From the classical medieval setting to outer space, from the Wild West to islands high in the sky, the settings just seem to multiply as the number of RPGs gets larger. Though not entirely unprecedented, Sea Dogs II (tentative title) heralds a new experience that follows a Caribbean-pirate theme.
This adventure takes place thirty years after the original game, in a fictional archipelago. Blaze Devlin and Danielle Greene are searching for treasures of great importance, and will run into one another often in their quest. Players must choose to play as either Blaze or Danielle, but they will have a large say in how the characters develop. At the start of the game there will be a certain amount of points to distribute to the characters, and there will be chances to diverge from the normal course of pirating to other endeavors, such as exploring or honest trading.
Akella has tried to give Sea Dogs II a more "accessible" storyline so more fans will be impressed, but at the same time create a product that the original Sea Dogs fans will find acceptable. One of the ways they hope to accomplish this is by having massive amounts of non-linear gameplay – so much, in fact, that they will be incorporating a "guest generation" system that is unrelated to the main storyline. Thus a player can spend time playing quests instead of the main plot, or even continue playing after the main story has been completed. This alone could hold considerable interest for many, as there is a random quest selection system in play that selects quests appropriate for a character. Hopefully these random quests will be exciting adventures and not just worthless fetch quests.
The biggest overhaul from Sea Dogs in gameplay terms is the amount of activity that takes place on land. This time around gamers will be able to visit seaside caves, beaches and various kinds of cities. All of these locations are effectively sea and ocean related, and don’t represent the diversity normally seen in globetrotting RPGs. Still, there should be ample improvement in exploration. More importantly, these new locations allow for more contact with NPCs, who besides selling stuff, also provide quests for players. Some will even join the player’s party, and gain experience and have their attributes available for manipulation just like the main character. However, if a player does something that the NPC finds repulsive, then they will leave the party.
Yet it is not for the land swashbuckling (although guns are now available) that one plays Sea Dogs or its sequel. It is for the large-scale, strategy oriented naval battles. This time the strength of the enemy AI will make the experience all the more interesting. Not only will it make battles tougher, but it will also be able to tell when it is beat, and surrender. The ability to customize and equip ships is now also available.
The graphics in Sea Dogs II are quite impressive. Akella has decided to add a fair degree of realism to this project by using motion-captured animation for the characters, and realistic ship models as well.
Bethesda has again brought us a free-form adventure for the PC and the Xbox. Although the PC market is flushed with RPGs right now, nothing quite follows the formula of Sea Dogs II and its beautiful Caribbean setting. As for the Xbox, it needs every RPG it can get. It will get this one on the first of March 2003.