Whenever I play an MMORPG I usually find something wrong with it, from the biggest AAA title to the smallest attempt at an MMO using RPG maker. There are all kinds out there, but normally I don’t find myself having fun with the game. I mean I review these things for a living, so when I play them I try to be objective and figure out whether or not the game does its job properly. Just because I don’t like something doesn’t mean other people won’t like it, so the question that ultimately remains is: is the game good, or not? Well, all of that got thrown right out the window with Pirate101 as I found myself having more fun than should be humanly possible in any game.
There are a few things I want to touch base on with this game. First of all, it is basically a game that runs parallel with the events of Wizard101, though only a few references are made to the ‘Wizarding world’, as it were. Instead this is a completely new adventure with entirely different mechanics. It uses the same engine with a few new additions, but somehow, they manage to make the experience entirely different and refreshing. For example, you now have an inventory/character screen along with a screen for any ships you happen to have. Yes, you can have ships. We’ll get to that in a minute. Well as with all of my reviews, let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
Character Creation and the Like
Creating a character in Pirate101 is much like creating a character in Wizard101 in that you have little control over what your name is going to be. You get the typical three sliders, each one with a different name, and you can choose a title, first name, and last name. You have some measure of control, but this game was designed for children, and as such it strives to ensure that you do not choose a name that would be considered controversial.
Once you have chosen your name, you can proceed to the rest of the character creation, which includes your gender, hair, facial features, etc. In addition to that you will need to select a companion, and there are a few to choose from. Just know that you are not locked into that companion choice – there will be many others for you to choose from throughout the course of the game.
You start out imprisoned by the presiding authority and you are immediately broken out of prison by Broochbeard and Mr. Gandry who go on about you being ‘The One’ or some such, which is standard fare for nearly any MMORPG. Anything to make you feel special, right? You make your way through the prison and eventually free your companion, at which point you find yourself in your first battle. I have to admit, I was a little surprised here because I expect something close to Wizard101 or perhaps something more like a traditional MMORPG. What I got instead was something completely different.
It wouldn’t be a pirate game without some piracy, and we all know that piracy involves crossing swords at some point or another. As I said before, I was expecting traditional MMO fare but what I got was something entirely different. Instead of rushing headlong into combat I was instead treated to a grid that was roughly in the shape of the ship that we were standing on. I came to find out later that the battlefield would always be based upon where you were standing when the fight broke out and it would actually adapt the landscape. For example if there was a crate sitting on the ground, it would appear as such on the grid and you would not be able to pass through it.
Fighting was pretty simple, you could tell your character to move a certain distance across the grid, and at the bottom of the screen was the standard ability bar. You could click on ability and then click on the enemy that you wanted to attack. This of course was only the beginning of it. Some abilities were there to do damage, and then there were those that could actually heal. By using your followers properly, you could have yourself a healer/DPS while you operated as the tank in the party. While this did away with the need to actually form a party, I found that at some point you WOULD form a party and it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be.
During combat, anyone can walk into the area in which you are fighting, and assuming there are not a sufficient number of players already, they will join the combat and give you a helping hand. They will be placed on the same grid, allowing you to coordinate your attacks with theirs.
Plundering the Dungeons
As I got into the game I came across the dungeons of course, and who doesn’t like a bit of dungeon diving? I love dungeons, and I was pleased that the game did feature the equivalent of a dungeon finder. The process is pretty simply. You walk to the entrance of the dungeon and you’re given the choice of either entering by yourself(or with a group if you have formed one) or you can search for a group. You will either start the group, or you will be placed in one that is already forming. Once five people have been chosen, you will be able to enter the dungeon and begin the fight.
During the battles it can get a bit confusing, but I found that the person with the most experience generally takes charge, and because the chat communication is a bit limited, most of the chatter is basic commands. For example someone will issue an order to protect someone, or to attack a specific target. The people in this game listen better than in most other MMO’s I’ve played, that’s for sure. The best part is that everyone is able to bring their followers, making for a more complete experience. In other words, everyone gets two turns. All in all, I found the dungeon experience to be pretty nice.
Pirate101 does not take place on the water, surprisingly enough. Instead it takes place on a series of islands within the spiral, some of which are interconnected by bridges. The rest you will need to travel to by ship which requires advancing the quest line far enough to be awarded your very first boat. Just as with Wizard101, the world is heavily instanced, but less so than its counterpart. You start out on Skull Island, which will be your base of operations, and it houses pretty much all of the merchants and quest givers you will need at the beginning. Once you have finished the majority of the quests on Skull Island you’ll be given your first ship by Captain Avery which seems to be more of a pile of sticks than an actual ship.
