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Pirates of the Caribbean Preview
game: Pirates of the Caribbean
posted by: GF! Back Catalogue 10/2004 => 1995
date posted: 09:10 AM Thu Jun 5th, 2003
last revision: 06:59 AM Fri Sep 23rd, 2005

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By Todd Allen

The deep, open-ended RPG flavor Bethesda has become famous for is now setting sail for a place far from the land of Morrowind. \"Inspired\" by the upcoming movie, Pirates of the Caribbean is shaping up to be one of, if not the best title in the slim pirate genre. Thanks to the depth that has become a trademark of Bethesda\'s games, this\'ll probably be as close as you get to living the life of a swashbuckler.

Those afraid Pirates of the Caribbean will fall into that sad \"game based on a movie\" category can rest at ease. It\'s been in the works for quite some time. You may actually recognize it by the game\'s old name, Sea Dogs. The game\'s ties to the upcoming movie seem loose at best, which is a good thing. We were told that the game has its own underlying storyline that players may pursue at their leisure, much like Morrowind. Outside of the main story, you can follow the course of life you deem fit. This may involve a peaceful merchant profession, or the complete opposite, a bloodthirsty marauding pirate. The choice is up to you.

After spending some time with Pirates of the Caribbean at Bethesda\'s booth I\'m excited to say the least. The game breaks up into two major parts, time you\'re in the ship and time you spend on land. When sailing, you view your boat from a bird\'s eye view, surveying the surrounding ocean and nearby islands. The setting is large and spread out to make you feel like you really are setting sail for some serious journeys. Several scenarios are open to you while you are sailing. You will come across other vessels such as merchant ships or even other pirates. Of course your relations with the countries present in the Caribbean will affect how ships react to you. Pirates on the other hand will always pursue you no matter what. If you come into conflict with another ship, and believe me you will, you\'re thrust into a battle scene where you and your enemy go at it. The graphics during these conflicts are truly amazing and capture the dramatic feel of two ships locked in combat. You\'ll maintain full control of your ship\'s steering and sails as well as your cannons as you maneuver around your opponent and try to blow him out of the water. Turning your enemy\'s ship into driftwood isn\'t the only option you have. If you like you can attempt to board his ship and take it through hand-to-hand combat. Upon boarding the action switches to the default third person view used when you\'re on land and the sword fighting ensues. If you prove victorious you can then loot the ship or even take it as your own. One other scenario worth noting is the inclusion of weather systems you must contend with when at sea. If you\'re unlucky enough to run into a storm on the map you\'re taken to that same battle scenario mentioned before, but this time you are fighting massive waves and destructive winds. Interestingly, the object is to survive by guiding your ship out of the storm. Once again the visual displays, especially the water effects, are truly amazing.

The other aspect of the game encompasses your inland excursions. There are numerous towns to explore along with several tropical locales where eager players can sniff out adventure. As usual, combat is simple yet effective. Not only do players get to test their swordsmanship, but their skill with a pistol as well. Of course there are plenty of sabers and guns out there for you to hunt down and inflict upon the poor swab dumb enough to cross you.

Depth is definitely the word of the day for Pirates of the Caribbean. A robust economy allows players to pursue a rewarding career as a merchant, or even a smuggler. Ships don\'t sail themselves so you\'ll need to seek out sailors to man your vessel and also watch your back during combat. You can even delegate the ships you take control of to your most trusted men so that they may spread your influence abroad. It\'s quite possible to have your own small fleet. You\'ll command many ships during your tenure and equipping them is your responsibility. This may seem a bit intimidating, shopping for cannons, sails, rigging, and the like, but the developers have struck a good balance between the danger of tedious busy work and the more practical aspects of pirate life that end up being pretty entertaining.

Under the surface of Pirates is a strong statistics system. Naturally you have the stats determining your combat ability and other things like your equipments\' attributes, but Bethesda and Akella have taken it a step further. Your character also has stats based on his charisma and his leadership, things every self respecting pirate captain needs. These stats figure into several aspects of the game. For instance take ship combat into consideration. The orders you relay (such as firing on ships or raising the sails) to your crew take a certain amount of time before they are followed. This delay depends on the sailors\' view of you as their captain. A captain with high marks in leadership will have his orders carried out immediately.

Pirates of the Caribbean is expected to release sometime this June so you shouldn\'t have to wait much longer to get your hands on it. Games based on the pirate way of life are few and far between and the amount of quality titles in that group is quite slim. Judging from the build at E3, Pirates of the Caribbean is going to define the pirating experience and provide a rewarding role-playing experience.