A 23 year-old cult classic pirate series has been revived as a free open-world RPG inspired by the best pirate game ever, and it's getting great Steam reviews

Caribbean Legend: Sandbox
(Image credit: BlackMark Studio)

So, there's pretty much a new Sea Dogs game, but first I have a lot of context to share. If you'd rather not indulge in the long and confusing history of a cult classic pirate series, just scroll down until just after the picture of some pirates in front of a ship and that'll take you straight to the point.

The 23 year-old Sea Dogs series has an unbelievably complicated history. The first game, simply titled Sea Dogs (Corsairs in Russia), was made by the now defunct Russia-based developer Akella and released in 2003, with Bethesda taking on publishing rights in North America. The RPG is widely considered the first 3D pirate game and is heavily inspired by Sid Meier's Pirates!, itself often called the single best pirate video game of all time.

Akella and Bethesda's follow-up was originally called Sea Dogs 2 but was changed to Pirates of the Caribbean at the last minute when Disney paid to have it shipped as a tie-in to the 2003 movie starring Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom. Although it was positioned as such, it had little to do with the movie aside from one ship named the Black Pearl and, well, the whole pirate thing. Also, weirdly, it didn't follow the plot of the first Sea Dogs game either; it was kind of just its own thing.

Then there was 2006's Age of Pirates: Caribbean Tales, developed by Akella and published by 1C Company and Playlogic, the first in the series to adopt the Age of Pirates title as Bethesda still owned the rights to Sea Dogs. This spawned yet another sequel, 2009's Age of Pirates 2: City of Abandoned Ships, from Akella and Playlogic. So that explains why the series is referred to using three different names: Sea Dogs, Corsairs, and Age of Pirates.

After Age of Pirates and Age of Pirates 2 flopped, Akella turned to a group of Sea Dogs/Age of Pirates modders on a fan forum and gave them the rights to develop an unofficial add-on to Age of Pirates 2, but Akella decided to release it commercially as an official follow-up, inexplicably named Sea Dogs: To Each His Own, in 2012.

Caribbean Legend: Sandbox

(Image credit: BlackMark Studio)

PHEW. Ok, so sail forward to today; Akella is no more and BlackMark, the studio behind Sea Dogs: To Each His Own, has a new game out called Caribbean Legend: Sandbox, which is "based on Sea Dogs" and "inspired by Sid Meier's Pirates!" It looks like the most faithful unofficial follow-up fans could possibly hope for, even sporting graphics that, while beautiful, look like they came straight from 2013.

Caribbean Legend: Sandbox is the free version of another game, just called Caribbean Legend, launching Thursday. According to BlackMark, Sandbox is the same game but it's missing a bunch of stuff, chiefly, "a story mode with unique events, pirate and officer careers, colony building, romance, and hundreds of hours of adventure."

What it does include is a big old 1654 AD Caribbean open world filled with bustling towns and ancient architecture, as well as hundreds of quests including freight jobs, bounty hunting, trading contracts, and more, each with multiple outcomes depending on your actions. There's also naval and land combat, from small confrontations with thugs in jungles to full-scale sieges where you're at the command of an armada of warships. Ultimately, BlackMark says you can expect about 10-20 hours of gameplay from the "freeplay" mode, while the full game should keep you busy for "almost 200 hours."

Anyway, Sandbox's 'Very Positive' Steam reviews suggest the long wait for a follow-up, not to mention the laborious effort that went into my retelling of the series' complex history, was worth it. Although many reviewers note a steep learning curve and some clunky controls, it sounds like it's everything fans have been waiting for - warts and all.

Ahoy, matey! Check out our Skull and Bones review-in-progress to see what we think of Ubisoft's new pirate game.

Jordan Gerblick

After scoring a degree in English from ASU, I worked as a copy editor while freelancing for places like SFX Magazine, Screen Rant, Game Revolution, and MMORPG on the side. Now, as GamesRadar's west coast Staff Writer, I'm responsible for managing the site's western regional executive branch, AKA my apartment, and writing about whatever horror game I'm too afraid to finish.