I was first introduced to Puzzle Pirates while in college. My friends showed me a game they found on the internet that they had all gotten addicted to. For lack of a better term, I dubbed it an MMOPG or massive multiplayer online puzzle game. We played for an hour in between classes and it wasn’t until years later that I took it up again. I’ve always enjoyed Tetris-like puzzles, so when I found myself jonesing for a puzzle fix I started an account and created a pirate. And the best part is that you can play for free.
Since it had been a few years since my very brief introduction to the game I was eternally grateful for the many tutorials they make available at the start of play. There are a variety of games to play, from a variation of Bedazzled to card games like Hearts and Poker. I have no doubt that you can find something that tickles your fancy, provided that you like such games in the first place. However, if you’re the type that likes to blow things up instead of shift blocks around or play cards there’s not a lot here for you.
As a puzzle pirate your primary objective is to acquire as many pieces of eight as you can. There are a variety of ways to do this. In the beginning, you can sail with a navy until you get the hang of the games needed to propel a ship over the seven seas. You won’t make a lot of money, but you will get valuable experience that you’ll need later. Soon you can join crews made up of other players on the high seas. That is where the real money is. You pillage brigands and barbarians and the victor is determined by the crew’s skill at (surprise, surprise) certain puzzles. You can also earn money by starting a shop or taking up a trade such as blacksmithing, ship building, or tailoring. But then what do you do with all your money? Well you spend it, sadly not on rum and wenches though. You can furnish your home, upgrade your clothing (you start off in rags), or buy yourself some weapons to help you in your pillaging. If you earn enough, you can even purchase a ship of your own and become a terror of the seven seas.
If you can do all this neat stuff for free, then how does the publisher, Three Rings, make any money? Simple, they charge money for things that make your pirating life easier. There are certain things you can do only if you have the appropriate badge. For instance there’s a badge that lets you work in shops and a badge that lets you play parlor games. You can do these things anyway, but each game is available only on certain days of the week. You have to buy these badges with doubloons, which you can buy with your credit card. Or if you have a steady subscription, you get so many a month. I considered converting some of my pieces of eight into doubloons so I could pick up a labor badge, until I discovered that the badges disappear after thirty days. And the last time I checked the conversion rate between pieces of eight and doubloons was not a nice one (much like the American dollar versus the Canadian dollar nowadays).
So the bottom line is that if you ever really want to get anywhere in the game, you will probably end up shelling out some dough. All in all that seems reasonable to me. After all, they have to make money some how. This way the obsessed, hard core gamers pay (and when you consider the amount of time they spend playing the game the money they plunk down is well worth it) and the casual gamers can enjoy much of what the game has to offer with a few restrictions. In return the casual gamers raise the populations in the game enough to provide a rich gaming experience for the paying customers.
As for the other gamers, I found them to be on the whole a pleasant community to game with. As always there are the occasional assholes that you can expect in any MMO, but their numbers are not as high as in many other games. I imagine it is because of the nature of the game play. There are a lot of older gamers, a great deal of young parents and married couples and of course a large college crowd (who else has the time to spend playing these games for extended periods of time).
Since it is free I suggest everyone give it a try, especially those who enjoyed Puzzle Quest. The game is not for everyone, but I know there is a segment of gamers out there that would love nothing more than playing such games and uttering “Arrrrr!” at regular intervals. So unleash your inner pirate and go plundering!
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