by Gabriele Giorgi
Ahoey, maties. Sharpen your cutlass and load your guns. Full sail! Approaching the corvette. Starboard cannons… aim… Fire! Get ready to plunder! Board that ship!!!
An ordinary day in a pirate’s life, especially in the Caribbean of Jack Sparrow and his friends. And with Pirates of the Caribbean Online you can be in the shoes of one of them. Yarrrrr!
Your adventures as a pirate start… in jail. Fortunately, an old friend appears and rescue you, but he needs a favour in return: his name is Jack Sparrow and he wants you to help him with the Black Pearl. But first you’ll have to visit other people, like Will Turner, Elizabeth Swann, Tia Dalma and Captain Barbosa (with his faithful monkey).
If you’ve seen the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, you will be already familiar with them: you will have to refer to these characters during your voyages, to acquire tasks, get new weapons, and unlock other features.
And the music throughout the game will remind you of the movies as well.
Of course, your main goal will be to help Jack Sparrow restore his precious Black Pearl, but in order to do this you will have to improve your fighting and sailing skills… not to mention your gambling abilities.
Tools of the trade
Any pirate worthy of this name must know how to wield a cutlass and how to use a gun. As your notoriety grows (i.e. your level increases), you will unlock other weapons: voodoo doll, dagger, grenades and voodoo staff. Each of them has its own peculiar usage, and needs to be leveled separately, in order to unlock new skills and increase your health and mana as well. You only need to keep in mind two things: the gun cannot be used on humans (navy soldiers and the like) and the voodoo doll can also heal your allies.
But you will also have to demonstrate your capability as a sailor and a cannoneer. While one-to-one combat is quite easy, sea battles will be more difficult to master. When you are on your own, you will be in charge of the helm and you’ll have to steer your ship so that one of your sides faces the other vessel: then you can fire your cannons. And of course you need to avoid enemy fire as well. At first it will be a bit tricky, but once you’ve understood how it works you will be ready to take down tougher ships. You also have the option to embark on another vessel as a cannoneer: the captain will manoeuvre, and you will only need to worry about aiming and firing. Then, as soon as you land, the loot you plundered will be divided among the crew. Again, leveling sailing and cannoneering will unlock new skills, allowing you better manoeuvres and more powerful shots.
It’s important to notice that PotCO is free to play only up to a certain level, both for overall notoriety and weapon skills. In order to remove that cap, you have to subscribe. This will also unlock other two character slots, but, in fact, they are quite useless: since any character can do everything, you will want to focus on increasing the skills of your pirate rather than creating a new one.
The life of a pirate
While your main task is aiding Jack Sparrow with the Black Pearl, that does not mean you cannot do some plundering in the meanwhile. Also helping people might prove rewarding. There are plenty of quests to go by: you will always have something to do and you are not likely to wander around aimlessly.
A ray of light will guide you in your quests, shining on your next target or destination. While this certainly makes them easier, it must be noted that usually they will involve a lot of steps before granting you the long-awaited reward. Also you will have to go around a lot, both on the islands and in the Caribbean Seas.
In the islands there are "hazard zones" full of all kinds of monsters, and usually you will have to retrieve quest items from them. These maps are quite small, and they look too much alike: for example, you might notice that the cemetery of Tortuga strongly reminds the Governor’s Gardens in Port Royal.
In this dangerous zones you might find other fellows carrying out their tasks: you can help each other just hitting the same target, and the system will divide the reputation reward according to the damage dealt (also taking into account support, if one player heals another); but if you decide to team up, you will receive a reputation bonus for each kill… and the larger the group, the larger the bonus!
As usual, it’s better to arrange a crew if you want to fight bosses or capture flagships at sea.
Teaming up is even easier thanks to many pre-built dialogue options. Not only you will find standard sentences (in pirate slang, of course), but there will be also phrases directly linked to your journal, detailing what you are looking for to complete your current quests.
And if you want to indulge in PvP, you can do it in naval battles, siding with the French or the Spanish, or in fights against other pirates; the latter feature, though, does not seem to be very used by the community.
Trinkets and treasures
Since you talk and act like a pirate, you also want to look like a pirate. The graphics are very toon-like and will remind you the good ole Monkey Island. Even your character shape is deformed in some way: stocky, plump, lanky, tubby… But there are other things that make a pirate: clothing, hair, beard, pins, tattoos. Barbers, tailors, tattoo artists will be available in every island to provide you the most fashionable pieces of body art… and if you complete quests for them, you will receive some special reward that you cannot simply buy.
As a pirate, you will also want to amass treasure troves: there are different collections of jewels, trinkets and fun stuff you can obtain from mobs. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be an in-game reward for completing these collections, but since this is a MMO we may hope it will be added in the future.
Another loot you can drop from mobs are cards: they come in handy when you play Blackjack or Tortuga (!) Hold’em in taverns: swap one of those in your possession with one of your cards on the table… and hope they don’t catch you cheating!
Although it won’t be much of a challenge for seasoned MMOG players, PotCO is a good game for beginners: even if they might be quite long, quests are easy to carry out, and among the different weapons everybody will find one suited to their style. It’s also easy to make friends and venture and sail together. Additionally, poker and black-jack are nice mini-games to chill off from a day of plundering. Just try it out and see if you like it before subscribing.
1. cooperation encouraged and rewarded
2. appearance of your pirate extremely customizable, even with jewellery and tattoos
3. pre-built dialogues that simplify chatting
1. quite easy (not a challenge for experienced players)
2. no replayability
3. quest chains often too long