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Pirates of the Caribbean Online

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Online Multiplayer
Publisher: Buena Vista Games
Developer: VR Studio


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PC Preview - 'Pirates of the Caribbean Online'

by Thomas Wilde on Feb. 2, 2007 @ 1:54 a.m. PST

Capturing the high seas and swashbuckling adventures found in both “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” and the upcoming “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,” players embark on quests for adventure and treasure in an effort to become the Caribbean’s most legendary pirate. Featuring hundreds of customization options, players create and customize their own pirate, form a crew, and set sail on the high seas. Along the way they learn skills and tactics from the notorious Jack Sparrow, helping them forge alliances, hunt for buried treasure, battle evil undead forces and face off against known enemies from the movie franchise.

Publisher: Buena Vista
Developer: VR Studio
Release Date: Spring 2007

If you've grown a little wary of not only pirate-themed video games that do not have the words "Sid Meier" in their names, but Pirates of the Caribbean tie-ins, you might want to pay attention to Pirates of the Caribbean Online regardless. Even if it turns out badly — and honestly, it doesn't look at all like it will — it has a few interesting ideas that I'd like to see enter the MMO mainstream.

PotC Online is set in the films' world, but not in its timeline; that is to say, while characters from the films such as Jack Sparrow and Elizabeth Swann will appear in the game, the game is not set at any specific point in time. Think of it as one big alternate universe.

The game is being set up so anyone at all can play it, on just about any computer out there. It won't appear in stores at all, and can only be found as a free download. Players can opt to play it for free, where they can try out approximately one-third of the available content, or unlock the entire game by consenting to a $9.95 per month subscription fee.

That gets you, essentially, a world of islands and piracy, where the typical levels/experience system has been replaced by one of notoriety and great deeds. Every character in PotC Online begins as a neophyte pirate, dropped into the ocean off an island and left to fend for themselves. By digging for treasure, fighting pirate zombies, playing barroom games like poker or darts (which you can cheat at through the use of voodoo), or sinking other ships, your legend grows, and with it, your abilities.

At this point, it's difficult to say much about the game, since what I played was very much in its beta state, but PotC Online is at least being designed with maximum playability in mind. You can teleport directly to your friends instead of spending hours or minutes running across the game world to join them, you can pilot an entire ship by yourself if you feel like it, characters can swim an infinite distance without running the risk of drowning, and you can summon your ship to you simply by swimming out to sea and pressing a button. It's meant to be fast-paced and exciting, with all of the potentially boring parts of other MMOs stripped out of it.

You begin the game with minor proficiency with cutlass, dagger, pistols, grenades, voodoo dolls, and a voodoo staff, and gain more proficiency with each through using them. The higher your level with a given weapon, the more points you can earn to unlock and improve better attacks. The cutlass comes with a basic, timing-based combo swing, as well as an AOE sweep and a single-target flurry of blows. Pistol-wielders gain access to a variety of status-inflicting bullets, such as the MP-reducing Bane Shot and the undead-killing Silver Shot, as well as the ability to hold down the left mouse button and "charge" a bullet. The dagger is fast and has a number of surprisingly powerful skills, grenades have large areas of explosive effect, and the voodoo system provides magic-happy players with a kind of spell system.

The most impressive part of the game may be the ship combat, which allows you and several of your friends to form a pirate crew and sail the high seas. While one of you has to be the captain, the real draw is in all of you arming the cannon batteries and storming into battle against ghost ships, privateers, and other players' crews. With one person on the cannons, it's entertaining; with more than one, it looks like it'd be fairly epic.

What I've played of PotC Online was really early code, so it's hard to make any general statements about it; all the quests were placeholders, meaning you pretty much just ran around and killed things. It's got a way to go before it can be considered great, but at this stage, it's at least promising. It's heading in a good direction.

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