Some online games launch amidst a large amount of fanfare, with multi-million dollar advertising budgets spreading advertisements everywhere. Others are released quietly, relying on word of mouth to bring in players. As a game based on Disney’s blockbuster movie series, Pirates of the Caribbean, one would expect Pirates of the Caribbean Online to be one of the former, but it was released almost five years ago, with little hype, and has continued to fly under the radar of many gamers, relying on a strong community of dedicated players to keep itself afloat.
In Pirates of the Caribbean Online, players become pirates sailing the Caribbean in the time period of the movies. Many of the characters of the movies exist within the game, complete with likenesses of the actors, and serve as quest givers to provide direction during your looting and pillaging. Fans of the movies will find that characters, places and ships from the movies are abundant and help bring the game to life, but there is fun to be had for players new to the series as well. While possessing a number of flaws, Pirates of the Caribbean Online still serves as an entertaining way for pirate fans, especially younger fans, to get their daily dose of plundering.
Aesthetics – 6.0/10
Pirates of the Caribbean Online is almost five years old now, having been released late in 2007, and unfortunately it shows in its graphics. Even in 2007, Pirates of the Caribbean Online wasn’t one of the best looking games on the market, with rather plain looking character models and awkward animations that time has not improved. Characters are drawn in a cartoonish style, which does fit the game, but the limited options for character customization means that you’ll see doppelgangers of your character on every island and one tavern owner looks like the next. The animations of characters are also quite stilted, with characters moving as though they didn’t have elbows or knees. Despite the generic look of most characters, the characters from the movie such as Captain Jack Sparrow and Will Turner look above average and are solid representations of the actors that play them.
The islands that make up the Caribbean are disappointing graphically as well. Many of the graphical assets are heavily reused from island to island causing several of the islands to look nearly identical. Within the cities, many of the buildings share the same models as well as the same interiors. This becomes a problem with enemies as well, as there are only about twenty enemy models that are reused to represent higher level enemies with the only difference being a name change and occasionally a different weapon.
While the graphics in Pirates of the Caribbean Online may be a let-down, the music is one aspect that really shines. While most of the music is new for the game, the inspiration of the movies’ soundtracks can clearly be heard in each track. Much of the music has an epic feel and does a great job of creating an atmosphere ripe for swashbuckling. Both combat and sailing feature background music that is quite catchy and is sure to appeal to fans of the movie and newcomers alike.
Gameplay – 6.5/10
As one would expect of a game based on pirating, sailing and combat make up a large portion of the gameplay in Pirates of the Caribbean Online. Each player takes on the role of a pirate rescued from an island prison by Captain Jack Sparrow. The tutorial takes the form of a quest to escape from the island while it is under attack by Jolly Roger, an undead pirate and main antagonist of the game. Once free from the prison island, the player is dropped in the Caribbean with a ship and a sword and given free rein to explore the world.
This freedom is where the gameplay takes form. For pirates who enjoy a more linear experience there is a main quest line that revolves around assembling a crew for Captain Jack Sparrow’s Black Pearl. This quest line can last well into the higher levels of gameplay and serves as a guide, sending pirates to the different islands at level appropriate moments. For those pirates who enjoy their freedom, things can be done in their own way. The starting boat serves as a way to visit any island right from the start, as no areas are locked. Pirates can travel the seas finding which islands have enemies to fight and which islands to avoid until stronger.
Whether following a quest or exploring, combat is sure to find pirates quickly. While all pirates have a notoriety level, which serves as an overall indicator of a pirate’s strength, it is a pirate’s weapon level that determines the number and strength of combat abilities that can be used in combat. All pirates start with the ability to wield swords and as their notoriety level rises they gain quests to acquire other weapons, such as guns, voodoo dolls and bombs. In addition to weapon skills which help in land combat, each pirate also has skill in sailing and cannons that are utilized during ship combat. As each of these weapon types is used they gain experience and level up. This grants skill points as well as providing experience to the pirate’s notoriety level.
Land combat itself is a mixture of the old and the new. Attacks are made by left clicking the mouse and like in most online RPGs each weapon type has skills which are utilized by hitting the appropriate number key. What makes combat different in Pirates of the Caribbean Online is that for some weapons, such as the sword and dagger, combos must be strung together by clicking attacks in a particular rhythm, while others require the player to hold the mouse button to increase the power or range of an attack. This makes combat a little more involved as button mashing makes fights much harder. While this would seem to make combat quite fun, and it can be, the fact that each weapon only has a few active abilities spread over thirty weapon levels can make combat seem simple and repetitive.
In addition to combat on land, naval combat also plays a large role in Pirates of the Caribbean Online. From the start, battles on the high seas are merely a zone away. Heading to an island’s dock and clicking on a longboat gives pirates the option of launching their ships and fighting via the sailing weapon skill or boarding another pirate’s ship and lending a hand by manning the cannons. Getting together a crew of pirates to sail a ship and man all its cannons to hunt high level enemy ships can be both the most fun and most efficient way to gain experience in the game. Unfortunately, naval combat is also where the game’s worst issue is most noticeable. At times, the lag on the sea can cause ships to sit place for upwards of ten seconds before suddenly shifting forward. This causes cannon fire to splash into the ocean where a ship used to be. While this lag isn’t a constant, it seems to happen every few nights and is noticeable by nearly everyone regardless of internet setup or computer power. When it is at its worst, it is often better to just do something else until it returns to normal.