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News article for the week of 12/8/07.

Toggled Review
Tales of Pirates for the PC
By, Cozmic

Well, you might have seen the ads for this free massively multi player nautical role-playing game (fmmnrpg?) floating around, and at first glance, Tales of Pirates has a lot of cool elements to it. It is free, which is always a bonus, it has that cute, colourful look rendered in a few polygons, and you can own ships! Hip-hurray, ships and naval combat and stuff! My first reaction to this was more or less “awesome” and “get to level 15” because that is when you can buy a deed to your ship.
Let's do this first things first: creating your character. There is the basic choice of what you want your basic character to be and look like, ranging from the big tough guy, to the tiny little girl, and that is about it. You have four basic choices, but then again, that is only one fewer than Diablo II, and Diablo II was a shining beacon of how much fun character creation was, right? There are not a lot of options on how to customize your appearance either, most characters look fairly similar, but if you can be bothered with it you can switch hairstyle later in the game.
Later in the game you can also choose your class, which ranges from that one who is good with swords to that one who is good at shooting things, and of course also includes a healer class and the explorer, a character who uses special coral items to cast abilities, such as bolts of lightning and other cool stuff like that. The real kicker here is that you can only use a coral item so many times before it breaks and you have to buy a new one or need to repair it and things like that. The explorer an also make his ship go faster (this is what I played as, so it is more my area of expertise), which would be nice, except that you always end up trying to sail somewhere and then get attacked by “giant scary sea monster #2” or one of his friends, meaning you die instantaneously. Fortunately, dying in TOP is rather painless, or at least compared to dying at sea. Because if you die at sea, you have to salvage your ship somehow, which is expensive. The you have to refuel it, and repair it, which is also expensive.
So what is playing actually like then, once you have your character? Well, the graphics are fairly simple but appealing in their own way, with a rather neat Asian steam-punk and pirate feel to it, and TOP does not require much from your system. Once you have chosen a starting town, you then walk around doing quests in much the same vein as other MMO's, learning how to play and killing potted plants for experience. Levelling is quite fast, it took me a few hours before I was finally level 15 and could buy my cool ship, thinking I would set sail and cause terror on the world from now on. As you may have noticed above that moment never occurred, and since salvaging was such a pain, I was more or less forced to leave my ship on another continent (because it is always tied to a dock) and then use a teleport to go and then kill cacti for hours on end to afford fuel for my ship.
Which brings me to my next point: combat. Most actions in TOP are made with a simple mouse click. This includes walking around, running around, and activating the auto-attack function Fights are animated somewhere on par with early Everquest, meaning the hand moves a bit. If you get into trouble, use a simple ability, and the problem will likely be solved, or you just accidentally wasted something. Either way works. My point here is, in a game where all you do is combat, the combat system is almost exceptionally uninteresting. At first, you will simply run around and gain experience, or that is how the game feels, any way, especially since the quests are rather problematic as well. Now, do not get me wrong, some of the quests are almost sort of fun, some are simply plain moronic. Such as that quest you can get at level 10 or so which requires you to beat up a level 30 mob once you click on a piece of paper. Before this part it is a rather cool murder mystery, although like the rest of TOP it is severely hampered by a terrible translation and the game and its administrators constantly telling you to never click links people send because they will be viruses(there is no “Might be”) or keyloggers does not make the game easier. Another fantastic example of a quest is a Explorer newbie quest, asking you to deliver this package to that building, just north of the horrible high-level mob zone. Since travelling is basically just clicking down the mouse and praying you’re lucky, this quest has “bad idea” written all over it.
All in all, Tales of Pirates is simply not worth the admittedly small amounts of time one needs to spend, because the game never feels like it gives you anything. You can customise your ships, and feel proud you own one, but then get annoyed that it has permanent residence at the bottom of the ocean and that the game is weird to play either solo or in a party, and that you just ran out of quests telling you to kill cacti, while seeing the 50th person with your hairstyle and lack of armour run past. Those first few levels might be worth trying on a slow afternoon, however, but do not expect to get sucked in like you would playing World of Warcraft or Everquest or similar.

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