Pirate Galaxy Review

If there one thing our beloved MMORPG genre is lacking, and by lacking, I mean almost non-existent, it good ol’ fashioned space pirating. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find an MMO nowadays that had ‘space’ in it at all. There are plenty with pirates, and elves, and orcs, and demons, and fairies, and angels, and goblins”¦ but you can almost count the MMOs featuring a jump to warp speed on your hand. And I’d wager less than ten per cent of those have space pirates. All I really want to know is why.

I’ve speculated on this topic in the past, and for the most part I came up empty. Then I played Pirate Galaxy, after playing Mass Effect 2 and watching Starship Troopers, and suddenly it all became clear.
Let start with Pirate Galaxy, as we can learn a lot about the decline of the Sci-Fi MMO here, and too, because that the game I’m supposed to review today. I’ll begin by saying that Pirate Galaxy isn’t a bad game. I don’t want to give you the wrong impression from the start here: Pirate Galaxy is actually quite good. For starters, it has a story. Let me say that one more time: it has a story. You remember what that is, right? It the bread and butter of any Sci-Fi adventure; it what keeps you coming back, day after day, for another taste of that mind-blowing goodness. If I were to create a list of things that every Sci-Fi MMO must include, story would be right at the top. However, this is something of a double-edged sword, as having a story isn’t enough; it has to be a good story, and it has to be implemented well. That where Pirate Galaxy can improve a little.
When I say implemented, I mean it has to be effective in its delivery. For example, Pirate Galaxy uses the tried and true method of delivering its story by using still-frame artwork and subtitle-style text. Now, fair enough, Pirate Galaxy is technically a browser MMO (although it can be downloaded if you choose), and this burden carries with it certain limitations. I understand that. But it 2010, and we’re fast moving beyond the time where such limitations are no longer limitations at all, but rather shortcuts, and that I cannot abide. If you’re not sure how to deliver a story well in your MMO, go play Mass Effect 2, and do that. Then, once you have some experience, you can start experimenting with your own style, because there a reason that this style works so well, and you really need to know what it is before you start making your game. The other side of the story fence — i.e. making it good — is another lacking aspect of Pirate Galaxy. The story is definitely there, but it a bit underwhelming. In short: you’re a pirate smuggler, and as you might expect, you’ll be conducting all manner of smuggler-type missions and jobs, and all of them will, quite frankly, put you to sleep. Where the action? Where the adventure? Where the character? It not in Pirate Galaxy, that for sure, and it a shame because so much else in Pirate Galaxy is so damn good.
Okay, so I went a little overboard on the story. But it something that been increasingly obvious in its decline these past few years, and it something I’d really like to see change. Good story isn’t that hard: you just need a good writer with a good imagination. Are they really that hard to find? Alright, the next part, gameplay, Pirate Galaxy does quite well, as in the very least; it innovative and enjoyable, if at times a little overused. Very simply, as a smuggler with your very own one-man ship you’ll be conducting various missions on the surface of various planets”¦ in your ship. Yes, your ship is not only capable of orbit jumps and interstellar travel, but also of basic ship-to-bad-guy combat much like a standard MMORPG. Though, instead of roaming a free world, you’ll be sent on specific missions, and you’ll be mostly free to roam them until you’re finished, at which point you’ll fly back into orbit, upgrade your ship, pick a new destination and do it all again. Many of the quests are really not that bad: there are standard ‘kill X of Y’ missions, escort missions, protection missions and so on, and while the combat isn’t very exciting, it not particularly bad and it more than enough to keep you entertained while you build up your gold and upgrade your ship. So gameplay-wise, Pirate Galaxy has steered away from the 3D-shooter style that is so prominent in the few Sci-Fi MMOS available”¦ and fallen back instead on the very standard fantasy MMO style of grinding ‘on the ground’ and levelling up as you do. I think, if Sci-Fi MMOs are to ever make a stand in this strange world of ours, this is also going to need to change. Something completely new is required; something unlike any other genre currently available, as mixing and matching isn’t working very well and something needs to change eventually.
Well, that went fast. An interesting style of reviewing a game, to be sure. I may have to try it more often. But, now, as the end is nearing and we’re running out of time, let wrap up this review and see where we stand. Believe it or not, I’ve actually covered almost all of the notable elements in Pirate Galaxy already. I haven’t mentioned the controls yet, and I should, because they’re a bit irritating. Basically, it a click-to-move system with WASD tacked on the side — and both feel a little awkward. The WASD doesn’t really work at all, as it takes far too long to respond to commands and makes combat a bother, and the click to move just doesn’t offer the maneuverability that it needs to make the combat fun. Yet strangely, it not game-breaking and with a little practice it actually feels alright. Now, I’m not saying that it shouldn’t be updated; it should, but for the time being it isn’t going to stop you from enjoying the core elements of Pirate Galaxy, such as upgrading your ship class and participating in PvP, and it doesn’t stop Pirate Galaxy from being one of the most fantastic looking browser-based MMORPGs to have ever graced this puny planet with its presence.
As it evolves, let’s hope that more is accomplished with Pirate Galaxy in the way of story and design. On it’s own it is still a game worth the time of any budding Sci-Fi enthusiast, and in many ways, still a game you should give a try. After all, you can start playing in about 2 minutes.
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