Pirate101 is the latest game coming out of Austin’s KingsIsle Studios. Its inaugural title, Wizard101, was released several years ago and has been a perennial favorite with players looking for a family-friendly game. With Pirate101, KingsIsle moves its specific niche in the MMO genre forward to bring players looking for more beyond the gates of Ravenwood Academy.
Pirate101 is loosely connected to Wizard101 in that both games share the “Spiral”, or the way that worlds are organized within each game. In P101’s case, its game worlds are on the outer fringes of the known Spiral locations and it’s a far different place from the relatively civilized environs that W101 players are used to.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be taking a look at several key components of Pirate101. In today’s piece, we’ll start with the basics of creating a first character and at the baby steps one encounters on entering the game.
So, AVAST! Batten down the hatches, me hearties!
THE ROUGH SPOTS (Week 1)
As a game that caters to a pretty specific audience, namely the ‘tween’ crowd and families, Pirate101, like its predecessor, has a certain onus placed on it to be intuitive and simple for kids to pick up and play. It’s not to say that P101 is a kids-ONLY title. It is not and, as time will show, has a surprising amount of depth to it. But even so-saying, it’s imperative that the target demographic to be able to figure out what’s going on when first entering the game.
Creating a character is fairly simple though there’s an awful lot of noise in the background and the interface requires players to look all over, rather than, for instance, having all creation selection panels appear in the same place. What I mean is that the panels for choosing hair color, clothing colors, etc. appear in one place but the panels for determining a character’s background story appear in another. While it’s not a big deal for an adult, I believe that kids could find this confusing or at least distracting. Same for the ambient noises of cannons booming, swords clanging, etc. Of course, the game’s sounds can be toggled lower or even turned off so that’s probably not as big a deal as it sounds like.
When I first entered the game, I wanted to be able to change the screen resolution as everything was appearing WAY too large for my taste and I couldn’t see enough around my character. There are a lot of resolutions from which to choose but when I picked one and clicked “OK”, I didn’t notice an appreciable difference though it should have been distinct. It’s possible that this is just a bug or something that needs a bit more study but it was distracting enough to me as to bother me.
In combat, there were also a few bugs. In case you didn’t know, combat in Pirate101 is similar to a turn-based strategy game. When it begins, players are on a grid that show both their character and his/her companions as well as any other players and their companions who are taking part in battle. The other side of the grid is filled with the enemies the group is taking on. To target an enemy, a player clicks on the one they wish to attack and an arrow is drawn to show movement to accomplish this. Several times when trying to target an enemy with one of my companions, the arrow drew itself into pretty funky shapes and, ultimately, I was not able to make the selection and had to pass its turn.
The other thing is that, where in Wizard101 battle was neatly organized into a summoning circle with players on one side, monsters on the other, Pirate101 is a jumbled mess of players, their companions, monsters and more. I realize what KingsIsle is trying to do but I found it rather distracting.
THE SHINY PARTS (Week 1)
Honestly, there is nothing I like more than pirate-y goodness. It’s refreshing to play a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously and has fun with itself. It’s very apparent that the development team had a great time making this game. There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments in the game starting with the earliest steps in. For instance, one aspect of the background story can be that your parents were swallowed by a sea monster. That struck me as quite funny for some reason. Maybe it’s one of those things you had to be there to see. *g*
Character creation is a nice surprise as well. There are a lot of options, plenty to make even the youngest buccaneer happy. Players can customize faces, hairstyle and color, clothing options as well as color and trim color and, in what I think may be one of the best new features in P101, can even create a flag. There’s great potential to spend a lot of time so doing.
Names cannot be customized for the obvious reason that, as a child friendly game, KingsIsle wants to keep it clean. But there are plenty of names from which to choose. Players can pick a descriptive first part of their name as well as a first name and a surname. Say hello Reckless Catherine Gordon, if you would. Anyone could spend a lot of time picking just the right combination or can roll a random set of names if looking to get into the game as quickly as possible.
While I only got a small taste of ship to ship combat, it’s definitely something new and fun that KingsIsle has brought into P101. After all, what kind of pirate game would it be without being able to swing from the yardarms? Ships travel in the sky through the Spiral rather than in the water but it all works very well. Players have the ability to engage enemy ships and other bad guys floating around using both cannons and hand to hand combat by boarding ships. From the small bit that I saw, it looked to be a total blast and I can’t wait for more. Ships are how players travel from world to world throughout P101. The first major quest rewards players with a shiny new ship so I’m working on it!
Lastly, for this week at least, there is housing. As with Wizard101, housing is something that every player has access to and can spend a LOT of time dinking around with. The houses received when purchasing a game time card, for instance, are HUGE and will require a lot of time and attention to decorate in just the right way. Decorative items can be purchased from vendors or dropped by monsters or even given as quest rewards. It’s a great way for younger kids to spend time in the game if they tire of combat.
THE WAIT AND SEE (Week 1)
While there are definitely parts of the Pirate101 combat system that I do not care for (see above), I believe that there is the possibility that it will grow on me. At this point, only a few hours in, I will take a ‘wait and see’ attitude and give it more time. With my years of experience playing Wizard101, the jolting difference may take time to sort itself out in my head. I’ll report back on it next week.
Next week, we’ll take a second look at combat, questing, ship to ship fighting and companions. So be sure to look for it in the coming days!
Have you played Pirate101? What do you think? Let us know in the comments.