Pirates Of The Caribbean Online (PC)

By Steven Marsh

Published on Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Graphics: 6.00
Sound: 8.00
Gameplay: 7.50
Replays: 6.00
Gamelength: 8.00

All of the characters we know and love return for plenty of adventure-filled fun in Disney’s “Pirates Of The Caribbean Online”.

Before I start breaking everything down, I’d like to point out that this game is meant to be played by younger gamers and is very much on the “Family Friendly” side of gaming. Don’t write the game off just because of those reasons, though. This game is actually a pretty decent MMORPG for those that are fans of the “Pirates Of The Caribbean” franchise. Just don’t expect anything of FFXI or WoW calibur here and you should be set. Also, it’s worth noting that this game is free to play, but that most of the better portions of the game can only be experienced by purchasing a premium account at a cost of $9.99/month. The game itself is and will always remain free to download, as no CD keys or retail discs are required. In fact, they don’t exist. That said, prepare yourself for a journey into the many famous areas and a whole lot more from Disney’s “Pirates Of The Caribbean” franchise.

First of all, the graphics aren’t too impressive, but with the game’s small file size and (mostly) free approach, it’s about what one would expect. I would venture as far as to say that the game looks really good for something without a real cost. Everything has a somewhat cartoon-like visual appeal and the environments all look great. As far as I can tell, there’s no anti-aliasing and the lighting, as well as the shadows all seem to be low-grade by comparison to other games. The colors seem solid and a little bland, but some of the character models look better than others. The movement of your own character is a bit odd and doesn’t look very well-animated, but the world looks good enough to make up for that. The interface is quite simple and it’s very obviously designed to be usable by even the newest of players or even new gamers in general. The game looks good overall, but for those that have more experience with gaming in general, expect this game to look as if it were designed in around mid-2004 or perhaps late 2003. Some things look a bit better, but for the most part it fits into that era on the graphical side of things.

All of the sounds and the music sound just as you would expect. If you’ve seen any of the movies or played the previous console games based in the same world, you know what to expect. The voiceovers are all top notch and have been properly handled by the original cast, too, which makes for an even greater experience. Sound effects are all very high quality, although in some spots a bit generic, but can you really call the sounds of footsteps or firing a cannon “generic”? After all, there’s only so many ways that one universally common thing can sound and I think they’ve all been covered by now. As for the music, for fans of pirate-like music in general, this game is the best out there. The music sounds like it was designed, written and played by pirates no matter where you are. From my own point of view, Disney has completely nailed the sound in this game.

The story is practically non-existant at first, but as you get into the game and explore more of the world, various story arcs open up and your own character’s story begins to mature. Every character has the same story, which I suppose is the only real drawback of the game as a whole, but there’s so many different things to do that I doubt anyone’s going to finish it in any extremely short amount of time. A hardcore player might finish everything in several weeks, which is short for an MMORPG, but the journey to completion should be quite fun, especially for the fans of the series. That’s not even to mention the content that gets added on a decent basis. All things considered, the “story” of this game is wonderful and in a lot of ways, it’s up to you to decide how the story plays out.

