I've made a review back in 2017. Today it would surely look completely different. At the moment, I would not publish it because it's still an unfinished product and things might still change.
But I can give you a summit of my player experiences as they are today. Perhaps it's although a kind of interesting feedback, as far as any of the developers might be willing to take a look at it.
I bought this game in early access back in 2016 after stumbling over a video made by youtuber "SideStrafe" showing a trafalgar battle with 40 ships in a battle instance. The video has over 167.000 views until today. I was stunned by the sight of all those white sails moving over the nicely animated water and the ships firing broadside over broadside towards the enemies. And I was fascinated because it was clear from the very first minute watching it that these guys know what they are doing. The ship models are historically accurate and beautifully detailed. Never before did I see such a great sailing and combat game.
From my youth on I was a big fan of old sailing ships especially the frigates in the period of angloamerican war of 1814. And some of these ships were already ingame! I was exited to see the Surprise, the Constitution, the Cherubim and many other beautiful ships. The next hour I bought the game via my steam account for 35€. Having joined Early Access for the first time, I was curious about the testing period and I thought that the developing process would take about one year of balancing and finetuning and after that we would hold a finished product in our hands. I never thought the developing process would last over three years.
Then came the open world.
The developers posted a few pictures of beautifully designed coastlines and I was curious how it would feel sailing through an open world. Since then my experience with sandbox games was nearly zero, I felt exited and enthusiastic about testing it. And we got a huge world, ready to explore and conquer. The map seems to be a historically correct copy of the carribean map in the 18th century.
The first contacts with the open world model were nice experiences for me. I joined the british nation and in the first weeks there were many interesting battles as fleets were gathering in front of the capital Kingston just to lurk there and wait for victims. Pedro Cay was a nearby port which had important materials for crafting so the journey to Pedro was always exiting. Other nations did know that and so some fast ship could always lurk behind the edge of the island. This part worked really well for me. It was a short distance to go with many surprises on the way. Every other capital had a similar important trading post a few seamiles away. It was the time of calling for help in nation chat "Hey, I'm between Pedro and Kingston being chased by an enemy Mercury. Help, please." Port battles had a simple game mechanic. Players could buy a flag in some own port which opened a time window in which the flag must be brought an enemy town. If done so, a port battle started. The problem here was that some players had great advantages of this because of the time shift between countries. In best case, there were no people online to defend the port.
So this mechanic was changed. Now it works with generating hostility by hostility missions where you sail near an enemy port to raise hostility by sinking ships. This is a good and important change in gameplay which suits best into the setting.
Unfortunately there were other changes that don't fit very well in the game. Clans were early implemented into the game, but they never interested me much. I thought of them as a possibility of finding clanmates to sail and fight with but I preferred to sail and hunt alone so they were nothing more than a side note in galaxys history for me. But suddenly clans were promoted heavily. So heavily that they became more important than nations. Why? I never understood this change, because I always felt as part of a nation, for which I would fight. People said that's important because of RVR but I never got the reason behind this. It could be that clans of the same nation would not be friends or be even hostile (though they could not attack each other, but they could conquer ports and get benefit of it as a clan entity). Why do we need to split nations in that way? Why should a player pay taxes for buying something to another clan of his own nation? In times of war there was nothing more important than nations itself. Why clans were promoted that way by the developers is one of the things I am not capable of understanding until today. I understand it in a fantasy role play game. But in a naval warfare game this is ridiculous.
Other changes followed. Mainly they were changes either to discourage solo players or to promote clans or lately even to make small ships less worth. Another point I didn't get. At first all ships were beautifully designed then only to degrate them as useless small ships which can be thrown away since a player leveled his character so far that he can sail bigger ships. I always loved frigates. I hated line ships. This won't change even if the big ships would sink me constantly.
