Pirates of the Caribbean isn't precisely remembered for good video games. Fans of the franchise have gotten better gaming experiences in the form of Kingdom Hearts 2 and an expansion to LittleBigPlanet than in many of the actual games. Disney Interactive Studios has decided to make an effort to change this by bringing in a new developer to grow the series beyond the story of Jack Sparrow and friends/foes/victims/etc., starting with Pirates of the Caribbean: Armada of the Damned for PS3, Xbox 360 and PC.
Armada takes place before the films, casting the player as Captain Sterling, who drowns in the opening cut scene. No, the curse of the Aztec coins doesn't kick in to save you. From here, as he starts building his reputation, Sterling needs to find a solution to the curse, but he's not above taking full advantage of it in the meantime. There is a morality system in this story, but rather than being good or evil, the game aligns the player along the lines of the swashbuckling Legendary or brutal Dreaded styles — both of which can be good or evil on top. The rep used the words "Robin Hood" and "Batman" to describe each.
Your alignment heavily changes your fighting style; while the rep only had time to show one, he commented on how Legendary was all about being light with motions, jumping around and favoring quick strikes. Dreaded, on the other hand, is halfway between Batman: Arkham Asylum and God of War, held up in part via an anchor half the size of Sterling himself, which can be used for all sorts of brutal attacks, such as smacking enemies from across the field or pulling them toward him. Every strike — taken or dealt — has the RPG-classic damage number pop up, showing how the more brutal techniques really do more damage.
The primary level shown in this entry involved the cannibals from the movies. Soon after landing on the island, Sterling reaches their village, where everyone has significant crustacean features and only a few are sane enough to talk to him. (Conversations are purely Mass Effect in style.) They fear him because of the last white people to land are responsible for cursing them and appear to be a major foe in Sterling's plot. Naturally, the game's choice of whether or not he'll try to help affects your reputation, but it won't really change the fights (other than your style), as it still pits you against the cannibals as you go around the island trying to get an idol that will fix everything.
Ultimately, you have the choice to keep it for yourself, if you want, but you're not presented this choice until after you've made it to the volcano and faced a particularly mutated fellow who serves as the boss. The rep pointed out that the boss was fighting with a clear pattern, but as the fight went on, occasional Quick Time Events (QTEs) kick in, and success would change the pattern due to a significant injury inflicted on the boss.
The E3 demo didn't show much of the ship-borne play but noted how Captain Sterling's leveling would also influence his ship, without going into too much detail. The stats leveled automatically, but the game also offered full talent trees and new specials as additional bonuses.
When Pirates of the Caribbean: Armada of the Damned drops in Q4, fans of the series may finally find a game that captures the series' signature style, along with some of the best of Bioware's RPG traditions. However, the rep noted possible delays, as the developers plan to take their time to get everything right.
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