Pirate 101 is the newest game from Texas-based studio, KingsIsle. For those who didn’t know, KingsIsle also has created a family-friendly behemoth with Wizard 101, a terrific title that takes players on a magical journey through the Spiral. That’s important to know as Pirate 101 is closely tied to the Wizard 101 game world. In fact, Pirate 101 sends buccaneers out into the furthest reaches of the Spiral to find adventure in what developers call “The Golden Age of Pirates”.
The game begins, of course, with character creation. It’s a fun little romp that begins with players meeting Boochbeard and Gandry. They work with the player to escape from the brig into which they’ve been thrown. It’s a great way to get characters created and players are given a lot of flexibility both in terms of choosing exactly what type of character they want to play as well as a lot of customization in look from hair to facial expression to clothing worn, even to the creation of a player flag. Character names are chosen from a gigantic list of first, middle and last names that can be randomized or individually selected. This keeps a lid on inappropriate names but, believe me, there’s plenty to choose from. Just ask Fearless Catherine Windlass. *grins*
There are five classes players can choose from:
- Buccaneer: Strong, heavy armor, big weapon yielding character
- Musketeer: As the name implies, a specialist in firearms and traps
- Privateer: Think “minion master”. This class recruits and commands more companions than any other
- Swashbuckler: Basically the rogue class of the group using sneak attacks and finesse
- Witchdoctor: ‘Hoodoo’ wielding magic users with summoned companions, hexes and more
The world is lush and brilliantly colored. Anyone who has played Wizard 101 will recognize the art style. It makes sense, of course, given the ties between the two games. In addition, the voice acting is top notch and a lot of fun. You’ll be hard-pressed not to chuckle at the over-the-top pirate speak and might even find yourself ‘yarring’ and ‘arghing’ right along with the NPCs in the game.
The music fits the setting too. It’s big and epic and nautical, if that makes sense. Think “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies and you get the general idea. But what makes it even more interesting is that you definitely hear shades of the Wizard 101 music embedded in the Pirate 101 music as well. For players who’ve experienced W101, it’s fun to hear.
Once in game, players are taken on a tutorial mission with Boochbeard and Gantry. It’s a good thing too since combat, at least on the surface, is vastly different than Wizard 101.
Rather than participating in battle in a ‘summoning circle’ as in W101, battle is much more closely related to turn-based combat. When entering into a fight, the perspective of the battlefield is taken up to a grid system. The player chooses which enemy to target and what skill to use. In addition, players can recruit companions throughout the game and, during battle, will also be in charge of skill and enemy selection for them as well.
Once targets and skills have been selected, the battle returns to the normal game view and is much more like the Wizard 101 combat system. Each player, companion and enemy gets its own moment of glory as skills are utilized to try to take each other down. When a critical hit is landed, the action slows down and a nifty special animation is shown as well.
I’m still getting used to the way combat rolls out in the game and am not entirely sure that I like it. It’s probably a process of getting used to it more than anything else as I definitely remember feeling the same way in Wizard 101 when I first started playing it too. Those who love traditional turn-based combat strategy will really like P101’s interface, I’m sure.
One of the newest and most unique features in Pirate 101 is the new ship combat as players travel between the five game worlds. There’s no ocean here. Ship travel is via Skyways. There are preset paths, or Windlanes, that allow players to navigate the air safely but, if so desired, players can veer out into the open air and take on enemy ships or natural enemies like the ‘Battacuda’ or “Flying Fish”. Players can choose to launch cannon fire at enemy ships or can get close enough to board and take it to hand to hand combat.
Also out in the Skyways, players will find Stormgates. These gates allow players to fast travel from one game world to another similar to how players used the gates in Wizard 101. Gates will open up as players finish the main quests in each world.
There is a lot to like in Pirate 101 and a lot that will be familiar to players who’ve tried Wizard 101. But that’s not a prerequisite by any stretch. Pirate 101 stands very well on its own and will give players of all ages a lot to do.
While there are no plans for an open beta, if you are interested at a chance at becoming a closed beta tester, head to the official site and sign up!