We've gotten hold of a playable build of the Xbox version of Pirates of the Caribbean, Bethesda's piratical action RPG that draws its license from Disney's upcoming movie Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, and we've played through a bit of the game to see how it's shaping up. As you may be aware, Pirates of the Caribbean began life as the sequel to developer Akella's popular Sea Dogs, and Disney Interactive has recently converted Sea Dogs II into a game that will tie in to the soon-to-be-released blockbuster. The game version of Pirates of the Caribbean stays true to its roots--it has little to do with the film in character and plot terms--but from what we've seen so far, it looks like it'll provide a solid piracy-oriented game experience all the same.
This build of Pirates of the Caribbean seems a bit early in that it doesn't feature a clear intro to set up the initial playable part of the game. However, upon starting a new game, we were still free to roam around the gameworld and see what we could see. Like the original Sea Dogs, Pirates of the Caribbean is an RPG that places you in command of a pirate ship and has you building your fortune and your notoriety by running cargo, hiring help for your ship, and acquiring new weapons--all the sorts of things an aspiring merchant or pirate would do. In our brief look at the game, we moved around the town of Oxbay, chatting with the locals and exploring the various buildings. The game's quest book keeps track of tasks you need to complete quickly--we had to sell some goods we'd transported, buy a new spyglass, hire some new hands for our ship, and carry out some repairs on the damaged vessel. You can get to the places you need to go by exploring town or simply by accessing a fast-move option that lets you go expressly to the tavern, shop, or wherever you need to go.
The character interaction we dealt with in the game was set up much like in many PC RPGs, with branching dialogue trees appearing for characters that had a lot to say. Of course, if you don't feel like chatting with the town residents, you can always kill them--our character, Nathaniel Hawk, started out with both a sword and a pistol. Wielding these indiscriminately drew the ire of the town guard, however. Finally, after taking care of our tasks around town, we boarded our vessel and began to sail the open sea, which is represented by a small-scale overhead map. On this map, you'll encounter other ships and some obstacles; we were at one point caught in a storm that forced us to navigate in a 3D sailing mode to escape the harsh and choppy seas. We were unsuccessful and sank like a rock to the bottom.
Graphically, Pirates of the Caribbean looks solid all around, and it features the nicest water effects this side of Morrowind. The game is still a little rough around the edges, but hopefully it will be polished alongside its PC counterpart before its release. We'll bring you more on the game as it becomes available.