The Pirate 101 Beta NDA has been officially dropped! (OK, it dropped last month… I’ve been busy. Still.)
Consequently, I can show off some of the screenshots I’ve been able to get while I was tinkering with the beta. I’m a fan of Wizard 101, and it’s been fun to see where King’s Isle has expanded on their multiverse they call the Spiral, and their art and game design has stepped up a notch.
And, well… combat in Pirate 101 is tactical, sort of a Pirate Tactics Lite, as it were. I like tactical games. I even made one. (Yes, Zomblobs! still needs work, yes, I’m still working on it, yes, I’ve been busy… I’ve only played a little of this Pirate 101 beta.) Wizard 101‘s card combat system is quirky but solid, and I’m a fan… but tactical grid combat? Yes, please!
The Pirate 101 combat engine is pretty good, from what I’ve seen. I’m a little disappointed with the Musketeer “line attack” special moves, but overall, it’s a very solid light tactical system. (Musketeers function like artillery in most tactical games, namely move OR shoot, which is generally fine, but their special moves place higher importance on position, so it’s harder to make use of them. Melee and magic characters have much more useful special attacks.) You place your units on a square-based grid, and try to knock out the enemies before they defeat you, occasionally dealing with an optional or side target.
It’s worth noting that characters can attack and move diagonally on the grid, something that isn’t common in square-based grid games I’m familiar with. This does make choke points a bit more vulnerable, or even impossible to set up, so you can’t count on one solid melee unit holding the line while ranged units blast the foes. You can certainly do some of that, and such is just smart tactics, but it’s not as easy to use positioning against enemies as it would be without diagonal options. That’s neither good nor bad, just a difference from, say, Final Fantasy Tactics.
Pirate 101 also gives you a ship pretty quickly (a dozen or so quests into the game), and a wealth of cosmetic customization options for your character and ship. I love this decision to give players their own ships early. That’s one aspect where I think Allods Online really dropped the ball, as they made ships endgame toys. Puzzle Pirates (another great game) gives you access to ships fairly early as well, but Pirate 101 is even faster, and it’s a wonderful thing, giving a great sense of exploration and freedom. Ship to ship combat isn’t quite as awesome as that in Pirates! Live the Life!, but it’s still nice and smooth, plenty of fun to play.
I haven’t seen a lot of the game, nor have I played all the classes with much depth (I focused on the Musketeer in the beta), but Pirate 101 is a great game from what I can see. It will share the Crowns microcurrency with Wizard 101, and I presume it will have a similar setup for buying bits and bobs of content. I am happy with this system.
I’m looking forward to spending some more time in the Spiral, and I hope that the game does well. Once the beta phase is over and I nail down a permanent pirate name, I’ll add it to my roster of characters, if you feel like stopping by and saying hello. I may well be hanging around this fascinating little shantytown:
Oh, and for more perusal, here’s my Picasa album of the screenshots I’ve collected thus far. It’s a bit of a mess, but there are some gems in there.