Genre: Adventure/ RPG
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Akella
Platform: PC, Xbox
Release Date: summer 2003

A video game available for computer and Xbox. Designed and developed by the Russian company Akella, this game is perfect for all fans of Sid Meier's classic Pirates! game. Akella already has an excellent reputation for making sailing games, starting from their classic game Sea Dogs (Pirates of the Caribbean would have been released as Sea Dogs II had they not received the generous funding from Disney.) It is clear that the company's games are strongly influenced by the original Pirates! as the game play is pretty much the same, with fancier graphics, more plot (which leads to the unfortunate loss of some freelance elements) and more RPG elements.

What's it all about?

The game takes place in the Caribbean islands during the golden age of piracy and high seas adventure. As captain, your roles include guiding your ship through storms and treacherous seas, participating in vicious sea battles against pirates and other enemy ships, working for various nations and solving quests. Trading in goods between the islands is also a valuable element of the game, being one of they key methods to gain money. So far the game is the same as Pirates!. The actual difference comes from the opportunity for adventures on land. When not sailing, the game uses a third-person view with mouse controls (a bit unusual but not impossible to get used to.) When in this mode it is possible to walk all over the islands and towns, talk to people, and fight. Many of the quests require to be on land most of the time.

RPG you say?

The RPG system of the game allows you to gather a small party of characters who can help in the fighting and use their skills for your aid. Each character, including the captain, has a classic character sheet with experience (gained by winning fights, solving quests and surviving storms), health and a bunch of skills. The skills include fencing, navigation, commerce etc. and are measured by a simple point count (a level-up gives you a certain number of points to distribute among the skills.) Other RPG elements include elaborate dialogs, quests and items.

Pretty to look at?

Let's not lie to ourselves here. The only reason one may want to play such a game rather than the original Pirates! instalments is graphics. Otherwise the games are indeed pretty much the same. Even though I don't tend to be impressed by graphics, this game managed to amaze me. First of all it doesn't use the classic quake engine to which we are all so accustomed but an engine developed entirely by the Akella company for this sort of high-seas adventure. The engine, known as STORM, has been developed ever since the release of Sea Dogs and results in beautiful, fast and efficient graphics. On my machine, using a GeForce FX video card, the speed is defiantly acceptable, lag is minimal and the pixel shading on the water and textures is breathtaking. The graphics include sharp player skins, detailed landscapes, amazing water effects and one of the best lighting systems I've seen so far (with the single flaw of some omni light sources that cannot be logically explained). It's something that Pirates! was always lacking (not to be blamed, the graphics were perfect for the time). There is a major difference between seeing a 30x30 pixel ship from top view and seeing a glorious frigate with the crew visible on board, sailing across a sparkling blue sea with bright clouds above. It just brings the adventure to life.

Just another movie-based game?

We are all familiar with that brand of games that get a huge budget from movie companies to support the upcoming theatrical release and yet somehow manage to turn a magnificent epic into a childish beat 'em up (the Lord of the Rings games). This is not the case here. Yes, the Disney Interactive logo appears in the opening credits, and the title of the game is the same as a certain movie released shortly after the game but that's about it. The plot of the movie is mentioned nowhere, none of the characters appear in it, and it's just a completely different game! All that the movie studios did here is turn the game from a low-budget Russian release to a game that people might actually play in North America.

Cool. Now how about some specs?

Here are the minimal specs from the official website (for the PC version).

Windows 98/98SE/Millenium Edition/XP/2000
Pentium III 800Mhz
128MB RAM
Eight-speed CD-ROM drive
DirectX 8.1 3D compliant Video Card with 32MB Video RAM
Sound Card (100% DirectX 8.1 Compatible)
Keyboard, Mouse
Desktop Resolution of 800X600 @ 16-bit color depth minimum
1.5GB hard-drive space for installation.


pirates.bethsoft.com

"Set sail with the wildest crew that ever sacked the Spanish Main!" - Disneyland promotional poster for Pirates of the Caribbean

Pirates of the Caribbean, a perennial favorite attraction at the Disney theme parks, is a dark ride, which basically means that the entire ride housed inside a building. Disney's dark rides (Haunted Mansion is another example) are a cut above those I've seen elsewhere, and Pirates is no exception. It's incredibly popular, probably because the whole family can go on with no worries. It's not too rough for little kids, but is also fun for adults - this is a hard balance to achieve.

The basics of the ride are the same from park to park. After passing by some eerie pirate skeletons, you plunge down a waterfall or two. Suddenly, you're on a 14-minute journey through a Caribbean town being ransacked by pirates. There's a battle at sea, a bride auction, lots of animatronic drinking, buildings on fire... it's a great ride, with lots of attention to detail.

