If you have ever watched much anime in your life, you will know just how surreal and intriguing (at best) the genre can be and how insulting, sexist and non-funny (at worst) it often is. One Piece is a popular anime series, and it’s a pretty good example of popular anime. It’s about style generally over substance. It’s childish and silly and, well, not fun to watch. In my opinion, of course.
The One Piece Online MMORPG is a perfect representation of the experience of watching an episode of One Piece. There are things on the screen, they make sounds and are animated. The sounds are loud, the jokes are meant for 6-year-olds and the characters would seem imaginative if they looked as though they all belonged to the same universe. One Piece Online and the series it is based on is like much of the anime I have experienced, meaning boring.
In One Piece Online, you will have the pleasure of literally pushing a few buttons over and over and over until you get the chance to hit more buttons over and over. (I am not kidding.) While that might not sound like a far fetch from, say, hardcore raiding, it very much is a far fetch. In One Piece Online there is no strategy or thinking needed at all; the game is played by itself, literally.
I can’t remember the exact date I came across one of these self-playing MMOs, but I know that when I did it sort of made sense. After all, many players care only about gaining numbers, so why wouldn’t a game that allows players to literally push buttons to gain numbers exist, be a thing they do and, seemingly, makes some money?
In One Piece Online you will pick out a starting character and play the game by fighting through waves of enemies that are based on the series. It sounds sort of cool, but almost immediately you realize that the game will just keep repeating the same mechanic over and over and over. When you finally do come across something new, like the opportunity to “sail”, you are saddened to see that the task is simply a different screen with a new button to push.
If you have ever claimed an item in an MMO, then you have played One Piece Online. The gameplay is that simple.
I wasn’t satisfied with writing up a review that said simply “This is one of those games that plays itself – no, literally – and it sucks. See you next time!” so I looked into some of the reasons I was fighting with some of these characters. I even found fansites dedicated to the series. (Which made me wonder if people also make fansites for those mobiles that hang over your crib when you are a toddler.)
It turns out that the characters and story of One Piece makes about as much sense as the game, so it’s important to concentrate on the mechanics. Essentially, you “play” the game in order to outfit your roster of helpful teammates who are supposed to help you in fights.
You will occasionally “gamble” for a new character, meaning you pull the lever on a machine that then hands you a random hero.
Next, you get a quest, like this.
After that, you click this button.
Then you will go to another tab to watch MMO videos while the fights literally play by themselves, like this.
Then you turn in the quest.
You’ll repeat this same task over and over. Sure, once in a while it is called something else. Sometimes it is called “fortification” and sometimes you are diving for treasure, but my question remains: if you can play a game without actually needing to do anything, what makes you want to play the game?
I’m guessing that a title like One Piece Online is supposed to be so attractive to younger, gullible fans of the show that just wandering through scenery that looks like it could come from the same universe or “controlling” characters that are from the official IP will be enough. There is a chat, but I see no one chatting. There are other players (I think those are other players) but they are all so busy rushing by on their own controlled path that I have no idea what the point was in making the game multiplayer.
The game is also filled with so many nonsensical mechanics that I truly believe that they are all just items of distraction. The thought must have been “If we just continue to make official art pop up, the players will keep clicking.”
You can choose a faction at the beginning, for example, but cannot actually choose. You are shown the choices but only one is available to pick. (At least this was the case when I played. Other players seem to be able to choose.)
You’re given tutorials for the classes that you did not pick. Another strange example.
The UI is absolutely filled (typical of a game like this) with blinking boxes that represent check-ins and gambling mechanics, but you can play the game without needing any of it. They seem to beg the player for cash, but give no opportunities to spend it.
I imagine that, at some point down the road, the combat becomes enough of a challenge that players will need to occasionally direct combat. It’s possible, and in fact I occasionally clicked a power that was quick-slotted in my hot-bar to “help out” during the automated combat, but it didn’t seem to matter. Many times my targets were taken out before I could click again.
In the end, One Piece Online is nothing new. There have been many hands-free MMOs like this, and I have covered many of them. I have also witnessed a presentation from GDC one year that was given by a former browser-based MMO gold-seller. He talked about how many of these games are literally built to throw away, to turn a quick buck and to move on to the next project. Money is made by selling immediate levels or by making combat so simple that people can hit the number one slot just by putting in the time. The winners are declared, the game is closed and the next one opens.
One Piece Online does nothing new, but the idea of the grind and mindless gameplay is nothing new as well. My only hope is that gamers eventually give up on virtual glory and, instead, discover the wonderful possibilities of actually hanging out and roleplaying in a virtual world. Until then, more games like One Piece Online will come online.
If you are a fan of the IP you might appreciate the game. But, if you’re a fan of the IP I am not sure I am the right person to write a review for. After all, it’s all just a bunch of noise to me. If you want to watch a brilliant video that rounds up all of my thoughts, check out this lovely thing by TheHiveLeader. So good.
Gameplay: 2 – This game doesn’t really have gameplay, but it can if you force it to by pushing buttons.
Visuals and Sound: 3 – The animation and sound design is barely minimum.
Polish: 5 – There’s nothing to really polish here, although some of the artwork is marginally charming.
Longevity: 5 – I only give points for longevity because you could likely grind this one out forever.
Value: 6 – The game is free. There is no better value, even if you wasted a few hours of your weekend on this piece of junk.