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Space Pirates Unite!
There aren’t many science-fiction space simulators released these days, much less free-to-play sci-fi space sims that happen to be MMOs. Well, Pirate Galaxy fits the bill as a F2P MMO action game that’s also a light space simulator. It’s not quite as complex or visually captivating as the vast, engaging void of space found in EVE Online, but it shares some aesthetic similarities and sports an intriguing atmosphere that begs for exploration.
Part of Pirate Galaxy's appeal is that there are a lot of quests, and scavenging plays a huge part in uncovering new items and upgrades, but the downside is that the game feels really boxed in and doesn’t really offer a convenient way to party or interact with other players in a seamless way.
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Unlike EVE Online or the upcoming Jumpgate Evolution, Pirate Galaxy is not a free-roaming, open-space MMO. It’s instead a game that allows players to roam around on pre-designated areas of planets (or space segments) where it all takes place near ground level or on a single vertical plane. In that regards, Pirate Galaxy could be considered a pseudo-space simulator. Nevertheless, the fact that it has a small client and runs like a browser game with great graphics and fluent gameplay makes it stand out above many other hard drive-heavy MMOs.
One of the true highlights of the game relies in the item farming required in order to obtain new and more powerful weapons. The concept of players earning new equipment by defeating enemies and unlocking blueprints as opposed to just saving up money and buying the strongest weapon available makes the game more appealing, especially for the fact that players who invest time into the game will reap greater benefits as opposed to those who just lay down cash for the game.
My only complaint with Pirate Galaxy’s design concept is that player-partying isn’t handled particularly well and it’s a bit cumbersome to get into a party as it involves going into orbit and creating or joining a party as opposed to just clicking on a player when you see them and inviting them into a party.
Still, the fact that the game runs like a browser title and requires no initial, heavy-handed clients that take up ridiculous amounts of memory was a smart design choice by Splitscreen Studios.
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Playing Pirate Galaxy is simplistic enough and behaves very similar to other MMORPGs than it does a flight simulator. Clicking on an enemy or object automatically moves the ship in that direction and firing a weapon is equally as easy to use as it is targeting objects in the game. The weapons, boosters and item collectors operate exactly like skills in other MMOs and features gameplay that mostly sees players grinding and farming for items.
The good part about Pirate Galaxy is that it’s very simple to play and gamers looking for a sci-fi MMO will find it easy enough to get into the game but the one thing that really feels like a step backward is that there’s no way to evasively get out of way of enemy fire. One of the main purposes of playing a space sim (or flight sim) is that there are options to fly and dog fight. And while dog fighting has stayed in the game the whole concept of evasive maneuvering is entirely underplayed and it’s a necessary function players just don’t get to use in the way that should have been present in the game.
Nevertheless, the rest of the game behaves like any typical medium-budget MMO – keeping in mind that it’s still browser-based.
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Graphics And Sound
I don't know if I've said it already but did I mention that this was a browser-based game? Yeah, well it was a no-brainer giving the graphics and audio a five-out-five given that in some segments the lighting dynamics and atmospheric presentations almost looks as good as big budget games out there. Now, there are no HDR effects, advancing blooming or real-time multi-layered soft or dynamic shadowing, but the game really doesn’t need it. The camera work and cinematic scope of a vast and quasi-explorable outer space is executed very well.
In fact, I’d venture so far to say that one of the strongest points of the game is that it visually captures what the gameplay doesn’t quite capitalize on. The audio portions of the game are about on par with its visuals, featuring sci-fi music that sounds similar to CCP’s EVE and possibly shares a slight similitude with Jack Wall’s Mass Effect soundtrack.
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It’s rather difficult to say that the questing is as well-rounded as it should be in order to retain a modicum of sustained replayability. The quests are at least less wordy than Allods Online but no where near as engaging or as interesting as Red Cliff or Fallen Earth. Heck, even 2029 Online managed to maintain a great diversity of quests within its free-to-play paradigm without becoming too repetitive or mundane.
The biggest problem in Pirate Galaxy is that too many of the quests revolve around the same thing: kill so many droids, recover the object, and return to space. A larger variety of missions, especially involving chasing a target or stopping a bomb or anything other than the same old recycled quests that were offered would have easily added an extra layer of depth to the game.
Still, the questing is no different than what most gamers would expect from a standard-fare MMORPG. Added to this, the quests don’t glitch or force players into impossible situations and that keeps them from being a complete throwaway.
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With a relatively small install and a client that operates based on browser tech I certainly can’t knock Pirate Galaxy too much, especially considering that it’s also free-to-play. The fact that finding a space sim or anything remotely involving sci-fi space travel out there in the MMO world can be extremely difficult, especially if you take a game like Anarchy Online out of the equation. However, the one thing that's sort of obvious with Pirate Galaxy is that the game could very well be summed up as a possible PlayStation Network or Xbox Live Arcade game that just never came to be. For PC gamers, though, it’s good that a game like this exists because space simulators don’t come our way a dime a dozen, much less space simulators with MMO qualities.
Gamers looking for a light space-sim with large galaxies to explore, lots of item farming and plenty of quests – albeit repetitive quests – then it’s tough to ignore Pirate Galaxy as a decent candidate worth checking out.
Need more space-sims and MMO action games? Well, check out Bright Hub's Definitive List of MMO Action Games.