by Danny "Ralsu" Gourley
In the gaming industry, concepts seem to behave like fashion trends at
times: a new idea comes onto the scene and everyone wants a part of it.
In the case of Disney's href="http://tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/94"> style="font-style: italic;">Pirates of the Caribbean Online,
the game is based on their movie, which is based on their ride. Titles
like style="font-style: italic;">Pirates of the Burning Sea, href="http://tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/424"> style="font-style: italic;">Bounty Bay Online, and style="font-style: italic;">Pirates of the Caribbean Online all
reached my ears at about the same time. With the style="font-style: italic;">Pirates of the Caribbean films
cashing in at over $2.7 billion, it made perfect sense for Disney
Online's VR Studio to take advantage of the well-established
intellectual property at its disposal.
But Pirates of the Caribbean Online
(PiratesOnline) is quite a bit different from traditional
massively-multiplayer online games (MMOGs) in some significant ways
that are important for readers to grasp before reading the rest of
this review. First and foremost, it is important to understand that
PiratesOnline aims for a younger audience. The game is marketed as a
great way for parents who play MMOGs to introduce their children of
ages 10-13 to MMOGs, too. Secondly, the game is designed to reach the
lowest common denominator of personal computers; in other words, it has
shallow system requirements. Keeping these two facts in mind, I'll get
down to the business of telling you whether or not the game is any good!
little voodoo never hurt anyone!
It's important enough that it bears repeating; PiratesOnline is
designed with low system requirements to reach a broad audience. The
official minimum system requirements are listed below:
PC: Windows 2000, XP, Vista,
800 MHz or faster processor, 512 MB RAM, 32 MB 3D graphics card,
DirectX 9 or better, 700 MB free disk space, Broadband connection
MAC: OS 10.4.6 (Tiger),
PowerPC G4 or any Mac with any Intel processor, 512 MB RAM, 700 MB free
disk space, Broadband connection
The low system requirements mean almost anybody with a computer can run
this game. They also mean that parents who want to play with children
don't have to think about buying a new computer for a ten year old.
That old hand-me-down system is likely to work just fine.
The PiratesOnline client is free to download, and players have a couple
options for payment. The first option is a very attractive no-cost
plan. Players need only to download the client, create a login, and
build a pirate (free subscriptions get only two character slots).
You'll see ads on
your screen and may have to wait in a queue to get onto the server with
the free subscription. This is how Disney supports the game as
free-to-play. The other option is to pay $4.95 for the first month and
$9.95 per month thereafter. The paid subscription allows access to more
powerful weapons and gives players the ability to create a couple more
pirates (up to 4). Paying subscribers do not see ads on their screens
or have to
wait in line to log in to play
In five weeks of playing PiratesOnline, my client never crashed once.
My wife played some with me on a free account and never crashed either.
Ton Hammer's own Shayalyn played a bit and never crashed. She
introduced her 13-year-old son to the game (he loves it, by the way),
and he didn't crash. However, Shayalyn did report that after each
session her son played on her computer, she'd have to manually shutdown
her machine and power it back on to get it to behave correctly again
(her computer fails to launch programs, open the Task Manager, or
execute normal restart/shutdown procedures).
This is second-hand information, but I trust the source. Manual
shutdowns after a gaming session are minor annoyances for this gamer
after weathering the instability of href="http://vanguard.tentonhammer.com"> style="font-style: italic;">Vanguard for 9 months while
Sony Online Entertainment got it tuned to run better.
Game play begins by selecting the gender and look of your pirate. There
are no racial choices or classes. Name selection involves using a
pirate name generator that gives you names like Jade Callehawk (my
wife's moniker) or John Blackdeck. Alternately, you can submit your own
name for approval, but this causes a slight delay before you can play.
Later on when you get a ship, you'll see the same naming rules apply.
are the least of your worries in PiratesOnline.
You fittingly began your life as a pirate
in jail. None other than Cap'n Jack Sparrow will help you break out and
give you the hook up with a connection to get a sword. From there,
transport to the starting area where you'll go through a pretty nice
tutorial. You'll learn the arts of sword fighting, hone your skills on
fighting with a gun, gain insight on how to use voodoo magic, and
practice commanding a ship. The game does a good job of providing
on-screen illustrations to accompany the instructions you'll receive.
While your first instinct may be to turn combat into a mouse-click spam
marathon, it's actually a little deeper than that. The first basic
special combat move you learn involves clicking once to start the
attack and then clicking once again in the apex of the back swing to
perform the special move. It took me a while to get down the timing for
this little maneuver because I had to battle my assumption that the
best way to fight was to constantly click the mouse until everything
died (thanks Dungeons &
Once you've gotten the basics, you're ready to live the pirate's life
to the fullest. On land, this involves conducting a series of quests,
most of the kill x sphincter beetles variety. The enemies range from
undead to henchmen of the East India Trading Company. All die without
blood and gore, so it's very young person safe. At sea, you can fight
with other ships. This is the area of the game that best lends itself
to multiplayer, as one player navigates the ship while others attack
Levels in Pirates Online are labeled as notoriety. The more monsters
you slay, the more notorious you become. It fits the lore just fine.
New levels of notoriety come with new combat skills, but the treadmill
really slows down over level 10.
If you're tired of fighting, you can always join in some friendly games
of cards. I didn't play around with this diversion, so I cannot
honestly say how fun it is. If nothing else, it serves as a break in
the action or a good way to kill a small amount of time on short
To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Pirates of the Caribbean Online Game Page.