Pirates! Review

If you’re an older gamer, then you are more than likely familiar with Sid Meier’s Pirates. It was one of the first games to give you truly open-ended gameplay – you were free to sail under any flag, change allegiances, be a merchant or a pirate … the Caribbean was an open sea for you to explore. The gameplay was pretty straightforward, but it had an engaging quality to it that would cause you to lose yourself in the game for hours on end. Now the game has received a much overdue update and its basic design has withstood the test of time – the game is just as much fun as it ever was, if not more so. If you were lucky enough to play the original game then you’ll love playing the new version as it wraps up many good memories in a very pleasing package, and even adds some new elements of play. If this is your first look at Pirates, then you’re in for a real treat.

The premise of the game is simple: you’re a young buccaneer captain out to make your fortune on the Spanish Main. You’re also out to avenge the capture of you family and rescue them from indentured servitude, but it is really up to you whether or not you want to pursue their rescue. The game will rate your performance more highly if you do, but you can certainly simply concentrate on becoming a feared pirate and leave your family to fend for themselves. The game does not oblige you to do anything – it is up to you as to the course you want to chart. You begin the game by selecting a flag to sail under – Dutch, French, English, or Spanish – and this will determine how other nations will treat you at first. If your nation is at war with another, expect ships from the enemy state to shoot first and ask questions later and their ports to be closed to your fleet. This choice is not binding as you can always switch allegiances as you please, so you can start the game making your living as an English trader only to become a feared Spanish pirate hunter. This kind of freedom ensures that no two games of Pirates ever play out the same way and it also adds a lot of variety to the gameplay.

Screenshots
Sailing the Caribbean.

Politics plays a large role in the game as it did in the Caribbean in the 17th Century. The four nations vying for dominance in the region constantly shift allegiances and move in and out of states of war. As an enterprising captain you need to take advantage of this and always be on the look out for new opportunities. For example, if France goes to war with Spain, you can capture a Spanish ship or two, sail into a French port to a hero’s welcome, and then leave with a French commission and a land title. However, if you took a few shots at a French frigate as well, then don’t expect much in the way of a reward.

You will spend a good portion of the game sailing the waters of the Caribbean. This is done on a beautiful 3D map of the region. The islands, towns, and passages are all marked as an aid to navigation, so you’ll only have to look at your map of the region when trying to chart a course to a far distant port. You control your flagship with the arrow keys and your speed depends on the type of ship you are sailing and the prevailing winds. Sailing is very easy in the game, although you will need some patience when sailing east into the Trade Winds as your movement will be significantly slower.

 

Also reviewed on:
  •  · Xbox