50 MMOs in 50 Days #50: Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates

Last played: 2009
Experience: Minimal

Wait, what? How is this an MMO worthy of discussion? Is it even an MMO? I think it is, and I also think it has a system I wish more MMOs that are trying to be “different” would adopt.

Puzzle Pirates is your typical minigame-based social/casual game. When I played it, five-ish years ago, you could take your pirate character around to different islands where you could play single- or multi-player games that were akin to the usual stuff, like Bejeweled/Tetris knock-offs, all with a piratical theme. It was Flash-based, but had enough locations to visit, shops to buy stuff in (some for real money, of course), and players to interact with that it felt like an MMO.

Naturally, the key to any pirate game is actual piracy. You could enlist aboard a ship for a tour of duty (and buy your own if you had enough coin) and, at times, you’d find a ship belonging to another player and his crew and do battle.

SailingThat was when the real fun began. You could sign up for one of a number of duties when you came on board, such as working the bilge pumps, loading cannons, repairing the ship with carpentry, sailing, navigation, and so on. Each had its own unique minigame and its own purpose in keeping the ship in fighting shape. The captain of the ship could re-assign personnel as needed, but I learned pretty early on that I was a terrible cannon-loader and navigator, and so always tried to stick with carpentry, sailing, and bilging.

This was what I had hoped to find in Star Trek Online: that you could have a ship-based game focus on individual members of the ship, each with their own role, rather than everyone owning a ship of their own. It’s not unlike standard MMO raiding, in which players fill roles like tank, DPS, healing, CC, etc. Instead of that, why not have classes like navigator, tactical, engineering, and so on, each playing their role to the best of their ability to help the group succeed – just like in any MMO group. Even just the notion of being able to “sign on” to a ship for random, roaming adventuring through the sea or stars seems like a nice and simple way to handle PUGging.

Even with my switching as much as I could between the three roles I was best suited for, and the fact that most ship-to-ship encounters ended with a boarding action that thrust all players into a Tetris-like, multiplayer sword battle, Puzzle Pirates got a little boring after a while. As you might suspect, it also had a strong sniff of pay-to-win and limited your access to some of the crafting minigames if you were a free player, which was probably fair. It was fun for a few weeks, but I’d love to see some… Enterprising… MMO take up its “crew members” example and make a new kind of MMO with a different take on group mechanics.

[Whew! That’s 50! I’ll have a kind of post-mortem up later, maybe over the weekend. Until then, thanks for sticking with me!]

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