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PC impressions: Pirates of the Caribbean Online

Jennie Lees

Disney's upcoming MMO Pirates of the Caribbean Online is aimed at the teen and casual market, enticing fans of the films to try a new genre. As such, it's a very stylised representation of a pirate world, with fast-paced action that's easy to jump into for a few minutes. The story runs parallel to the films, with sub-plots revolving around the main characters that fans know and love.

The aim of the game is to sculpt a career as a pirate, building up notoriety that takes into account skills like sword fighting, captaining ships and playing cards. With a group of players, you can crew a ship, with every player taking a particular role -- from firing cannons to piloting the ship. Disney isn't aiming for historical accuracy, so moving a ship is much like driving a car -- it even has a reverse gear.

As well as swordfighting and the like, the game also features the power of voodoo which adds a magical touch. Ships are upgradeable and customisable, and the character creation system has flexible slider options, allowing for a variety of looks -- you can choose your starting clothes, for example, and pick from a number of cartoonish pirate body shapes.

Cartoon-style violence is the essence of combat, with sweeping flourishes but no blood. According to Disney, the fight sequences are designed so that console players can get to grips with it easily -- a targeting reticule and combos help with this. However, combat seemed simplistic and without much depth.

To help the casual player, the game features non-combat options such as playing cards -- you can join a matchmaking system and then set sail, jumping into the card game when it's ready. The whole aim of the game is to let you get to the action quickly. Group play is a big focus and there are crew and band systems as well as a friends list that will help you play with others.

Available as a digital download with a free trial, Disney is currently planning to release Pirates of the Caribbean Online as a subscription based MMO sometime in 2007. It looks like a good introduction to the MMO world, but veterans may find the game shallow and unfulfilling on the endgame front.

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