Pirates is a game that gives a you a tall ship and sets you loose to pillage, plunder, or defend the 17th Century Caribbean – the path that you follow is entirely up to you. This type of open-ended gameplay is more common in PC games than on consoles, so it’s not too surprising that Pirates is actually a PC game that has made its way to the Xbox. Luckily for Xbox gamers, it also happens to be a quite good PC game that has made its way to the Xbox. So is the pirate’s life for you? Read on matey, says I…
Every game of Pirates begins in the same way. Your family’s fortunes sink with a ship in a storm and they are left unable to pay their debts to the nasty Marquis de la Montalban. Everything they own is seized and they are all forced into servitude – except for you that is. You manage to escape into the night and vow to one day free your family and exact your revenge. When you come of age you sign up with a sailing crew to make your way to the New World, only to find that you’ve hitched on with a cruel and sadistic captain. The crew is pushed to its breaking point and mutiny erupts. The mutiny fails and you are hung, at which point the game ends. Just kidding. The mutiny succeeds and you suddenly find yourself captain of the ship, and from here your life on the main begins.
|Ships battle at sea.|
The first choice that you make in the game is which of the four Caribbean powers you will sign on with: Spain, England, Holland, or France. Yeah, France could actually fight back then. Your choice affects which ports are initially free and open to you, and also how you’re viewed by the other powers. There is a constant power struggle in the Caribbean, and the nations move from alliance to war just about every time the wind changes direction. One constant is that everyone is pretty much always at war with Spain as they have far too much gold to be allowed to keep hold of it all. This means that if you sign on with Spain, initially pretty much everyone else will be gunning for you. I say “initially” because things do not have to stay that way. That’s the beauty of the situation in the Caribbean in the time; it’s almost a free-for-all and there are fortunes to be made for enterprising captains. Just because you sail for Spain it does not mean that you can’t try to get a hold of an occasional treasure galleon and then use your plunder to score points with the English. You’re free to make your own allegiances even if they are just to yourself. Of course, if you anger everyone life will not be easy for you…
Most of your time will be spent sailing the high seas in search of plunder. You see your ship (or ships) sailing on a 3D map of the Caribbean that you share with other sailing ships. You’ll be able to tell the nationality of a ship at a glance, but you’ll need to approach it to get a detailed description of the ship. Should you decide to attack the action moves to a smaller map and the battle begins.
The first part of a battle involves you maneuvering your ship so that you can unleash a broadside on the enemy while preventing him from getting into a position where he can fire his canon on you. Remember that these are sailing ships, so maneuvering is made a lot more complicated by the wind strength and direction. As ships take fire, the damage accumulates, leaving the ship with broken sails, dead crewmen, or a leaky hull. In addition to your standard ammo, you can choose to load your canon with special shells designed to destroy sails or kill crew. In the first case you can leave your enemy dead in the water and a sitting duck for your final blows. In the second you can whittle down the crew to make it easier to board and capture the ship. If you fail in a battle you risk losing your ship or capture by the enemy, in which case you will rot in jail for a few months. On the other hand, success can come about in a few ways. You can sink the enemy, but this is generally not a good idea as you’ll lose valuable plunder. You can pound the enemy ship into submission, forcing it to strike its colors and surrender to you. Finally, you can ram the enemy ship and send over a boarding party.