Free to play MMOs just don't get the respect they deserve. The problem is that that the entire submarket is painted by the same brush. Yes, there are many examples of not-so-great Asian MMOs poorly translated and dumped on the US market as free-to-play titles. Despite that, not only are some imports well done but home-grown free games are increasingly high quality. Three Rings has been making high quality free games for years, and Puzzle Pirates is their flagship title.
You probably already know the outline of the gameplay just from the name; it's an MMO where everyone does pirate-y things via puzzles. Everything is a puzzle in the game, from sailing and bilging to drinking contests. One of the most popular games in Puzzle Pirates is the swordfighting contest, and rightly so. Truly massively multiplayer, based on the Puzzle Fighter 2 console game, swordfighting is craftily, beautifully fun. Read on below the cut for my thoughts on why this simple puzzling technique may be one of the most engaging combats you can enjoy in an MMO.