Traveling by ship seems to be reminiscent of walking on the ground in that by sticking to lanes you can avoid encounters with enemies. You can do the exact same thing on the ground by sticking to the sides of the dungeons and roads, though as always, mistakes will be made. One thing I will complain about is that docking is a bit confusing at first, but once you get the hang of it, it’s not that hard. In addition to that, when you moor your ship, it actually stays there, visible for everyone to see. It doesn’t disappear. That’s pretty cool if you ask me, and it certainly helps to keep up the immersion.
Leveling up and Laying Down the Law
You level up through conventional means in Pirate101, which means doing quests and making sure you purchase skills. Yes, it’s one of THOSE games. You need to go to your skill trainer and purchase skills which can then be added to your hotbar. Don’t worry, most of the things you need are located in Avery’s Court on Skull Island, so it won’t be much of a hassle. With your newly acquired skills you can head out to quest some more, or you can spar in the PVP house on Skull Island.
A Place to Call Home
The game features player housing that can be expanded or added to pretty easily. The basic house is located in Avery’s Court on Skull Island, and you can either find additional ones, or you can purchase them on the store with crowns. In the beginning, however, your house is actually pretty sparse.
I mentioned ships earlier, and I did mean that you can have your own. It is a bit limited at first, and through quests you can upgrade your vessel. It has separate inventory and equipment slots from your character, and you know what’s really cool? When you’re sailing you can actually SEE your character model on the deck of the ship. That has to be the coolest thing ever. Controlling your ship is done with the WSAD keys, and if you get into combat, the fun only intensifies.
The Pay to Win Factor
I hate even including this section for a game like Pirate101 but people always want to know. Is the game Pay-to-Win? Yes. The answer is bloody yes, the game is pay-to-win. Like any other game it has a base fee where you pay a fee of $9.99 and have access to everything, or you can pay a fee to unlock each area. Fortunately, the fee to unlock areas is actually pretty low, and with a simple $5 investment you can probably unlock two or three areas. The best part is that you don’t have to worry about only experiencing the section once as any areas purchased will be permanently unlocked on your account. The plan you choose will all depend upon how often you play and what you want to experience. In a way, paying as you go is actually a good idea, because this way, you won’t be paying ahead for content that you aren’t even using. On the lesser side however, there is probably a LOT of content to purchase, so in the end it comes down to how much extra you’re paying. Either way, the content is worth seeing.
If you want to make things a bit more interesting, you can buy packages on the store page which allow you to add crowns along with in-game items. This includes better ships, outfits, and even companions to take with you into battle. These packages range from $14 to $30 depending on what you want, and such items are only granted to those who have spent the extra money. It might seem a little unfair, but Pirate101 crowns are actually sold in retail stores, making them a bit more accessible to the general population than the currency in other games.
Chatting with your Fellow Pirates
This game has the same downfall as Wizard101 when it comes to the chat system. There are several levels of chat function, from no chat, to limited chat, and unlimited chat. Because this is a game centered around children, parents can set the chat so that the children cannot talk at all, meaning they will be limited to using pre-written chat macros to help guide others in dungeons. Those with unlimited chat however will have their own set of limitations forced upon the by the game itself. For example, I found that the system only lets you use specific words programmed into the chat filter. As you are typing, any words you type will be highlighted either red or white. Red words are unacceptable while white words are allowed. On the bright side, it keeps you from misspelling anything and is inadvertently teaching children how to spell properly. For this we thank you, Pirate101, the Internet will be a far better place in the future. On the downside it doesn’t allow for any sort of personality to shine through. There is no emphasis on words, though it does force each pirate to be a bit more creative. Either way, I found that the system can be annoying but I totally understand that it has to be this way in order to protect the children.
The social aspect of the game simply consists of players standing around in common areas and conversing. There are no guilds, or at least there is no guild system within the game. This does not mean that some players have not formed their own guilds outside of the game. I’m just saying that the game doesn’t support it.
The game is fun. There’s no other way to put it. Strangely, the only other game I could possibly compare this one to is Star Trek Online. It has many of the same features, though instead of planets they have islands, and instead of starships there are wooden pirate ships. There are a lot of people who put this game down because it’s for children, and because it tends to have some rather wacky themes, but seriously, this game is awesome. It’s very well made and there are hours of fun to be had. Whether you’re an adult or a child, it’s the pirate’s life for you.
+Easy to Control