Our sneak preview of Pirate 101 concludes with the overall game play impressions. First, the best word to describe the game is fun. There are so many jokes in Pirate 101 for both kids and adults. Underneath the great sense of humor lies a serious game of strategy. Couple that with some amazing customization options for players, and Pirate 101 will span generations with ease.
The fact that the game takes itself so seriously is amazing fun. The idea of a monkey-run Spanish Inquisition with bananas is fantastic. The Monquistadors made all of us laugh out loud with their craziness. This zany style of humor is like watching a comedy show. You really want to see more. Not to mention the Frogfather on his giant floating whale. He will make you an offer you cannot refuse. It is things like this that set KingsIsle apart from many MMO studios. While some of the references in Wizard 101 were hysterical, Pirate 101 really pushes the limit of humor. Entering the world there is no secret that it is filled with skullduggery and double dealings. A pirate’s life is never one of perfect situations. Even when you get your first ship the other pirates mock how small it is and make you laugh with their comments.
Speaking of ships, this part of the game really is amazing. First and most important: your ships fly, which is amazingly cool. You can customize your sails with your own personal pirate flag. Initially the team wanted just flags on top of the ships, but the sails became much more colorful and players can really stand out in the clouds. Also, there are all kinds of upgrades you can get for your ship. Cannons, anchors, steering wheels… you name it, it can be customized. The ship aspect of the game creates another character for the player. While we did not get to see too much of the ship combat, it will be a major part of the game. I cannot wait to fire cannons across the skies. We did see boarding combats where players fight on a game board with planks and areas mapped out on the ship. Just as you can spend hours on your character, you will spend even more time upgrading and customizing your ship.
One of the last pieces that really will make this game a hit is the idea of collecting your pirate crew. The KingsIsle team has come up with very colorful characters join your ranks. From Goat Monks, to Bonnie Anne the Highlander Fox who is the best sharpshooter in the skies, there are lots of wild characters who you can choose from. The crew is yet another extention of your character and will fight beside you to the end. There are going to be hundreds of different and unique crew members for you to find and recruit throughout the game, and the ones available to a Buccaneer will be different than the ones available to a Witchdoctor and so forth. It's highly unlikely that any two players will have the same crew, and you can even assign them ranks on your ship! This way your top ranked character will always join you in combat. Also the crew levels up and can train in skills. By only playing the game a short time at the studio we got to unlock two crew members right away. Their skills are a huge part of the combat strategy and give players plenty of options when they fight.
If you don't believe us, take it from the Vice President and Creative Director, Todd Coleman:
"There are hundreds of different units available in the game, and with the exception of a few key characters (like Bonnie Anne) each class has an entirely different unit collection tree. So a Buccaneer will have a very different set of characters (and therefore abilities) than a Swashbuckler. Additionally, at certain points in the game when you level up a unit they become eligible for promotion (Bonnie Anne goes from a "Fox Gunner" to a "Fox Sniper"), but to do that you have to go on a specific quest that relates to the backstory of that unit. After you complete the quest, they change classes, get a massive stat boost, gain talents and/or powers (from a pool -- the player gets to pick which ones they want and customize the unit), and they get a wardrobe change into a cooler look (better armor, new weapon, etc)."
With so many strong elements to the game Pirate 101 definitely ages up slighty from Wizard 101. Not too much though, as they are looking at players who have been with Wizard for the past three years. Now they can jump into a new game and explore a world that is a bit more grown up. Many of the same game mechanics are also in Pirate 101, with minigames to restore health, hubs and towns where you can begin your adventures, but also a strong storyline for your character. When you create your Pirate you are asked a series of questions which builds the story in the game. You are asked about your parents, brawling with the Clockwork guards, or learning to be a Witch Doctor. These choices take you on far off journeys all over the game. KingsIsle has definitely hit the nail on the head in terms of targeting the right audience, as adults will get hooked on the game just as quickly as kids. We can’t wait to hear more about Pirate 101 in the coming months as the team gears up for beta and launch.