Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End Review

This marks the second week in a row I’ve had the honor of reviewing a game based on a blockbuster film. This time, though, we got the game before the film came out. What game? Well, obviously if you clicked on the link you know I’m talking about Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. Not only did I make myself play another tie-in title, but I also ruined the story of what may be the most entertaining movie so far this year. The things I do for you people…

The game starts off with a bastardized retelling of Dead Man’s Chest, just to remind you what happened. Maybe bastardized is too lenient of a word…perhaps butchering would better suffice. Remember the part in Dead Man’s Chest where Davy Jones storms the Black Pearl, and Jack holds off the crew of the Flying Dutchman so Will can infiltrate the enemy’s ship, find the sheet music to the organ, and play the song that raises the pedestal containing the key to Davy Jones’ chest? No? Well, the game does.

For the first few missions, you’re forced to play through a fast-forwarded and often incorrect story. Finally, you get to the scene where Elizabeth handcuffs Jack to the mast, kisses him, and jumps into the ocean just as the Black Pearl is sinking thanks to your friendly neighborhood Kraken. And then the story for At World’s End begins.

Despite the fact that I had to ruin it for myself, I’m going to try my hardest not to give too much away about At World’s End’s plot. Even if I did decide to spoil it, though, I’m not too sure I can make sense of it. You see, in At World’s End the game, the plot jumps around for the new material almost as much as it did for the rehash. One moment you’re on the Black Pearl defending it from invaders, the next you’re inside of a city trying to find a person. I suppose with the game coming out just before the film, the developers wanted to make sure people didn’t know the entire story; rather, people will know bits and pieces of it.

While playing through this mishmashed story, the gameplay varies little. Most levels are composed of either fighting, collecting items, or helping someone fight off attackers. This wouldn’t be too bad (as it’s not in most action games), except the combat is ridiculously simple. Other than the occasional semi-boss enemy, you can get through every fight in the game using only the A button. Combat basically boils down to hitting A (and the occasional X if you want variety) until the enemy is stunned, then hitting them one more time and finishing them off. As you fight, you build a meter at the top of the screen which allows you to perform finishing moves. After stunning an enemy, if you hold the left trigger button and press either Y, A, B, or X (depending on what moves you’ve unlocked), you’ll perform a nice looking finisher. With the semi-boss enemies, that’s the only way to finish them off. So there are plenty of times when you’re forced to keep a difficult foe at bay whilst you build your meter up on his minions.

Outside of the regular combat, you’ll also enter a few duels throughout the course of the game. The duels are basically a graphically enhanced rhythm game; the enemy will attack up, you push up, down you push down, etc. There are three directions to use, and two modes: offensive and defensive. While on the defensive, you have to correctly block each incoming attack, or you take damage. After blocking enough, you can make a counter and go on the offensive. When attacking, you can press up or down for high and low hits respectively, and forward for a thrust. If you have at least half of a meter built up from blocking, you can press A after an attack and perform a special strike which always hits your opponent. Hurt them enough, and you can finish them off (in an often comical way). The duels are usually saved for the important fights, and the developers made sure to make them entertaining to watch (even if they get very repetitive to play).

Outside of following your compass (which shows you the exact place you need to go next) and mashing A, each level is littered with a variety of items to collect. These range from wine bottles to prisoners, and collecting all of them (usually 7) will net you 25 achievement points. You can also collect the 100 souls Jack owes Davy Jones throughout the game for more achievement points — even after you’ve already gone past the Dead Man’s Chest portion.

While the gameplay is fairly boring and repetitive, the environment is anything but. The game looks gorgeous, especially compared to the last major movie tie-in, Spider-Man 3. Some of the characters such as Davy Jones even look almost as good as they do in the film. The levels are varied in locale, and the lighting and textures are amazing. When you leave a dark cave and enter a tropical forested area, the lighting becomes hazy and is bright for the first moments as your eyes adjust to the light. A lot of games struggle to make one kind of area (such as a forest or an urban setting) look good throughout, so kudos to the team for making such a varied world look fantastic regardless of the setting.

As for the characters, they’re surprisingly well done. The animations are spot-on and really capture the presence of their onscreen counterparts. Sparrow moves like Sparrow, Will looks and moves like Will, Davy Jones has the moving tentacles, and Norrington carries himself like the stuck-up man he is. I was also surprised to hear how well the voices are done, considering the big three actors didn’t lend their voices to the game. The soundalikes did an incredible job, and it’s almost impossible to tell which voices are the real actors, and which ones aren’t. Even the most noticeable voice — Jack Sparrow — sounds as if Depp were recording the lines. Outside of the speaking, the music is obviously incredible. Taking a lot of the sounds and music from the films, the soundtrack is an enjoyable thing to listen to as you traverse the levels.

So, the combat is boring, the visuals are incredible, and the sound is excellent. Unfortunately, even if you do love the game, it’s over far too soon. Most people will be able to beat the game the first time through within 4-6 hours. If you’re a completionist looking for all of the collected items, maybe add on another 2 or 3 hours of replaying levels. They threw in a multiplayer mode, but it’s really no fun at all; you’re either dueling a friend, or killing generic enemies for three minutes with a friend. The way the game is structured I can’t possibly picture it being co-op, and that’s really the only multiplayer mode that would matter in a game like this.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End is a pretty solid movie tie-in. The characters and scenery look absolutely gorgeous, and the speaking is surprisingly good. Sadly, the developers seem to have aimed at the younger crowd and the non-gaming crowd, as there’s really no challenge other than overcompensating for the occasionally stupid AI. Clocking in at 4 hours or so, it’s hard to recommend somebody spend their money on the game when there’s so little replay value. If you’re a huge fan of the Pirates films, go ahead and pick it up, because you’ll likely get more out of it than the normal person, and you may not mind going through the levels a second or third time to collect the last Calypso piece. For most gamers, though, At World’s End provides a promising tease of what the developers could have done, along with the sobering realization of what the game truly is.


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Author: Brendon Lindsey View all posts by

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