I had a ton of fun in this game. The majority of the combat is ship to ship tactical combat which has a surprising amount of depth. Your strategy when playing with more than one person in your party and fighting more than one enemy changes each battle a lot. Boats are fun!
However, what hooked me is the economy. The player driven economy is absolutely amazing. In fact, it's such an important part of the game that one of the four "classes" is a Freetrader which is built around getting bonuses to crafting and trading. Consider these facts for a moment:
- Every item in the game can be crafted. There are NPC drops but they will NOT give you enough stuff to survive.
- No item in the game ever moves from one location to another without a player actually sailing from one location to another. The Auction Houses are cross-city, but if you win an item in a different port, it goes in to storage there until you go there to pick it up.
- Port resources which are needed for buildings (which are needed for crafting) are limited in that not every port has every resource. For example, Ironwood is only in 4 of the ports in the entire world, and they're in high level areas. That means that not only is Ironwood expensive to produce because the recipe is uncommon, but it's also expensive because the players harvesting it have to sail way out to the middle of nowhere just to transport the Ironwood to where it needs to go (either to sell on the AH, or to craft in to other items)
- All ports (except a few key ones like the capital and the newbie towns) can be conquered by the four factions, through a special worldwide PVP event. You can actually dock in any port even if it's owned by another faction, but the tax rate on buying or producing anything there will be HUGE (40%-50% instead of 5%) if you are foreign. Also, when a port is close to triggering the world event, a big area around the port becomes an open pvp zone. What this means is that the state of the political world (port conquering) will affect market prices. If Britain's closest supply of Ironwood is in a contested (open pvp) port, Ironwood prices are going to go way up because Freetraders will either need to sail to the next closest port with Ironwood (if they even have a logging camp there, which is expensive to build,) or risk the pvp zone to bring Ironwood from the contested port. If you sink with cargo aboard, bye bye cargo. So that would be very risky.
- The crafting recipes are very in depth and realistic. There are 29 "Raw Goods" recipes in the game which are the only recipes that generate an item without an input item. Every one of the other 782 recipes require items to produce which always can be reduced all the way back to the Raw Goods. For example, a "Mast Brace" is a potion-like item. To produce the lowest level version of it, you need Fir Logs and Nails. Fir Logs is a raw resource, but the nails require Iron Ingots. Iron Ingots require Iron Ore and Limestone, which are both raw resources. Keep in mind that each of those steps requires a different building plus the appropriate recipe to execute (actually Smelt Iron and Forge Nails are both at the Forge) so often times a person crafting Mast Braces won't actually be doing all of the recipes himself. If he doesn't have a Fir Logging Camp for example, he'll be buying those off the AH, which had to have been harvested by another player with a Fir Logging Camp.
All of that adds up to an incredibly interesting economy that is completely player driven.
As a fun little note, the most expensive end-game ship to produce requires 182 individual steps, totaling over 10,000 total recipe executions.