5 ways Pirates of the Caribbean: Armada of the Damned is avoiding the movie-licensed shitstorm

The low to mid 50s. Obviously, that’s not the temperature you’ll encounter on Jack Sparrow’s high seas. Unfortunately, that’s the average review score of the last couple Pirates of the Caribbean games. Ouch.


Judge not, people! I doubt you’re used to ignoring millions on the table, so let’s not go and blame anybody for cashing in on one of the most profitable film series in all of history. Likewise, you can’t ignore that the Pirates universe is unbelievably well suited for a kickass game. Super-powered sword fighting, reanimated corpses, mutant sea monsters, and hull-splintering pirate ship collisions coming together in an Action RPG? Yeah… who’d want to play that?


It’s understandable that we, the hardest of core, could look see that big, weird ass D in the logo and assume: Here Be Babies! But Disney Interactive Studios has its shit together. Reformed and rebranded in 2007, Mickey’s digital powerhouse gets that the kiddies want their Hanna Montanas and their Club Penguins, but they are also firmly aware that the average gamer demands something… different. (Or better, you could say “better.”) And judging by the upcoming hyper-destructive racer Split/Second, the make-your-own-adventure Toy Story 3, and the absolute renaissance that is Warren Spector’s Epic Mickey, you’re looking at company demanding its name mean as much to the gaming landscape as it does to the medium of film and TV.

So how does a movie studio subsidiary avoid the classic trappings that have made games based on movies suck for nearly all of eternity? It’s easier than you might think.

1. Get a pedigree
Mention the previous Pirates of the Caribbean games, Propaganda Games would probably like to stand at a distance and still loudly cry “Hey, that wasn’t us!” Because it wasn’t, after all. The Vancouver developer is responsible for the million-selling 2007 Turok resurrection, and the team is made up of the people who brought us bold new franchises like NBA Street, Def Jam, Battlefield, and Dragon Age. So, they know a thing two about creating successful properties.

Above: Chat with scoundrels at The Faithful Bride

2. Let the films be the films
The fact that games take longer to develop than movies is just a harsh reality for developers. So rather than string together a bunch of elongated crescendo moments from a 4th Pirates of the Caribbean film that hasn’t even begun principle photography, they’re abandoning the plot of the films altogether. Locations like Port Royal and Tortuga will be immediately familiar to fans, but while you might see some familiar faces along the way, Armada of the Damned will all take place before the events of the Pirates trilogy.

Above: Two sided hero

Enter Captain Sterling, a naive young man who is sucked in by the glitz of high seas camaraderie… only to find the profession filled with scurvy bilge rats who’d sooner cut yer throat than look at ya... Pardon the slip into Pirate speak, but hey, the attraction to the life of a pirate is undeniable. Anyhow, Sterling is nearly killed in his pursuit, but “revitalized” by other worldly forces in a quest to gain entrance to the fabled 8th Sea, and this were the player branch out in their own direction. Will you go the classic, heroic route with Legendary, or trade fame for fear by choosing the dark and powerful Dreaded side (Thar be multiple endings!) People will react to you differently depending on your actions, and that’s of increased importance when it comes to hiring your crew.

Above: Lovely day for a ransack

3. Open world, open sea
What, did you think you weren’t going to get a little high seas adventure? But if you think you’ve seen open-world nautical combat before, think again. There were several barriers Propaganda had to overcome so as not to look as lame as every other attempt at Pirate life previously seen in games. The balance between realism and fun was certainly a factor. So, whereas most games featuring sprawling oceans contain boring and flat water, Armada’s got dynamic waves and wake that make for an authentically jostling experience playing when cycling to the over-the-shoulder camera view. 

But that is pretty much where the nautical-sim ends. Initially, the developers made the Seven Seas too big, and are streamlining the blue between land missions in order to make for a more fun experience (they should have plenty of time, the game’s not out until 2011.) This is the magic-infused PotC world after all, and the ship-to-ship combat should be gallantly over-the-top, too.

Slowly circling vessels and the direction of the wind takes a back seat to ramming ships, firing canons to obliterate masts, and even a dash maneuver to avoid enemy fire. If that’s not “action-oriented” enough for you, know that you’ll eventually be able open up the sea and sky and call down godlike abilities that should be expected in Disney’s Caribbean. Destroy a ship and you’ll salvage a bit of booty, but board them and eliminate the crew, you’ll find a much higher percentage of loot to pillage and sell to markets on land.

Above: Less strategy, more swashbuckle

Remember the crew we mentioned earlier? Well, you can also board ships and fight hand-to-hand. Your ship is customizable, but not in any superficial decal-and-parts sense. Your actions in the game dictate the crew you can hire, and your crew dictate the attributes of your ship. Oh! And just so you know, we asked Propaganda about the Kraken… and they just looked at each other and exchanged smiles.


  • SanjiTheShining - May 15, 2010 2:39 a.m.

    It looks alot like Fable 2 to me, especially like the good/evil stuff (yes I know fable probably didnt invent the moral choices)
  • NoobBuster - May 14, 2010 2:53 p.m.

    sounds awesome. Now we've got an open world cowboy game, an open world pirate game comming next year, all we need is a great ninja one (correct me if there are some great ones already). I hope the kraken isn't the only see monster...
  • Lovelost - May 14, 2010 2:42 p.m.

    Looks Very promising, Time I get out my pirate gear and walk the streets. But seriously they should release this on Talk Like a Pirate Day.
  • Blackout1881 - May 14, 2010 12:25 a.m.

    Wow this game looks like a dream come true, I might have to kill a puppy if it dissapoints me.
  • IamNOTatalkingpony - May 13, 2010 11:04 p.m.

    Captain Sterling? Jim, when did you become a pirate?
  • Tenfey - May 13, 2010 9:10 p.m.

    Whenever I watch those movies, I can only think about how uncomfortable people must have been back in those days wearing 30 layers of cloths in the humid weather and constantly getting soaked. No wonder everyone got all pissy and became pirates.
  • GamesRadarChrisAntista - May 13, 2010 9:01 p.m.

    @thesuperspacejew I see what you did there... grrrrr
  • GamesRadarChrisAntista - May 13, 2010 9 p.m.

    @helix92 That's pretty true, probably had something to do with the 3rd movie. Oddly enough, I'm kind off lukewarm on the the 1st one too. But the second movie I can watch over and over! It's like a really kickass season of a great TV show.
  • helix92 - May 13, 2010 8:57 p.m.

    "Oddly enough, we’re now looking forward to Armada of the Damned more than the 4th Pirates of the Caribbean movie (which over half the cast isn’t even signed on to appear in?)" thats kinda a good thing right? Almost all the characters were really annoying!! Captain Jack and Barbosa are the only ones really worth keeping and they're the ones that are back. Anyways, this looks suprisingly good, but i'm gunna have to see more before I get too excited.
  • michaelmcc827 - May 13, 2010 8:51 p.m.

    Woah...this is gonna be the next final fantasy! Looks great.
  • thesuperspacejew - May 13, 2010 8:49 p.m.

    Movie game won't be shitty? Next Team Fortress 2!
  • RonnyLive19881 - May 13, 2010 8:04 p.m.

    What ever, the last 2 were way better IMO, especially the third one. Just don't watch them more than once or you WILL be bored Lol.
  • CurryIsGood - May 13, 2010 7:42 p.m.

    I want Jack Sparrow
  • db1331 - May 13, 2010 7:19 p.m.

    Wow this has some real potential. I loved the first movie, it's a shame they rushed the last 2 out for a quick merchandising cash grab.

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