by Marko Susimetsä
previewed on PC
Where there be sea, there be pirates!
Unfortunately, this does not mean that where there be computers, there be pirate games. Instead, there is a distinct lack of good and proper pirate RPG games. Certainly the feat has been tried, but the final results have not been quite what gamers hoped they would be.
With this in mind, when you hear that the upcoming pirate game from Disney - Pirates of the Caribbean: Armada of the Damned - is a movie tie-in, you’re likely to ignore any and all information. However, I personally hold high hopes for this game, especially when I consider the fact that Dan Tudge – of Dragon Age: Origins fame – is overseeing the project.
Rich world to explore
The perfect pirate RPG should offer an open world to explore and give the gamer the freedom to choose what to do and when to do it. Armada of the Damned aims to give you just that. The world is based on the one we all came to know in the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, but the story is based before the events of the movies. This means that we will adventure in a Caribbean that is inhabited by both regular people and mythical creatures, such as undead cursed pirates.
The developers promise that there will be a lot of exploration to do both on land and at sea. Interesting locations, such as hidden coves, mysterious inlets and intriguing islands are supposed to be aplenty, and the people of the Caribbean will have their own stories and lives to share, leading you to various adventures if you choose to take a personal interest in their affairs. Furthermore, those lives will be affected by the decisions you make along the way insofar as the main story is concerned, so you will also see the world developing around you.
In addition to interacting with individual people on the Caribbean, the player will naturally also have a chance to enter into dialogue with the national powers that hold sway over the entire region, i.e. France, England etc. As the main story progresses, the possible alliances between these powers and the player character will develop. The developers have also hinted at an economical model that may result in trading possibilities between the islands and nations of the Caribbean.
Another feature that I respect in RPGs is the player's chance to create a new character from scratch, including body size, shape and hair, as well as facial features. Unfortunately, at this point, it seems that the developers are planning to introduce a character with a predetermined look. It is unclear if this will mean that there will be no option to play a female character or if there will be a 'tabula rasa' character of both sexes to choose from.
However, the limited options at character creation give way to more detailed character development. The developers promise that the numerous choices the gamer makes as he explores the lives and fates of the Caribbean people will affect the character's appearance. Some of these changes will be directly related to the events in the story and can be quite drastic (I'm thinking wooden legs here), while others will be less serious. Overall, the player will have a chance to create a unique character despite the generic template that they start from. In addition to the player character, there will also be other characters to take care of. The protagonist naturally needs a crew for his ship. It will be possible to personalize the crew any way you want, and this will also affect your later pirate career.
Give them a broadside!
The battle system between ships has not yet been revealed, but the developers have hinted that they are taking a unique perspective at ship-to-ship battles and that it will be something that we've never seen before. That's quite a promise, and any improvement over the standard ‘line up alongside each other and shoot until someone dies’ approach will be welcome.
The word is as scarce when it comes to sword combat; the developers have merely said that the game will allow the player to attack, parry and counter their enemies. As the player gains levels, he will also gain access to special abilities that can also be used in melee combat.
Chance to Surprise
Disney and Propaganda Games definitely have a chance to surprise us with an excellent action RPG. All the information that we have at the moment is pointing in a good direction, and I'm especially interested in the moral development of the character – a pirates' life offers many chances to make decisions that affect the lives of others, so this might get pretty interesting. I just hope that it will be something imaginative, rather than something we've already seen in other titles.
At the moment of writing, the game is scheduled for a fourth quarter release in North America, so there is still a long wait ahead of us. Hopefully Disney will make the best of the concept rather than just milk the franchise, and give us a worthy pirate game.