Dark or Light

Avast! Our E3 2012 Preview

Carolyn Koh Posted:
Previews 0

Ahoy me hearties! Are you ready to sail the skies right into Pirate101? That’s right, swabbies! Pirates sail the skies in Pirate101, not the seas.

The Story

In an age not too long ago, tall ships sailed the endless skies and braved the Stormgates of the Spiral. Streams of energy between the realms were mapped by a generation of explorers led by the great Marco Pollo. It was the great age of exploration and the nations of Marleybone, Valencia, Monquista, and Polaris established colonies and forged trade routes that made them wealthy and powerful while Grizzleheim and many other realms simply enjoyed the fruits of their labor.

Power often leads to corruption and competing colonial interests led to tension between the great powers, and then to war. The other realms were not unaffected as they were dragged in as allies, mercenaries, or battlefields. It was a wild, lawless time in the Skyways as battles raged and trade routes were disrupted. Colonies, cut off from their realms, collapsed into anarchy or fell to hostile raiders while mercenary captains changed sides on a whim or as profit or power dictated the more prudent course.

The great navies were humbled and broken by the war, but the raiders and mercenaries continued plundering the weak, establishing a stronghold on Skull Island. Now with a cease fire established, the realms of the Spiral are regrouping to once again bring law and order to the Skyways. Marleybone is rebuilding its great navy and Valencia’s Armada is once again becoming a force to be reckoned with.

It is at this time, me hearties, where we start our story.

What It’s About

Pirate101 is set in the same universe as Wizard101, but instead of playing good little students going to school to learn to be a wizard and dueling with a card deck, we are pirates! Why? Because pirates are cool. However, in keeping in the kid friendly theme, kids have become pirates because they broke the law while doing something noble. Rescuing a friend, stepping in to help and getting busted because you are in the wrong place at the wrong time.  To get started, kids go through picking parts of their back story – how they became an orphan (parents got eaten by a giant sky squid? Yeah…), where they grew up, how they ended up in jail, how they busted out, where they hid out and who they hooked up with (which great Pirate trainer) – that determines the class they play.

Pirate101 is a more grown up game than Wizard101 but the safe pathways are still there. Keep to the footpaths and you will be safe. Sail along the skyways and try not to stray into the path of the monstrous batsharks. However, in a step away from actual cause and effect violence, guns do not shoot projectiles but streams of energy – you see the puff of smoke and whiff of air; combat is turn based real time strategy based and played out on a battle-board where you pick your moves and action, and the game plays out the combat in full action cinematic glory. Others can also join in the battle simply by running up to you when you are already engaged.

The Pirate’s Life

Instead of choosing schools and being taught by professors of magic, kids are on the lam. Lost your parents at an early age, scrabbled by, got tossed in jail (for a good reason, of course) and now you’re ready to join the lawless and battle the evil robot Armada!

First off, you select a class: Buccaneer (tank), Musketeer (ranged), Privateer (buff & heals), Swashbuckler (melee DPS) or Witchdoctor (magic) are your choices and you get your first companion based on your choice of class.

A good pirate needs a good crew, and that’s what you collect in this game; companions of various classes to adventure with you and to watch your back. A more grown up game means a little more complexity. Leveling up, pirates will put points into their own stats as well as level up their companions. Just as you get better clothing and equipment as you level up through the game, your crew will also change their physical appearance as they hit certain levels.  Companions are acquired through quests and they also show up at certain times to provide narrative as you move through the storyline.

One companion is always appointed sidekick and he shadows you as you run around the game. How you line up your companions will determine the percentage chance they show up in your fights, but your side-kick always fights with you and boss fights will always allow you to manually hand pick your crew.

Pirates need ships too. How else would they travel the Skyways and how else would they transport their crew?  In Character creation, you also design your pirate flag, and this will fly from your ship. Your ships are acquired the same way as you acquire your companions, through leveling and quests.

What are pirates doing when they are not “pirating” around in the Skyways? Like in Wizard101, there are mini-games that are accessible through Carnival areas on Skull Island and other areas. Pirate themed of course: shooters and tower defense games, pass the grog and try not to drop it.


Pirate101 continues the traditions and familiar artwork of Wizard101. The word play on NPC names – close but not exactly that of real world characters, the pop culture references and jokes are there in greater abundance as they admit they let their writers have fun with the sequel. It is a romanticized, fantasy version of the Golden Age of Piracy where Pirates are honorable but aren’t always 100% honest – wait until you see the first “glorious” ship you get which is little more than a leaky rust bucket – or it would leak if it actually sailed on water. There are fabulous NPCs and mobs. Jonah Town is built on the back of a giant sky whale and the Frog Father lives in its belly. Human NPCs are around, but more, you will find anthropomorphic ones. The Buccaneer trainer is a hammerhead shark, the Musketeer trainer a pelican.

Like Wizard101, the game leads you slowly into the mechanics. The first battle board is easy enough. You and your companion need to whack a number of frogs. So you direct them to the enemy you want to fight and the game does the rest. However, as you level, you begin to find that Pirate101 can get pretty complex, with the number of companions you can acquire. Just like Wizard101 when your deck of spell cards starts to get complicated just about level 20 and you choose a second school of magic to mix in, Pirate 101 has companions you can level and select to help you in combat.  Do you level just one of each class or many in case it’s better to have more than one of the class in the fight?

Battle boards get larger and more complex with more NPCs, obstacles and side-quests. These can range from having to rescue a prisoner, using a number of ancient artifacts, to winning the best of three rounds. It's probably safe to say, this game's got a lot going for it as an MMORPG blended with a Turn-Based Strategy. And adult or child: if you like fun, you'll like Pirate101.


Carolyn Koh

Carolyn Koh / Carolyn Koh has been writing for MMORPG.com since 2004 and about the MMO genre since 1999. These days she plays mobile RTS games more, but MMOs will always remain near and dear to her heart.