The trading mechanics were changed several times too. We had wipes that destroy our buildings. Ok, lets begin from scratch no problem. But after all I must say that trading is now completely broken. It mainly consists of sailing long routes for great profit but you transport goods that aren't needed for the crafting process and the important nearby trading posts vanished instead. This means on the other hand that enemy raiders have no specific locations where they can be sure to meet some traders like it was before. Raiding is now a matter of pure random. Not exiting as it was, rather boring and frustrating.
The crafting process was lately also changed. I remember the times when everyone could craft ships freely as long as he had aquired the blueprint for the ship first and he had the required crafting level. Getting the blueprints depended on randomness. Maybe not the best mechanic, but it worked somehow. Then we had a time where the blueprints were removed and permits introduced for line ships. This was made because the amount of 1st rates ingame was incredibly high so we needed a reduction. It worked well but then it was tweaked with permits for nearly all ship types and the need for combat marks to buy a permit. Combat marks are given as reward for PVP. Then they added AI missions where you could get permits directly or for combat marks. Some ship permits are only avaliable per missions where you can get randomly a rare permit. Given the fact that durability of ships were reduced to 1 and the consequence of quick loss of ships this is quite ridiculous and as bad as random drops of blueprints were before. But given the fact that after receiving a random blueprint you got the chance to craft this ships constantly, you can now craft only one ship for one permit. A very bad idea, that makes crafting way less attractive and frustrating. If you count the fact, that special woods for ships were way more important in PVP as they were in former times and the fact, that these woods are now only available in one port in the whole map, this is much more ridiculous.
The last change was to introduce a certain amount of redeemable ships. You can buy DLC and get a redeemable ship per day. Maybe a last try to raise some money for the unneccessary long development process and a try to give players ships when they have no woods or no permits. It is the least attractive way of doing this. And the least charming too. As a long term player I feel kind of betrayed. I spent money for something that was only quarter-baken. I spent money to be able to trade, craft, fight, sail. And now everything in this game is restricted. In my opinion this game lacks testing, intense testing of the developers themselves. If I learned something about OW sandbox games in the past years, then it is that these games need intense testing by the developers, because without it they cannot feel what a player feels. And then they make decisions which are not objective. They make decisions which are very subjective, influenced by a few loud and louder shouting players in the forums. Lobby thinking is here at its best. But I have to understand. Solo players have no lobby. Solo players are not wanted. They're not worth a penny.
Player frustration in this game is extremly high. I remember there were better times and this is really demotivating. Since latest patches, the game has also taken a strange direction in PVP combat. It seems now that you only can succeed in this when you have ships made of rare special woods (which are practically unable to get) and rare special upgrades (which you only get if you are good in PVP). So the game relies here heavily on luck and on unaccomplishable requirements. All things we learned in the past that should be avoided. No we have them. Even more massively than ever before.
My feedback during the long process of development was unheard by the developers. At least this is what I assume. My hopes were others I must admit.
Now, what you get for your money is a game in which the developers had put an immense effort to bring sailing ships of the 18th to early 19th century to life. They reconstructed them from old plans, drawings and paintings in a historical accurate way. They could really have looked like this. They succeded in creating an unique game. The sailing simulator used in the instanced battles is great and with this game I learned how sailing works from the basics to advanced technics. This game gives you an authentic feel as a captain in historic sea wars era.
Be aware that you get drawbacks in all other aspects.
The crafting, trading, grinding, hauling and clan related tasks are often boring and unsatisfying. They require a great amount of free time to fulfil and aims at unemployees, retirees or similar people with (too) much free time. I regret very much seeing a game with so much potential in such a poor shape. When you buy this, be aware that you have to buy almost all DLC to be able to play it somewhat properly. Do not assume that you can play this easily. You need tons of hours to learn the basics and to learn how to fight successful against other players. The overall cost of this game is 131,22 € at this moment. This is far far more than I ever had spent on a computer game. Under reconstruction aspects one may consider it appropriate, I consider it to be the most exeeding money amount I would ever spend on a single game. And it isn't finished yet. If someone asks me, how I would proceed with this, I must say, I don't know the answer. Not now.
Maybe other players will share their expericences here too. I'm curious.