Playfish‘s newest Facebook game, Pirates Ahoy!, is a unique combination of any number of game genres and features that you’ve probably seen before: it’s a high seas sailing adventure that puts a fresh spin on everything from virtual spaces to treasure hunting.
Though it is easiest to claim Pirates Ahoy! as a treasure hunting game like Treasure Isle or Treasure Madness, the truth of the matter is that this is only one small part of the game. Honestly, it’s difficult to classify the game as any one genre so we’ll just call it a role-playing game. Why? Well, because everything you do is in the role of a pirate. Players sail the high seas, fight monsters, plunder treasure, and even create their own pirate cove and ship.
The game starts out with the player sailing their pirate ship around a rather large stretch of ocean and rescuing an overboard Facebook friend. After they join your crew (more on that later), it’s time to sail for the horizon. Players can control their ship, telling it to go wherever they desire. It’s fairly reminiscent of The Legend of Zelda: Windwaker, though simplified. As players sail, they will see any number of islands, sea creatures, and even other drowning pirates to save.
Now, the islands cannot be initially visited, but the sea creatures – or sea monsters, rather – can be. Costing a small bit of energy, players can attack these giants of the ocean for a reward (you can also lose, so be careful). Sometimes it is coin, sometimes experience, but occasionally it is a treasure map.
This is where the treasure hunting comes into play. You use the map to discover islands that have treasure, then you dig around the island, using purchasable tools to do the digging, Treasure Madness style. Coins, gems, food, and treasure can all be dug up. This, however, is slightly different than the other treasure hunting games. Granted, food still restores energy, but once treasure is discovered, it must be restored using gems that can either be bought with Playfish Cash, or dug up.
As expected, these come in sets the user can collect, but rather than selling the set, should a user finish it, they receive a nice decorative reward (like a trophy) to place in their personal pirate cove.
This is actually the next major part of Pirates Ahoy! Players get more than a personal abode, as they go pirate city-building and construct their own personal Tortuga. From here, players can physically construct the land the way they see fit (not including elevation) with sand, rock, grass, and so on. However, this virtual space is for more than just looks. Players can, in fact, construct buildings to produce products, such as peg legs, to sell. They can even hire a worker mule to collect from their factories, automatically, for a few days at the cost of Playfish Cash.
If players are looking for pure aesthetics, on the other hand, it is also worth mentioning that the pirate ship itself is customizable. Though it isn’t as in-depth as the island. Players can change the sail, bow, siding, and cabin. There is even a badge (which is probably representative of the Jolly Roger) that can be changed. Unfortunately, new ones must be unlocked as achievements and it isn’t visible as an actual flag.
Beyond treasure hunting and virtual spaces, players can also take part in quests and missions. The quests are found around the ocean and appear to be found in floating bottles. Of course, they have a level requirement most of the time, but doing them will earn special rewards (e.g. gold). Missions, on the other hand can be garnered one of two ways. The first, apparently, is by accident. We actually stumbled across a giant seahorse and was able to photograph it, which unlocked a mission to find three of them somewhere in the ocean for a chunk of experience and gold.
The adventure was also automatically catalogued in a Facebook photo album, but this is only part of the social elements. The most common appears to be here, in that players can visit each other’s islands. However, there is no prompt to “help them out” upon visiting. They can join your crew as swashbucklers themselves.
Since virtually every major action in Pirates Ahoy! requires energy, a larger crew is prudent. You see, pirate captains don’t use just their energy but the whole crew that works for them. So, the more crew you have, the more energy is available. Friends can be hired one of two ways. The first, is to post to your Facebook feed (similar to Hotel City) that you are hiring pirates. The second, is to find them out in the ocean and save them. Of course, this is based on chance, and costs a small sum of money, but it does not require them to actually play.
Knowing Playfish, and the expansiveness of this pirate world (not to mention what new areas will open up in time), we’ve only hit the tip of this particular iceberg. With a beautiful, cel-shaded animation style, and pretty epic music, Pirates Ahoy! is a game with zero complaints. Well, almost zero, at worst, and this is being very nit-picky, the ship doesn’t look nearly as good as the rest of the game, and the decoratable island is designed in grid-like, blocky shape that may not be all that appealing to many. Overall, however, this is a fantastic creation from Playfish, and is certainly one of the most creative and interesting titles we have seen from them in a long time.