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Online Swashbuckling Is a Snap

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Riding the popularity of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies, Disney has created Pirates of the Caribbean Online and smartly aimed it at casual players who don't normally delve into massive, multiplayer online worlds.

Pirates Online even has a free, ad-supported version PC or Mac owners can download. If you like the game, you can pay $9.95 per month for an enhanced version that has more weapons, treasure and gear; player vs. player combat; guilds; and bigger ships. Plus you won't be annoyed by ads.

I wasn't expecting much from the free version. But I was pleasantly surprised to find a detailed world that is simple to play, yet has concepts such as questing and leveling up found in more complex titles. Even the graphics are eye-catching, as if they came from a high-quality storybook.

At the start you meet the cartoon equivalent of Jack Sparrow (with the same likeness and sound of Johnny Depp), who helps you design your character and escape from prison. After a daring chase and explanations about how the game works, you are given your first ship.

The game has a land-based section and a seafaring one. On land, you dig for treasure, engage in duels with British soldiers and blast the undead (but never other players or living people, thus the Everyone 10+ rating) with your huge flintlock pistol.

At sea, you command your ship and fight against pirates or the British navy. You can also invite others to come along as crew to fight for loot, letting them fire the cannons, which makes you more effective in combat.

The biggest strength of Pirates Online is that there is almost no learning curve. The intro and main story line quests lead you through all the aspects of play you need to know in an entertaining way, using characters from the movies.

Combat is simple, allowing you to pull off amazing maneuvers and feel like a superb swashbuckler without having to punch too many keys. And even if you "die" in the game, it's not that bad. You simply end up in jail, which you can easily escape -- something the game shows you how to accomplish.

-- John Breeden II

Pirates of the Caribbean Online Everyone 10+; PC, Mac; free to download at disney.go.com/pirates/online or $9.95 a month for enhanced, ad-free version Disney Online Pirates of the Caribbean Online Everyone 10+; PC, Mac; free to download at disney.go.com/pirates/online or $9.95 a month for enhanced, ad-free version Disney Online


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