Pirates at Disneyland
Disneyland's version is the original. It opened in 1967 in the New Orleans Square area of the park, and was one of the last Disneyland attractions that Walt himself envisioned. The concept started out as a walk-through attraction that would feature famous pirates through history. The walk-through concept was scrapped early on in favor of the boats currently in use, and the Imagineers came up with a story for the ride that involved fictional pirates; real pirates were a bit too murderous and venereal disease-ridden for a family theme park. The animatronic characters were created by the Disney robotics team, while the ride's boat system was designed by Arrow Development, the same group that designed It's A Small World.

Most of the ride is actually below ground level in a large warehouse. This is where the two flume drops at the beginning come in. Combined, the two drops put the boats almost 32 feet below boarding level, allowing the boats to pass underneath the Disneyland Railroad and then into the ride building on the other side of the tracks. These two drops were problematic when Pirates first opened; people at the time weren't used to getting wet on rides. The drops were tweaked to minimize the splashes, but then Disney had to add the splash back in when people began reaching out of the boats to splash themselves.

The queue for Disneyland's Pirates winds through the Blue Bayou, an indoor effect that very realistically portrays twilight in bayou country. (Side note: The Blue Bayou restaurant is tucked away in this area, and is a unique dining experience; the departing Pirates boats are visible from the restaurant.) However, the peaceful bayou is soon a memory, as a swarthy voice tells riders to "hold on tight, with both hands if you please... there be squalls ahead!" Soon after this, riders pass under a talking skull and crossbones who echoes the warnings; after passing under the talking skull, the boats go down the two flume drops into the main part of the ride, beginning with the Grotto of Lost Souls. Pirate skeletons populate the Grotto; the skeletons seem to become more animated as the boats pass through scene. The boats then pass through a battle between a pirate ship and a fort, and into the town that is being raided. The boats go by a number of detailed scenes, including:

  • Pirates dunking the town's mayor in a well;
  • Pirates auctioning off the women of the town;
  • Pirates singing "Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me)";
  • The town on fire (an effect created with cloth and backlighting);
  • The pirates in jail cells, unable to escape the approaching fire;
  • Drunk pirates in the town's armory shooting at each other (and at the boats)
  • After the final scene in the armory, the boats go up a ramp to the disembarking area and the guests exit their boats.

    Pirates at WDW's Magic Kingdom
    The Magic Kingdom's Pirates of the Caribbean opened December 15, 1973. While Disneyland's Pirates entrance building is a grand New Orleans mansion, the Magic Kingdom has "Caribbean Plaza," a subset of Adventureland. The entire Caribbean Plaza area is themed to look like a Caribbean fort. Once inside the building, the queue is significantly different from the one at Disneyland; here, you wander your way through tunnels in a fort, and the serene Blue Bayou area is nowhere to be seen - there is also no Blue Bayou restaurant. The ride itself is much shorter than the one at Disneyland; the Grotto of Lost Souls section is almost non-existent.

    Some logistical aspects are different as well. There is only one flume drop at the beginning, and at the end of the ride, guests get off the boats at ride level and then go up a motorized walkway to get to ground level. The empty boats, meanwhile, go up a ramp to get back to the boarding area.

    Pirates at Tokyo Disneyland
    Tokyo's Pirates attraction opened in 1983. Since one of the goals of the Tokyo Disney officials was to take the best elements from each of the existing parks, Tokyo's Pirates is almost a duplicate of Disneyland's. However, they also used some of the Magic Kingdom's more practical aspects; guests also exit the Tokyo attraction at ride level, using a motorized walkway to get back to ground level while the empty boats go up another ramp back to the boarding area. Also, there is only one flume drop.

    Pirates at Disneyland Paris
    What's different?:

  • Queue/Loading area is a Caribbean island
  • Animatronics are newer models
  • The order of the scenes is different. Right after loading, the boats go UP a ramp into a fort being raided by pirates, then down a flume drop into the battle scene, then the prison scene. After the scene with the town burning, the boats go down a second flume into the armory, narrowly escaping an explosion.
  • No overhaul to make the ride more PC; pirates here chase the women for lecherous purposes, while at other parks they're trying to get food, or are actually being chased by the women.
  • Similar to Disneyland, The Blue Lagoon Restaurant (no relation to the Brooke Shields movie) has a view of the ride.
  • Pirate-Related Goodness

    Some Famous Pirates:

  • Blackbeard
  • Jean Lafitte
  • Dread Pirate Roberts
  • Captain Hook
  • Things associated with pirates:

  • Jolly Roger
  • Parrot
  • buried treasure
  • Types of pirates:

  • Buccaneer
  • Privateer
  • Corsair
  • Other nodes about piraty things:

  • Pirate jokes
  • Pirates of Penzance
  • The Goonies
  • Talking like a pirate is fun but annoys people
  • Resources: http://www.tellnotales.com / numerous rides on the Disneyland and WDW attractions

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