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Games Vintage and New - Sid Meier's Pirates! for PC

Updated on November 11, 2013

Sid Meier's Pirates! Intro by Guest1001

Pros and Cons

Pros -

  • Solid action gameplay that's simple to pick up
  • Lots of wealth and accomplishments for achievement seekers
  • Rewards for playing at harder difficulty - you get larger percentages

Cons -

  • Older game - might have trouble running on modern machines
  • Can be boring sailing to far away locations, particularly eastward against wind
  • Difficulty increases as time progresses (your character is aging)

Game Synopsis

When you were a youth in the Old World, your family was in charge of a wealthy trading company. Poor fortune caused them to lose their stock on the high seas, and the evil Marquis de la Montalban seized their properties and took them captive for failing to pay their debts. Your character escapes and when he becomes a man, joins a crew and sets sail for the New World. The captain drives the crew to the brink and after a mutiny, you are elected the captain. You find yourself with a small crew and a lower end ship in the Caribbean, during the golden age of piracy.

Adventure on the high seas awaits! Reclaim your fortune and avenge yourself by defeating the Marquis and his allies! Live the life of a pirate!

Or retire a pauper who is haunted by his failures, your choice...

A duel with an enemy captain. The ship, damaged in the firefight leading up to this clash, burns in the background during the furious melee.
A duel with an enemy captain. The ship, damaged in the firefight leading up to this clash, burns in the background during the furious melee. | Source

Gameplay In A Nutshell

You begin play with an average size boat and a small crew. Generally speaking (although the player is free to do different) you will attack Spanish ships, upgrading your own ship as you capture larger boats. You will return to town, sell off excess ships and goods, stock up on food and crew, and set off on new adventures. Although gameplay is open-ended there are a few things to go after - you'll want to rescue your family that has been imprisoned in the New World, avenge yourself by slapping around the evil Marquis and compatriots, get married to a beautiful woman, retire with lots of gold and land, and so on.

Combat is straightfoward. You approach a ship on the map by sailing towards it. After you get close, you can choose to engage it. Combat begins organically as movement on the map is similar to the battlefield. In combat, you steer your ship and attempt to evade enemy shot while landing shot of your own. You'll want to eventually close the distance between the ships and capture the enemy ship, maximising your plunder. A much smaller enemy crew will likely surrender without a fight, but should you need to come to blows you will need to rely on your skill. The numpad will allow you three different dodges against incoming enemy blows while you can attack with one of three different moves. If you see an enemy winding up for a low strike, you would leap at the appropriate time to dodge the attack, then counter with an attack of your own. Combat can go on for awhile - your performance effects what is happening to your crew in the background. It is possible for a small crew to overwhelm a larger crew, but this is largely dependent on your performance in combat.

Dueling and ship fighting are pretty central to the game, but there are several other variant games you can attempt in your quest for glory. Escaping an enemy town is a game of evading guards and navigating your way out. You can also land your men and hunt buried treasure or attack a town if your numbers are sufficient for large rewards (you'll need some serious tactics here since you are almost always outnumbered by superior ground fighting units), or play a dancing game to woe the governors daughter.

Sid Meier's Pirates Gameplay - J2JonJeremy

Criticisms

While sailing eastward and going against the wind is expected to be difficult, lengthy cruises down the coast in this direction can be like pulling teeth (although realistic, certainly). The game does a pretty good job of keeping the waters stocked with all sorts of random encounters from treasure laden ships to actual historical pirates. You won't get too bored on your adventures, but

The age system is simultaneously interesting and annoying. It forces you to retire after so many adventures since life as a pirate becomes terribly difficult despite all of your upgrades and skills (your ability to duel, dance, and generally do things suffers as you saunter towards your inevitable decrepitude). You can retire a failure, and worse, even life as a successful pirate might not mean much if you do not avenge yourself and rescue your family as you'll be haunted by your failures.

Besides being an older game though, there's not too many sticks I can toss at it. It's a remake of a remake of a game that was pretty good for its time.

The end game screen. You can see the requirements for retiring happily from your pirate career. You'll note he retired in failing health - the game gets more difficult the longer you play out your career.
The end game screen. You can see the requirements for retiring happily from your pirate career. You'll note he retired in failing health - the game gets more difficult the longer you play out your career. | Source

Strategy

There's not too much strategy in this one on the face of it, which makes it easy to pick up and tricky to completely master. A big ship can take more damage and sports more guns, but can be outmaneuvered by a smaller ship and force fed cannonballs until the scales are balanced once more. Generally speaking, I favor the bigger ships. Acquiring one of the premiere fighting ships and fully upgrading it is the general course of dominating the ship fighting game.

As you adventure, you'll encounter merchants in taverns and befriend some governor's daughters, who will offer you gifts that will give you unique advantages. Most pertain to your ability to duel but they are quite varied - books that reveal the settlements on the map, icons that help you befriend monasteries and natives, and so much more can be discovered.

Perhaps the most profitable venture is conquering cities. Your benefactor whom you gift it will raise your station and grant you lands, and you will take a tidy sum for yourself in the process. Pirates are not general infantry however so you will need all of your cunning in order to succeed. Of course, you could conceivably discover a vast fortune were you able to discover the legendary El Dorado - but something like that is just myth, isn't it?

In order to retire well, you need to bank your gold. When you dock your ship and split your profits (which you will occasionally have to do when your crew starts getting unhappy) you take a percentage based on the difficulty you're playing at. At this time you will have the option to change your difficulty for higher (or lower) percentage of gold. Hoarding this gold is key to ultimately retiring well from your pirating career and getting a really high score.

One of the best things about the game is there's really not a bad way to go about gaining wealth - you just have to be opportunistic when the tides favor you.

A furious exchange of fire has effectively destroyed the enemy ship. This hurts your returns - you'll have to hold your fire if  you want plunder.
A furious exchange of fire has effectively destroyed the enemy ship. This hurts your returns - you'll have to hold your fire if you want plunder. | Source

My Rating

4 stars for Sid Meier's Pirates

Conclusion

Sid Meier's Pirates! is a strong game that captures the sense of revenge, opportunism, and savvy necessary to be a pirate on the high seas. It's a solid game you can sink a good couple of hours into, and although the objectives are somewhat linear any number of ships of events can occur on a different playthrough.This title is a true gem that was a bit passed over when it was released and is worth adding to your collection.

The only real downside to this title is the age behind it - it might not play well on newer systems and OS's. I play the Steam version on Windows 7 with no issues currently.

Would you recommend Sid Meier's Pirates!?

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