Say Yarr! if you like puzzles
I’ve played many supposedly free to play MMORPGs and found one really annoying, running theme … they basically aren’t free. You either find yourself playing what can only be described as an unlimited demo, where any of the useful game options or decent items are kept specifically for paying players, or the game is so unbalanced, (with character perks and the like,) that it’s hardly worth playing at all. Three Rings have done their best to try and solve this problem with Puzzle Pirates.
This is, as with many other titles on the market a free game with paying options but, (and this is the great thing about it,) you can earn game gold as you go, you don’t need to give them your credit card number before you can get any enjoyment out of the game.
The premise is relatively simple, you play a pirate and on the high seas, it’s all about you furthering your career by pillaging other vessels, finding and hauling buried treasure and generally saying, “Yarr,” a lot. To do this you either join a crew, (this is basically a clan for you hack and slash fans,) or just go freelance with a ship. Each job on the ship has a puzzle associated with it. As an example you have Bilging and Carpentry. Bilging is simply a match three puzzle, carpentry involves filling holes in the boat with different sized planks of wood. Other jobs are Sailing, Rigging and for more experienced players, Gunnery, Navigating and Battle Naviation.
All of your basic jobs start out very easy and the learning curve is great with helpful, built in, tutorials. This prevents new players feeling uncomfortable about asking experienced members how to play and the usual stigma attached with new players which can make old hands at games come across as unhelpful or even unpleasant. The thing is that the puzzles do get very challenging as you get better and although this appears to be a game aimed at a younger audience, older players will find themselves sitting scratching their heads and grumbling at their screens. I know I did.
This is definitely a team orientated game, if players don’t work well together they aren’t going to get very far. You still need to be able to beat the computer run ships and generally function as a crew. If players are doing badly at the sailing puzzles the ship won’t move, if it’s full of holes battle will become that much more difficult. What’s great here is that you actually have to help each other. You’ll find very little “my character is better than yours,” snobbery here because you are trying to make each others characters as good as they can be. Mostly because it’s going to help you in the long run.
It’s not only moving about and maintaining your ship that involves puzzling. Battles definitely do. You come across other pirates and brigands and these have their own attack methods. Sword Fighting is a drop puzzle similar in some aspects to Tetris. You have to stop your blocks getting to the top of the screen and believe me this is not easy. The other fighting game is Brawl. Brawl is a bubble burster similar to Puzzle Bobble and the like, again, you have to help your team mates here or you’ll find yourself losing your hard won booty very quickly.
For those players that like other aspects of a game world, (other than the main hard slog of questing etc,) the islands that your pirates are based on are fully functioning communities. You can relax in the inns, playing other players at games of Poker and Drinking, for a wager of course. Or you can get yourself a job, and there are puzzles for ship building, distilling and blacksmithing. This is a good way of making extra gold as the ships you build and the cannon balls you make all go back into the exploring/piracy that goes on all the time.
Although this appears to be a game aimed at a younger audience, older players will find themselves sitting scratching their heads
One thing I really liked about this game is that there isn’t any farming involved. I mean, let’s be honest, why does killing one hundred monsters make you a good adventurer anyway? It just means you’re really good at killing a certain monster. Granted there aren’t any quests at all but then it’s not that sort of game so it doesn’t really matter.
As I mentioned earlier there are premium options. These come in the form of badges and are purchased with game gold or Dubloons. To play all the inn games you need a Parlor Badge to work you need a Trade Badge and so on. You do get free games each day but it’s better to own these badges. You don’t need to buy Dubloons with real money though, the exchange rate is about 2,500 gold to 1 Dubloon. Earning 2.5k in game isn’t hard so you can get your Dubs and, therefore, your badges just by playing. It might take longer, but it’s well worth it.
As with any game Puzzle Pirates isn’t all perfect. It’s designed for puzzle fanatics so this is definitely going to limit their player market, I certainly can’t see many hardcore WOW fans jumping to play this one. The game also attracts a lot of younger players. As an adult you don’t always feel comfortable playing alongside a bunch of thirteen and fourteen year olds, and though there are all adult crews, they can be pretty tough to find. It would be nice to have an adult server for us older players that would prefer to play with other grownups.
The most annoying thing about PP is that if you are away from the game for more than six weeks and aren’t a paying member your account is likely to get deleted. This is immensely frustrating if you’re doing really well, though with all the other none paying player features I suppose you can’t expect everything.
The graphics on Puzzle Pirates are colourful and cartoony which fits the game nicely. There are both 2D and 2.5D elements to the game but nothing that won’t work well on older PCs. The sound is appropriate for the theme and well done, though it’s mostly effects, music is limited. As far as gameplay is concerned this is a very good way of wasting an afternoon, if you like puzzles. If you don’t, well, you’d probably be better looking elsewhere in the MMORPG market.
The Bad: Relatively limited audience,; Annoying account deletions,; No Adult server.