Pirates of the Caribbean is an RPG set in the Caribbean during the Colonial Era. Originally planned as a sequel to Sea Dogs, the game’s story is for the most part unrelated to the movies, although it does share some supernatural elements and a few brief appearances by the Black Pearl.
Players control Nathaniel Hawk, a captain who finds himself caught up in the territorial rivalries between warring European factions in the West Indies. Although the main plot involves working for the British, players can choose to side with certain nations, remain peaceful and act as traders, turn pirate and fight with everyone, or do a little of everything. There are many sidequests to be completed in addition to the main story, involving everything from buried treasure to kidnapping cults and assassins’ guilds. As a ship captain, players can choose to recruit officers, some of whom have their own quests associated with them.
Gameplay is a mix of exploration and combat, both on land and at sea. Hand-to-hand combat is relatively simple, as fencing does not allow for much movement and a focus is put on properly timing attacks and blocks. Pistols do more damage than swords but have a slow reload time. Weapons with better stats can be found or bought throughout the game. While the towns are relatively safe, island jungles are filled with bandits, wild animals, and the undead. Looting dead bodies and chests can be highly beneficial, although it is sometimes better to run away.
Naval combat is much trickier. Travel between islands occurs on a world map, where random weather and ship encounters can occur. Weather must be taken into account, as bad storms can sink a ship in under a minute, and movement is reliant upon the direction of the wind. Cannons can be loaded with different types of ammunition, which can focus on damaging sails, ships crews, or the hull. Ships can either be sunk outright or boarded in an attempt to capture them. Boarding can only occur when two ships are close enough, and triggers a hand-to-hand combat sequence on the boarded ship. The more crew a ship has increases the chance of success, although having a skilled party can outweigh any numerical advantage. Maintaining your ship is also critical, as you must repair any damage taken in a fight or storm, keep a good stock of cannonballs, and have enough money to hire a crew and make sure their morale is high, which ensures they perform well. If you capture a ship, you can either sell it or take it for yourself, or even make one of your officers a captain and create your own fleet. Ships can also be bought at naval yards.
There is a leveling system which applies both to the main character and his officers. Experience is gained through combat and completing missions. Points can be added to a variety of basic skills as well as specific abilities, which affect everything from trading to combat to ship navigation. Officers’ abilities will complement the main characters; for example, a high bartering level in an officer will allow the player to buy items at significantly reduced prices.
Players actions will influence how they are viewed by the different factions. Pillaging towns, capturing peaceful vessels, or taking on assassination missions will give the player an evil reputation, while fighting pirates or being a successful merchant will make you appear good. Treaties can be made or broken with the various factions, although pirates will always attack you. Because many missions have multiple possible outcomes, choices the player makes during them can also affect your reputation.
A continuous day/night cycle and constantly changing weather patterns, provide a very realistic environment. Navigating storms is extremely hazardous for even high level characters, and storms encountered at sea will appear on land as well if they are close enough.
There are numerous glitches associated with the game, as well as some faulty gameplay tendencies. In certain section of the game, it can become impossible to advance because you are not well enough equipped and unable to leave the area to prepare. Having multiple save games per profile is advised.