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Video Game / Sea Dogs

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Ship ahoy, sir!

Sea Dogs is a Wide-Open Sandbox Action RPG released for PC in 2000 by developer Akella and publishers Bethesda Softworks, Ubisoft, and 1C Company. It is set during the early 17th century, in a fictional archipelago in the Caribbean Sea.

You play as Nicolas Sharp, a captain who is searching for his Disappeared Dad. The gameplay is non-linear, and the player will find themselves working with—or against—the major factions operating in the archipelago: the Kingdom of England, the Kingdom of France, and the Spanish Empire. Most of the gameplay revolves around sailing ships, managing their crews, bartering supplies between ports, and engaging in naval warfare against other ships.

The game has received a number of sequels over the years:

  • Pirates of the Caribbean (2003) - An indirect sequel that focuses on Captain Nathaniel Hawk, a privateer who is reluctantly enlisted into the English Royal Navy when the port of Oxbay is invaded by the French. Afterwards, he embarks on a series of quests that ultimately lead to a final battle with the cursed ship, the Black Pearl and its undead crew. Originally called Sea Dogs II before Disney acquired the game in mid-development and hastily converted it into a tie-in for Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, which was released around the same time. However, other than featuring the aforementioned Black Pearl, and a narration by Pirates actress Keira Knightley, the game ultimately has nothing to do with the film series. Also the last Sea Dogs game to feature any involvement from Ubisoft or Bethesda, and the only game in the series to receive a console port (in this case, Xbox).
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  • Age of Pirates: Caribbean Tales (2006) - Despite going under a different title for legal reasons, this is a direct sequel to the original Sea Dogs, focusing on Nicolas' children, Blaze and Beatrice Sharp. Notable for dropping the fantasy elements implied in the original and featured in Pirates of the Caribbean, in favor of a grounded and realistic setting. Uses real-world locations throughout the Caribbean Sea instead of the fictional archipelago from either of the first two games.
  • Age of Pirates 2: City of Abandoned Ships (2009) - Another indirect sequel, and the last to be developed by Akella. This game brings back the fantasy elements of the first two games. Includes four campaigns: English, Dutch, French, and Spanish. The English campaign is notable for being a loose adaptation of Captain Blood: His Odyssey.
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  • Sea Dogs: To Each His Own (2012) - Another indirect sequel, this time developed by BlackMark Studio with Akella staying on as publisher. This is the first sequel, not counting re-releases of the other sequels, to bear the original Sea Dogs title in English-speaking countries. This game's protagonist is a French noble named Charles de Maure, who has arrived in the New World to aid his brother. Released digitally as a Steam exclusive in 2016. Has five DLCs that expand on the game's story: The Caleuche, The Final Lesson, Flying the Jolly Roger, Hero of the Nation and Happily Ever After.

All of these games except for Pirates of the Caribbean are available for digital purchase on GOG and/or Steam, under the original Sea Dogs title. There is also a very large modding community that has supported the game with everything from unofficial sequels to total conversions, as described below under Game Mod.

Compare to Sid Meier's Pirates!.

