What a shame. What a crying shame. Pirates of the Carribean: Armada of the Damned was a promising open world, Action Role-Playing Game set in the Pirates universe with on-foot gameplay reminiscent of the Fable series and would give players a massive ship, known as the Nemesis, to captain on the high seas. It wasn’t going to be some rushed, cheap knockoff game that thousands of ignorant people would buy simply because a new movie was released. It was going to give players an opportunity and the freedom, to explore the lore and lands of the Pirates Universe on their own terms, and decide the destiny of their own Captain Sterling, as they saw fit. Or at least, that was what was promised.
Here’s the story on the cancellation. A quote from Disney Interactive Studios’ vice president of communication, “Disney Interactive Studios confirms the cancellation of the Pirates of the Caribbean: Armada of the Damned video game which was scheduled to be released in 2011. As a result of this decision, Disney Interactive Studios completed a restructuring of Propaganda Games, its Vancouver, BC internal studio, affecting one of the studio’s two development teams. The studio is still in active production of TRON: Evolution, the video game, which will be released on December 7, 2010 with additional DLC (downloadable content) support following the game’s release.”
Here’s what that basically amounts to. The movie Tron: Legacy is coming out this holiday season, and Tron: Evolution is one of their primary advertising assets for the movie. “Complete restructuring” = plenty of good, hard working, and talented people got laid off in the midst of making a game that had a great deal more to offer the role-playing genre in terms of its potential for innovation. Tron Evolution probably won’t be a bad game, in fact it cold be fairly solid. However, there’s been nothing in any preview, showing, or tech demo to suggest that Tron: Evolution is going to do anything that most 3rd person action adventure games with parkour platforming elements haven’t done already. Oh yea, and buy the DLC.
However, as far as Armada of the Damned is concerned, there still remains the possibility that perhaps what was promised wasn’t going to be able to be implemented in time for it’s Spring 2011 release. An open world action adventure game, while exciting to think about and is a very ambitious goal, requires a lot of funding, planning, and time in order to be crafted just right. Just look at the Grand Theft Auto series, another open world franchise. They aren’t exactly rushing to get GTA V to the consumers and it’s been about 2 1/2 years since GTA IV’s release. You don’t see GTA V gracing the cover of any gaming magazine or at the forefront of any major gaming website. It’s because they are taking their time trying to craft a masterpiece. I can’t imagine that in these kinds of economic times, a company like Disney that needs to roll out new media on the assembly line at a rapid pace would have the patience for a game that A) is a completely new Intellectual Property, B) has no prior success and C) is a game that promises so much in terms of scale and magnitude that if it flops, could be a dramatic financial failure. Not to mention the fact that the next Pirates movie won’t be released in theaters until May of 2011, so the hype for the Pirates Franchise isn’t exactly at an all-time high. Another factor could and probably is the state of the economy, and many game developers have been pushing their games back to 2011, so Armada of the Damned was likely going to face some stiff competition for game sales when a lot of consumers don’t have the disposable income to spend on games.
In looking at how the game itself played, it honestly could have gone either way. The ship portions looked like they were going to steal the show with epic naval combat of the likes that I have never seen before. Cannon fire, explosions, and flying ship parts littered the screen and were very reminiscent of the more exciting set pieces from the films. However, the on-land portions looked like they could have been a bit frustrating. The overall look of the character models, namely Captain Sterling was very reminiscent of the Fable franchise. The combat looked somewhat sluggish and wonky, and it seemed that when the player was surrounded by more than three enemies on the screen, it was almost a guarantee that the player would come away damaged even if the player was able to react in time with the block or roll mechanics. The response time of the character just felt slow and would cause a lot of frustration.
We will never know the full truth about the cancellation of Armada of the Damned. All I can say is that it was a game that held a great deal of promise, was high on my watch list, and it is a true shame that it had to end up in the proverbial gaming graveyard. Hopefully Disney will think enough of it to restart the project following the completion of Tron: Evolution in time for the next Pirates movie, but I’m not getting my hopes up. Rest in peace, Pirates of the Carribean: Armada of the Damned.