Friday, November 25, 2005
Puzzle Pirates review revisited
Last year I wrote a review of Puzzle Pirates. Now that I restarted playing that game and found it evolved, I re-read my review, and found that it needs some annotations.
First of all: Thanks to the anonymous commenter who already added a comment explaining some of the changes to the original article. As he explained, your money doesn't get burried on a lonely island if you log out away from home, which makes a casual play schedule a lot easier. On the Doubloon oceans the banks are now used to exchange Doubloons against Pieces of Eight and vice versa.
And yes, the number of puzzles has grown. Besides distilling, now ship-building and alchemy got their own puzzles. There are also more games in the inns, two card games, Hearts and Spades, and a coin-throwing game for two players which I particularly like (although I usually lose). If that isn't enough for you, the inn also has links to puzzle games from another provider on a website, which is a nice touch.
My principal problem with Puzzle Pirate a year ago was that everybody wanted to be a captain, and nobody wanted to be the simple sailor, who has access to less puzzles and less game activities for the same subscription price. And I guess that remains the same on the standard monthly fee subscription oceans (servers are called oceans in this game). But on the Doubloon oceans that problem is fixed as well. Playing a jobber or cabin boy costs nothing at all. Playing a full crew member pirate costs 1 Doubloon (about 25 cents) per month. Playing a captain costs 20 Doubloons. So now I finally saw big crews with 30 or more pirates on board of the same ship, because when being captain costs you $5 per month, there is less interest in that job.
I spent some time doing puzzles and exploring the new features. If I can find somebody who lets me train the navigation puzzle on his ship, I could probably reach the requirements for becoming captain soon. And $5 per month wouldn't really be a problem. But I'm not sure whether I will do it, for the same reason that I avoid becoming guild leader in a classical MMORPG: You have a certain responsability towards the members of your crew / guild, and end up feeling forced to play. In Puzzle Pirates you can be captain without a crew, you will get just a minimum crew of NPC pirates to help you sail your ship, but that isn't really efficient, as NPC pirates tend to be rather mediocre at everything they do. I did that for a while last year, but didn't really get anywhere. It only makes sense if you also open a shop, and use the ship to transport goods to your shop. But then again you need to log on often to keep your shop running, and it soon feels more like work than like play. That is the principle of virtual worlds, getting somewhere needs a certain dedication, and if you just want to play casually you need to limit your ambitions.