build the ships, what resources I need and where to get them. I decided Road Town would be a perfect location, as The Settlement and Spanish town are very close, and with those 3 outpost, I have access to iron, coal, oak, fir, hemp, stone, provisions and lignum vitae. This allows me to build everything I want. I also studied all the crafting recipes, and found out that I needed 6k oak, 7k fir, 4k provisions and some of the other goods. This allows me to build 65 trader snows (oak/fir) - which are the cheapest xp for each real, and it roughly equals the xp required to level up from 29 to 50.
After setting the stage, I decided I was ready at day 23 and crafted all ships in one go, breaking them up again after crafting. This got me up to level 50 in a single day, or 4 days including the preparations. While crafting, I got 3 golden trader snows and quite some purple ones.
Findings: from here on, I was totally engaged in the game, no longer doubting whether it was worth my time. I bought DLC's, and I had fun playing this game. It no longer felt that I was grinding, as I could do so much stuff now. I think the experience required to sail a first rate is fair, and is perfectly balanced. I learned enough about how to handle a ship to sail one. However, I think that's only true for me as I had a great starting capital. Having to start as a poor man, you'll have to trade, trade and trade again, which prolongs this period a lot. It's not hard to make a million, once you have 100k reals. But it is very hard to get 100k, if you got nothing at all. Money makes money in this game, that's for sure.
I love the way crafting quality works. I think it's a great system to have a random chance on a great ship, while alway ensuring a 3/5 ship. This makes crafting gold ships a long term goal, which is nice on the PvE server. It engages me to craft a lot of ships, which fuels the economy, and allows me to sell the basic ships to new players, helping them out on their first weeks.
From here on, day 24, I kept playing, and came into the stage of slowing down. I started trading for reals and for Live and White Oak, so I could craft 1st rate ships. I created my own private clan as my warehouse was getting filled. On day 26 I leveled up again so I got access to 1000 crew, allowing me to sail all ships. I helped a few other players out with some cheap ships, I found rare books, crafted rare upgrades and used my time to enjoy Naval Action to the fullest.
Now I'm settled, I love the relaxing atmosphere of the PvE server. So far I don't have the feeling I miss any content, however I imagine that some RPG story quests, as well as having collectibles would be a nice enhancement. Currently, skill books are the collectibles that keep me engaged. After that, I might want to get a gold ship of each ship type, but most likely I'm having too little port slots, which sucks (30 max with DLC).
Things I would like to see prioritized in development, would be the addition of some more PvE content. For example PvE blockades, port raids and PvP duals (suggested here). Other nice things would be the Captain's Diary mentioned above, as well as some better trading mechanic - which I understand is already being developed. I also suggest that the new player experience should be reworked a bit, I think all new players should start in the Bahama's as a neutral faction, giving them the chance to fight 6 and 7th rate ships right in their harbor, as well as giving them time for deciding which nation would fit best.
But above all: I love this game as it is (that is, if you have enough money and above 650 crew). I would like to thank the developers for making this gem of a game, and I hope they'll further polish it into a masterpiece. Thank you all for reading this far.
Disclaimer From my experience, a lot of PvP players look down upon PvE players. From time to time however, PvP players join the PvE server, asking people questions like: "what are you doing here?", and "isn't it boring to play against bots?". To you guys, I would like to tell you that Naval Action PvE is a great game, relaxing in nature. I love to be able to be independent, not being forced do adapt every day to ports that are stolen under your countries nose, nor being obliged to defend your ports. I love how I could casually build up my belongings, collecting all kind of ships, books, without having unknown risks to lose them. In the current state of the game, I think the PvE server perfectly could hold up on her own.