Tropes Present in Sea Dogs and its sequels

  • Actionized Sequel: The first game's combat was mostly restricted to naval battles and the occasional Boarding Party sequence. The sequels introduced combat on dry land, and the ability to freely use weapons while traveling on foot.
  • Boarding Party: It's possible for you and your men to board enemy ships and battle their crews for control of the vessel (or at least its cargo).
  • Canon Foreigner: Literally everyone in Pirates of the Caribbean in relation to Disney's franchise. No movie characters make an appearance (though Barbossa is mentioned as the captain of the Black Pearl in the game's data files), and nobody introduced in this game would ever be seen in any later Pirates of the Caribbean material, though Nathaniel Hawk and Danielle Greene would later appear in Sea Dogs: To Each His Own.
  • The Cavalier Years: The series takes place in the 1600s.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Sea Dogs allows you to go back and forth between the different factions, though it will be difficult to do so.
  • City Guards: Downplayed in the first game, but given more to do in the sequels. In Pirates of the Caribbean onwards, the soldiers guarding ports will actually participate in combat if you're under attack by hostile NPCs and even intervene if you start killing civilians.
  • Continuity Nod: Nicolas Sharp's sword is one of the weapons that Nathaniel Hawk can obtain in Pirates of the Caribbean.
  • Contractual Boss Immunity: The Black Pearl can be sighted at random moments while playing Pirates of the Caribbean, though it can't be damaged until you confront it in the game's final battle.
  • Cut-and-Paste Environments: City of Abandoned Ships and To Each His Own both recycle the general layout of several interiors and exteriors from Pirates of the Caribbean. It is especially noticeable in the jungle areas of some islands.
  • Death of a Thousand Cuts: In the final battle in Pirates of the Caribbean, it is possible to destroy the Black Pearl if you have enough powerful ships (or if you captured the governor's ship and have maxed skill points) without using the artifact. However, the process takes time due to the Pearl's immense number of hitpoints.
  • Flying Dutchman: The Black Pearl from Pirates of the Caribbean, and the Trope Namer itself in City of Abandoned Ships.
  • Game Mod: The series has a very large and active modding community, with at least one unofficial installment titled Corsairs: Return of the Legend that was released exclusively in Russia and the CIS. There is also the total conversion Pirates of the Caribbean: New Horizons, which turns the In Name Only Pirates of the Caribbean game into an authentic game set in Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean universe, using the actual characters and settings from the films.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: In Pirates of the Caribbean, the port of Oxbay is invaded by the French. If you talk to the tavern keeper, he will say that they ransacked half the town and most of the civilians have fled to the island. However, if you actually explore the town, it seems to be fully intact with no signs of debris and all the townspeople are still there and will say the same things they did before the French rolled in. In fact, the only significant change to the town is the presence of French soldiers instead of English.
  • Ghost Pirate: The crew of the Black Pearl in Pirates of the Caribbean.
  • Hollywood Natives: Encountered in To Each His Own.
  • Hopeless Boss Fight: During a quest in Pirates of the Caribbean where you have to deliver a chest containing a cursed treasure to a man in Redmond, you are waylaid by two cursed pirates belonging to the crew of the Black Pearl. If you decide to fight them instead of surrendering the chest, you will find that they receive absolutely no damage from your attacks. You are only given one more chance to change your mind and give them the chest or else they'll keep fighting you until you eventually die. The only way to escape with your life is to just give them the chest.
  • Jungle Japes: The areas on islands located outside of settlements in Pirates of the Caribbean onwards are usually covered in jungle.
  • Legendary in the Sequel: While Sea Dogs protagonist Nicolas Sharp is a no-show in Pirates of the Caribbean, Nathaniel Hawk will recognize his saber and state in his journal that he has no doubts that it belonged to the "legendary pirate".
  • Mayincatec: Since the series is set in the Caribbean, it's fair to expect a great deal of Incan and Aztec treasures and ruins to show up once in a while.
  • No-Gear Level: Later on in the main quest in Pirates of the Caribbean, a storm appears out of nowhere and Nathaniel Hawk is separated from his ship(s) and crew, with nothing but the clothes on his back (aside from your weapons) as he finds himself washed ashore on another island. He ends up having to duel the elderly captain of a pirate ship for control of his vessel and crew in order to escape the island. Thankfully you'll find your ship again shortly afterwards.
  • NPC Random Encounter Immunity: Averted. It's possible to come across other ships fighting with each other on the high seas.
  • The Oldest Profession: Brothels are one of the services available in To Each His Own.
  • Piñata Enemy: Sinking enemy ships will sometimes cause their cargo to float back up to the surface of the water for you to collect.
  • Pirate Girl: Danielle Greene in Pirates of the Caribbean, Beatrice Sharp in Caribbean Tales.
  • Previous Player-Character Cameo: Blaze Sharp from Caribbean Tales appears as an NPC in City of Abandoned Ships, while Nathaniel Hawk from Pirates of the Caribbean plays a role in the main quest of To Each His Own as well as two of its DLCs.
  • Random Encounter: It's possible to encounter military vessels, merchant ships, and pirate ships while out at sea. Whether or not they are friendly depends on what side you have chosen. Pirates of the Caribbean also introduces these for the land-based areas outside of towns, ranging from unarmed civilians to highwaymen to undead creatures.
  • Sliding Scale of Realistic vs. Fantastic: Sea Dogs was mostly Mundane with brief references to the paranormal, such as local superstitions and curses, which gave the game a Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane setting. Pirates of the Caribbean went all-out by bringing the curses into prominence in the form of the Black Pearl and its crew, as well as undead creatures such as Incan mummies and animated skeletons of humans and monkeys, and an ancient Incan relic that is used to destroy the Black Pearl. Caribbean Tales completely abandoned the occult elements from the previous two games and was a 100% Mundane title, but City of Abandoned Ships brought the occult elements back.
  • The Undead: Introduced in Pirates of the Caribbean as a semi-common enemy, in the form of the aforementioned skeletons and mummies. The former would later return in City of Abandoned Ships and To Each His Own.
  • Wide-Open Sandbox: To an extent in the original, but expanded on in the sequels. The later games allowed you to explore not only sail the oceans but also traverse entire islands on foot.
  • Writing Around Trademarks: The Black Pearl reappears in To Each His Own during the Caleuche DLC. However, since the license to Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean franchise was long since expired, it was renamed to the Flying Heart as a way of evading copyright infringement. However, it still fits the narrative role that it had in Pirates of the Caribbean.
  • You Don't Look Like You: The Black Pearl in Pirates of the Caribbean looks very different from its film counterpart, appearing as a frigate instead of an East Indiaman or galleon.