Cloud Pirates is a new action "MMO" that has just been officially released from early access on Steam. After leaving early access, Cloud Pirates became free-to-play, so I figured it was worth giving a try. It has mostly positive review on Steam and the concept of the game is pretty interesting. After my very first game, I started to realize that Cloud Pirates really isn't an MMO for the most part. The time I spent in the game was solely in deathmatch matchmaking games, and I saw no MMO mechanics at play. While the game does have other game mode's that may or may not have MMO qualities, I was unable to play them.
Even just playing Battle, Cloud Pirates is pretty enjoyable. At first, it was pretty confusing to me, mostly because I thought I was flying the same ship that I used in the tutorial, and that confusion basically destroyed my perception of the game in my first match. Besides my initial confusion, the game is actually pretty simple and easy to grasp. The controls feel very natural right from the start, and I can see how Cloud Pirates could be a very popular game for younger players because of its simplicity. While it may have a young player base, I have to say that the time I spent in it was very enjoyable. Destroying another player's ship is a very rewarding experience, and even just helping destroy one feels good in the sense that you're contributing to the team.
Cloud Pirates ironically has pretty much nothing to do with actual pirates. Think of it as a future where aerial ships are the main form of military power. If you're expecting rum drinking, song singing pirates, then you definitely will be disappointed. The only actual thing the game has to do with pirates is the fact that you're the captain of a ship, and the decorations I guess.
I've only played a few matches to this point, but even with my very small amount of time investment, I managed to make my ship more powerful, and gain a second ability. Cloud Pirates has a great system of progression, and you literally get stronger with every level up. Winning games, or performing well grants you extra currency that you can then use to upgrade your ship and even add decorations. To be honest, most ships looked pretty much exactly the same with very subtle variations, with the exception of different ship variants. This may be due to the fact that a lot of player's that I matched up with were very new to the game, just like I was, so the amount of customization I saw was very little.
Cloud Pirates has various ships to choose from, all with different characteristics and abilities. Some ships are slow but powerful from close range, while some are fast and effective at long range combat. I chose a medium range ship called Gale that seemed to be the most popular ship amongst new players. I constantly ran into my same ship in combat and it's no surprise because I was completely destroying with it. I'm not sure whether it's because I was playing against very new players, very young players, or whether I'm just really good at Cloud Pirates, but every match just seemed way too easy. My team was winning by insane margins, and I was starting to wonder whether the enemy team was logging in from their daycare computers.
It honestly felt like the enemy team was a bunch of children to the point that I actually started to feel bad for them. The last match I played, I racked up more kills than anyone on my team, and the enemy team only managed to get 2 kills total. That game I played happened to by the 3rd game I've ever played in Cloud Pirates, so you can imagine my confusion. There are only a few possible reasons for my success: Cloud Pirates has a young player base, the Gale ship is very overpowered, I was playing against very new players, or I'm simply the best Cloud Pirate alive. I'd like to believe it's the last one, but I digress. The most likely case was probably a mix of all of those factors. I compare the experience of playing Cloud Pirates similar to the scenario of going to a Chucky Cheese and playing the little kid games versus going to Dave & Busters or Playdium and playing games meant for adults. If you've ever been to Chucky Cheese and witnessed the teenager that gets enjoyment out of dunking on the children's basketball game, raking in tickets, then you understand what I'm talking about. It's like taking candy from a baby with less moral ramifications.
I never fully explored the customization options in Cloud Pirates, but there seemed like a huge potential to really personalize your ship to your desire. While I was more interested in the gameplay than the ship decorations at first, I can definitely see the appeal for people that are really into the game. My only concern with customization is the microtransactions. When I did browse the decorations, all of them seemed to be purchasable with what looked like a currency that was only obtainable by spending real life money. Whether or not this currency is pricey or not is not for me to say as I didn't really think twice about it, but the fact that Cloud Pirates went free to play means they're relying on microtransactions to fund further development. Free to play games are usually always plagued by the same problems. They either have pay-to-win formula's or they heavily emphasize on the cash-shop while making it rather troublesome to play without spending any actual money. I haven't put enough time into Cloud Pirates to say whether or not it's pay-to-win or if it's free-to-play formula is toxic or not, but I'll definitely look into it in the future.
Cloud Pirates most redeeming quality seems to be it's Stronghold Siege game mode. From it's most recent update, Cloud Pirates gained the Stronghold system. In this game mode, players can build bases in the sky that they have to defend while attacking other player's strongholds. Though I never got to play this game mode, it's what I was initially excited about when I was first getting into Cloud Pirates. What they neglect to mention, is that Stronghold Siege is only available at a specific time. When I first logged in, normal deathmatches were the only mode available and I needed to wait literally days to be able to play it. I can't vouch for the quality of the other game modes do to this time-based game mode availability. The 1.4 update that launched the game out of early access also improved upon group play, although I didn't get to witness how it works, I can definitely imagine Cloud Pirates being a lot more fun with friends. Playing with a full team would definitely be a cool experience, especially in a stronghold focuses game mode.
While I do believe that Cloud Pirates is definitely targeted more towards younger players, I still enjoyed the few games that I played, even if it felt way too easy. Going into the game, I was expecting a more open-world MMO experience, but I wasn't completely disappointed since the deathmatch games were pretty enjoyable overall. In general, no free-to-play game has really ever been able to hold my attention and respect my time investment like a buy-to-play game does, but Cloud Pirates is good for some quick playtime every now and then. I'd recommend Cloud Pirates to anybody who's bored of their current games and is looking for something fun that they can hop into right away. It's free and very easy to understand, but for the more serious/competitive gamer, I don't think you'll find what you're looking for in Cloud Pirates. Though if you get enjoyment from feeling superior and beating children at video games, then maybe it is for you. Go ahead, I won't judge.