As the name implies, Mighty Pirates places players at the head of an outlaw crew, in a whimsical island landscape of treasure and cannon battles. Since the new game follows CrowdStar’s strategy of soft launches of early alpha products, we’ll just go over the major features without focusing on the various bugs and errors we encountered.
Mighty Pirates looks significantly different from It Girl at first glance. New players start out with a small ship in the Caribbean. There’s no animated movement around the sea, but there are two potential destinations that you can click over to: islands and other ships.
These two destinations effectively lead to two separate mini-games, because CrowdStar has designated an energy meter for each.
The island game is similar to Zynga’s Treasure Isle. Plants, rocks, barrels, skeletons and other objects can be clicked on to search them; each action requires one to several Island Energy points. These objects can turn up either resources and items — wood, rock, coins, fruit — or sections of treasure map. Each search also gives a few experience points.
Attacking other ships takes Battle Energy, and offers experience, gold and more sections of treasure map. Once seven sections of the map have been accumulated, a new treasure is unlocked, and you can begin collecting map sections for the next. For the moment, this treasure doesn’t appear to have any functional use.
Battles feel like the more important part of Mighty Pirates. Your beginning ship is, for lack of a better word, dinky; there’s only a single crew member (you) and one cannon. Each ship in the battle takes turns sequentially, with three potential options for your character: firing a cannon, putting out fires (repairing) or increasing accuracy. At first, the only sensible strategy is attacking every turn.
Every few levels, you’ll unlock the ability to add a crew member. Each of your crew can specialize in attacking, repairing or scouting; meanwhile, your ship can only carry so many cannons. Some strategy will thus enter the game over time, with battles lasting longer as you juggle crew members between the three tasks.
The characters are what CrowdStar hopes will become the real focus of Mighty Pirates, as they are in It Girl, and increasingly in other social games. With each level, you gain a few points to apply to your own character’s attributes.
The rest of your crew, which is drawn from your friends, has low stats that you can’t directly change. The only way for their stats to change is if your friend who you choose as a crew member is playing Mighty Pirates. Your crew member will show an order of magnitude improvement in stats if your friend starts playing, and as they level up, they will be able to add to their own stats.
While the crew member mechanic is a clever incitement for players to invite friends, the idea of customizing and building up your own character over time is just as key. Besides training, you can buy various clothing items and accessories for your character, which serve both to customize and add to the character’s abilities.
Mighty Pirates does have a few flaws that may not be due to its alpha state. The most noticeable is the game’s slow pace. Where battles in It Girl are snappy, taking place in just a few seconds, a Mighty Pirates battle is a drawn out affair.
Every turn requires choosing an action and watching it play out, with the attacks being slowest; after the cannons fire, the screen lingers for a moment, then pans over to the other ship, where you must wait a moment more to see whether each shot landed. It’s great to see some sort of real strategy in a Facebook game, but the battles just don’t feel as fluid as they could.
At the moment, the level and difficulty of enemy ships is also hidden. Mighty Pirates seems to limit the level of enemies to be near your own, but it can be irritating to accidentally enter a fight that you wouldn’t have started if you could have seen how dangerous the adversary was, especially since fleeing or losing the battle results in a loss of experience points.
The possibility of losing experience isn’t bad by itself, though. Few games result in any sort of real loss, but it’s entirely possible to hit a frustrating string of losses in Mighty Pirates, just as it is in It Girl. Most Facebook games are strangers to adversity, but CrowdStar seems willing to bet that social gamers are ready to graduate up to some sort of real challenge.
Taken as a whole, Mighty Pirates is an interesting and fairly original game with a lot of potential for growth. For now, it’s unpolished, with a number of bugs and difficulties, and room for many more features than it currently has, but even in its current state we expect that it will attract players.