Set Sail on the High Seas with Pirates Saga on Facebook

One of the reliably recurring themes of social gaming is pirates. Appearing frequently on both the mobile and Facebook platforms, it’s a concept that has grown better with each new title. The latest on this list is Pirates Saga from Can’t Stop Games, published on Facebook by 6 Waves.

A social game with a MMOG feel, Pirates Saga is clean and well put together app. Of course, being a MMOG means mixing asynchronous social features with synchronous ones, which creates some design tension. From a social game perspective, the game is more interesting than most, deviating away from the common farming mechanics. But from an MMO perspective, the game comes off as repetitive.

Players take the role of a pirate’s son, or daughter, out to fulfill their father’s legacy. With a ragtag crew of pirates, users set sail on the high seas in search of treasure, battle, and glory — or, more realistically, new levels and the ability to build larger, more powerful vessels.

Most of the game is based on quests. Acquired around the world or from one’s own crew, players accomplish basic tasks in order to garner experience and reward. There are two very common types of quests: delivery and combat. The former is the easiest, asking players to harvest some item (e.g. fruits) and bring it back to the quest giver. The only catch is that once the cargo is secured, any nearby non-player pirates become aggressive and will attack on sight.

The combat type of quest is a bit more interesting, as it does utilize simple combative mechanics. In some of the early quests, players have to sink imperial ships, which is done by merely clicking them and hitting a cannonball button. Once this is done, the ships will automatically fight, with the user choosing different abilities from an action bar. These abilities can be the basic cannonballs, high-damage cannonballs bought with virtual currency, healing potions, and so on.

As players complete quests, items and treasure chests will spill out onto the ocean (treasure chests can also be found floating about randomly). These chests are of particular import as they can contain items called “tools” that are required to upgrade one’s ship with more fire power and defense. Also, as players level up, they will be able to upgrade the ship, as a whole, which can boost speed, fire power, health, and cargo space (for picking up items in delivery quests).

It’s also important to upgrade one’s crew. As players complete quests, they will pick up crew members that will boost their ship in some way. For example, during the tutorial missions, players pick up a gunner who increases the effectiveness of the ship’s guns. As players perform specific actions and quests, their particular crew member will gain experience and get even stronger. In order to level said gunner, it’s necessary to sink ships, while leveling, say, a fisherman, means collecting fish from fishery buildings.

There is plenty to do in Pirates Saga. However, every action is gated through the standard energy mechanic, with some consumed with every action. This is where friends start to come into play, as the game does utilize basic gifting of items such as energy potions. Friends are also able to send various tools to each other in order to expedite the ship upgrade process (as opposed to searching treasure chests constantly). Beyond this, the game often has more challenging enemies to fight, such as “pirate towers” that friends can help one another defeat.

This is where the game takes more of an MMO turn. Players can synchronously see every Facebook user in their area along with their name and portrait. Complete with chat and emoticons, it’s actually a very nice addition. Furthermore, players can participate in player versus player combat in specific zones, and can earn special trophies that friends can see on the leaderboard. Unfortunately, the basic combat makes it a little average feeling compared to the MMO genre.