Throughout the game, you’ll be partaking in all sorts of pirate-like activities, which range from simply wandering around on foot and talking to people to all-out story-based quests that take place all over the world. There’s even PVP, which is fairly immersive for what the game is. You can dual on foot or even a classic ship vs. ship battle, which really adds a bit of depth to the experience. At the beginning, you create your pirate and build your appearance from a fair-sized set of components. You can change things such as the thickness of your lips or the size of your chin, but also the basic design and color of your clothing. After that’s all said and done, Jack Sparrow briefly introduced himself in prison, much like the beginning of the first movie and you’re sent off into the world to pick up your chest, which is where you keep your “Pirate Journal” and various other things. The “Pirate Journal” automatically keeps track of the various quests and information you’ve collected and allows you to set up an easy-to-follow objective arrow for the easiest and most seamless questing process ever seen in an MMORPG. You simply follow the arrow and perform your quest objectives as you go, unlocking all sorts of various things from clothing to weapons and even new levels, which come in the form of accumulated reputation. Over time, you’ll accumulate reputation for just about everything you do. The reputation/level system works similar to that of other MMORPGs and is completely skill-based. You’ll gain skill points in various categories, which you may place into a decent assortment of abilities. These skill trees come in several flavors, which include cannon, ship, gun and even “Voodoo” skills. These skills are mostly passive and generally just increase the damage dealt with a particular attack, but also unlock additional strikes for standard combos and a few new techniques as well. “Voodoo” is Disney’s take on the use of magic abilities in this particular game and while a bit lacking of depth, it’s an easy system to adapt to and there’s a decent bit of variety, ranging from healing to straight damage and even odd damage-over-time magic. The death system is slightly annoying due to the travel times, but it’s not as bad as some games, such as FFXI for those who may have played it. When you die, you’re thrown in jail and placed into a state called “Groggy”. In this state, your maximum hit points and voodoo points are greatly lowered for a while, but other than this “Groggy” effect and having to travel again, death has no real impact, which is somewhat of a good thing. You don’t lose any reputation, money or anything else at all when you die, nor do you have to find your corpse again. The melee combat is slightly more enjoyable than most MMORPGs and involves some basic thought and reflexes to do any amount of real damage. You simply click the left mouse button to swing your weapon, then wait for about 1/3 of a second and click it again. Repeat this until you reach the end of your combo, then string it together with one of your techniques, provided you’ve unlocked any. The techniques can be activated by clicking on the numbered icon or by pressing the appropriate number key on the keyboard and generally activate instantly. Gun combat is a little different because you have to run around, aim and shoot. There are still techniques and it still works the same way, but the gun you’re given near the beginning of your journey reloads after every shot, so the potential to create combos is greatly limited. The ship combat is pretty basic, but still fun for a good while. You simply shoot your cannon at your opponent’s ship until the ship’s health has been drained. It’s a good change of pace from the normal combat every so often, but eventually gets old. That’s about all there is to the game, but the story arcs are all pretty good and interacting with the characters in such a large world based on the blockbuster movies is a really cool experience. When you throw in the decent amount of character customization, skill trees, PVP and ship combat, a decent MMORPG recipe is the result. The only extreme flaw found here is the amount of lag experienced even on an immensely high-end gaming PC. I recommend toning down some of the settings a bit just for slightly smoother game play, as the settings make very little impact anyway. It’s not really a game flaw, but the marketing strategy is terrible. Most of the better parts of the game are available only to premium members, which is terrible when the game is clearly advertised as a 100% free MMORPG. When more than half of the good content requires a paid membership, that ruins the “free” image. The crew system is also a bit on the lame side, as no one really uses it the right way and just uses it as a method of control and power tripping. There should be a form of in-game voice chat and enforced crew rules with a more strict crew policy in-game. Until some things are changed or in some cases, simply fixed, joining a crew is a bad idea. In summary, the game is pretty basic and will leave most players wanting something deeper after a short period of time, but for a first-time MMORPG, fans of the “Pirates Of The Caribbean” world or just generally younger gamers, there’s plenty of fun to be had for a good amount of time.

Overall, this game is great for serious fans of the movies and generally younger players. However, I honestly have to say that this game isn’t going to give large amounts of people the enjoyment that they may crave. This is a wonderful effort and a good start, but Disney would need to step up and release a more in-depth retail game on a much larger budget, using the same setting and characters with a better graphics engine and more variation to compete with the more popular MMORPGs. The major problem with Disney’s current strategy is the amount a player must pay in order to experience the game the way it was intended to be played. $5.00 per month would’ve been great, but $10.00 per month is stretching it quite a bit too far, especially considering almost all of the good content is available only to paying members of the community.

Pros:
-Core game is free.
-No monthly fee for basic members.
-Amazing sound quality all around.
-Voice acting is all done by the original cast.
-Lots of things to do.
-Relaxed game play.
-All major characters from the movies are there.
-Character customization is pretty good.

Cons:
-Graphics are immensely sub-par by modern standards.
-Most of the game requires a premium membership.
-Way bit too easy for hardcore players.
-Short for an MMORPG.
-Language filters are a bit extreme.
-Most unlockables are pointless.
-Ship combat gets boring after a while.
-PVP isn’t deep enough and grants no rewards.

Bottom Line:
If you’re a fan of “Pirates Of The Caribbean”, check it out. It costs nothing to create a basic account, download the game and check it out. If you find yourself immersed and wanting more, purchase a premium membership upgrade. You wont spend more than $30 by the time you’ve completed everything the game has to offer if you put any degree of time into the game on a regular basis. Younger gamers may want to consider this as an alternative to any of the serious mainstream MMORPGs. Otherwise, at least for now, this game isn’t going to appeal to you and can be easily overlooked.

Overall Rating: 7.50

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