This article marks the final in our series of ‘review in progress’ posts before the official MMORPG.com review is posted late next week. So far we’ve covered a lot of the big ticket things like questing, companions, combat and sailing/ship fighting. Today I’ll spend some time with the “little things” in Pirate101 including the in-game store, polish, leveling and a few other things.
The Rough Spots
For the most part, Pirate101 is a highly polished game with quests working as they should, dialogs in the right spot and playing correctly, combat animations handling themselves as expected etc. Every now and again, however, I experienced an eye-blinking moment with a mental “what the heck” flashing across my vision. For instance, I was directed to return to a quest-giver to turn in my latest adventure to move on in the main story arc. Arriving there, the directional arrow indicating my proximity to the NPC said I was there but there was no one in evidence. Still, I dutifully clicked “x” to begin the dialog with Mr. Invisible who spoke to me from the Great Beyond. In addition, when being shown the image of the next step in the quest arc, the target of my search was also absent. In the big picture, I suppose little things like this really don’t matter much but they seem to happen often enough to be a tad annoying. Luckily, still being able to access the dialog meant that the quest continued so at least there’s no game-ending bug!
The other thing that got to me a bit this week is the horrendously slow leveling. You would think that after years of playing Wizard101, I would be used to being awarded something like sixty XP for a quest that required about a half hour to complete. But…I’m not, apparently. Perhaps I’m spoiled by the other games I’ve played with high level caps and fast leveling, at least at the start. I like leveling often enough that I feel like I’m making real progress. I’m not one of those players who wants to burn through content and hit the cap in the first week but it’s simply got to be faster than it is right now. Don’t get me wrong. I’m enjoying the game and the ambiance, writing, and more. Perhaps it’s a design decision the team made with regard to younger players as well. I don’t know. But it’s frustrating to put hours in and make, for instance, only a level or two.
The other thing that is always a concern in many MMOs today is the advantage that can be gained through items purchased from the in-game store. There is no question that Pirate101 gives a clear advantage to people who are willing to purchase Crowns (KingsIsle’s currency) and who will use it to buy better gear, ships, companions, pets and more. Yes, there are purely cosmetic items available but the sheer number of expensive boosts and enhancements that players can buy in the Crown Shop is staggering.
People mistakenly assume that Pirate101 is a F2P title. It is not completely. P101 players can purchase a 'membership' in monthly, semiannual or annual subscriptions.
The Shiny Parts
All is not gloom and doom, however, and I still find that Pirate101 is a refreshing change to the standard MMO fare that most of us are used to playing. Who can resist pirates? The setting is a lot of fun and has been created lovingly and well by KingsIsle. There are few games that can make that claim these days it seems. In addition, P101 is highly polished even with the bugs that I’ve encountered. Again, most games in recent memory are bug-filled messes at launch. Not so Pirate101. It’s clear that KingsIsle has taken the time needed to make sure that fewer than normal issues confront players. It’s definitely a testament to their QA team.
Pets are also a useful and fun thing in Pirate101. I have a ‘Skarakeet’ that often joins me in battle and pecks the enemy on the head with a high chance of being given a second attack chance. It’s awesome! Believe it or not, the little bugger does a decent amount of damage and is able to dodge a lot of attacks, making him a durable pet and companion! The only thing I can’t do is control which target he attacks. He’s independent that way.
Mounts are cool too. I’ve got a great flying parrot that’s pretty fast and squawks at me regularly. Players can also buy ‘buffaloons’ and even wings to attach to themselves if they prefer. With the distances needed to travel at times, having a mount is pretty essential. KingsIsle has also added a nice option to rent mounts for much less of the in-game currency than buying them would require.
One of the things that I’m particularly happy about when playing Pirate101 is the ambiance the developers have lavished on the game. Ships creak and sails flap in the breeze. Parrots squawk, water burbles, pirates “YARR”, doors slam and more. The sounds create a true atmosphere of a Pirate-esque location in every possible way. The only thing I wish would be for my character to be voiced but few MMOs bother so it’s not a big deal.
The music in Pirate101 is appropriately pirate-y too. I’ve enjoyed the battle music and the general “in town” music in Pirate101. At the same time, there is a similarity in the music that definitely brings Wizard101 to mind further helping tie the two games together.
The community is also a lot of fun. Players regularly add me as ‘friends’ though many do so out of the blue. Generally, however, I’ll add them as it’s never a bad idea to have gaming companions when facing off against some of the bosses. In addition, even without adding someone as a friend, the way that P101 opens dungeons and boss battles is with a series of circles on the ground that anyone can click and join to fight together. Think of it as ungrouped grouping in a way.
As a parent, I also give huge props to KingsIsle for the creation of a game that is safe for my child to play and fun enough for the two of us to play together. We've had more fun in both P101 and Wizard101 to last a long long while and it's been a way for us to bond together. I have no worries either when she plays on her own as KI has made sure that the environment is safe for her with a great filtered chat system and other terrific safeguards for kids.
Finally, combat has grown on me a lot over the last week. It’s unlike any other game out there except, perhaps, a realtime strategy game. It’s definitely not like anything else in the MMO space, that’s for sure. Combat is fun and interesting and requires a lot of thought if a player wants to spend the time with it. There’s an astonishing array of things to choose from for your own character and for your companion characters with an amazing amount of strategic play involved. Players who love micromanagement will really, really like this feature. Even those of us who are not RTS players for the most part will learn to love it over time.
So that wraps up my Review in Progress. Next Friday, I’ll present the official review for the site so be sure to be on the look out!
Leave us your thoughts in the comments about your experiences in Pirate101.