The Only Treasure is the Grind
Expectations and first impressions are a big factor when it comes to judging any game. For example, one expects different things from a unique IP versus say, a game based off of one of the single most successful Anime series of all time. At first glance, Pirate Warriors appears to be the former. Its store page makes no mention of recognizable characters, familiar locations or events. But lo, it’s actually based on One Piece, an anime with over 1,000 episodes that stands among titans such as Naruto and Dragonball Z. So what then is one to expect from a game that initially hides its association with such a high-value IP? As it turns out, not much.
All Sprites and No Play
Whether it’s Call of Duty or Scrabble, all games possess one unifying feature: Gameplay. Pirate Warriors has made the bold choice to break this convention and include as little gameplay as possible. The actual missions or “Adventures” see the player’s team of anime characters battle other AI characters. What’s the player’s role in all this? To watch and to occasionally tap a sprite to use their skill. Unless you’ve turned on the auto-skill feature as the game suggests, then you just watch. Well, then there must be a good story to pull the player in right? Well… not as such. The “Adventures” seem to take place in locations from One Piece, but the questions of why you’re there and why you’re fighting go unanswered. The answer seems to simply be “Because you have to do something.”
Adventures are not the only aspect of this game, thankfully. The actual “game” that requires conscious input from the player comes in the form of creating and leveling up teams of characters. In a similar style to Dokkan Battle players must summon character cards and form a team. Unlike Dokkan Battle there is little strategy to forming these teams. Players can try to create teams using specific cards for a single bonus but outside of that, the strategy seems to be simply using the best cards available. The gameplay loop in Pirate Warriors is very well refined, the instant things start to feel difficult you make a breakthrough. And the moment things seem to be getting boring they get hard. It’s quite masterful. And dangerous.
The Quest to Become Pirate Royalty
Many games these days have some form of premium or “elite” membership. In Pirate Warriors, players can purchase VIP. Sorry correction, they can purchase VIP 1 through 16. By spending real money players can “level up” their VIP status to attain better bonuses. Things like leveling up all your gear at once instead of one at a time, or getting more access to daily missions. Basically getting access to a more streamlined experience. For example, at VIP 0 players can only play the mission that drops training items twice before needing to wait 24 hours. While at VIP 5 they can play it three times. How do you unlock this marvelous feature you ask? By purchasing diamonds, 10 to get to VIP 1, 100 for VIP 2, 300 for VIP 3 and so on up to 300,000 for VIP 16. For reference 6,480 diamonds costs $100.
It’s not just more missions that are being held hostage either. Do you want to summon better cards or level up your ship and equipment? It’d all be easier with VIP. It’s here that the game’s well-crafted difficulty loop ensnares its victims. The game is quite well balanced. But it’s balanced to lighten your wallet. You’ve played the game for several hours, you’ve cleared quite a few missions. But your old team just isn’t cutting it anymore and the few lucky free summons you’ve gotten have reached their limit. “Get stronger” the game says after you fail an Adventure. There’s only one way to do that at this point.
Not a Pirate’s Life for Me
Pirate Warriors dodges expectations at all turns. It’s not a unique IP but neither does it have the quality of gameplay expected from a successful anime tie in. It gives the player as little agency as possible while still requiring constant input. Its predatory monetization combined with a tightly designed difficulty curve makes it a dangerous time waster. It’s hard to imagine anyone with any real appreciation for video games finding any value in Pirate Warriors. Perhaps, lovers of the anime would enjoy it for that reason alone. Though one wonders how they’d know it’s based on One Piece from the store page. Not that they’re missing out on much.
Is it Hardcore?
Not in the slightest.
Pirate Warriors has little to offer in terms of gameplay or story and is likely meant to prey on young fans of One Piece to say nothing of their parent’s credit cards.