The treasure galleon is in sight and close. So close you can smell the booty. The tavern-keeper was right. The route the galleon took was easy to follow. Now the cannons are loaded, the sails full with wind and your fellow pirates eager for a fight.
We are taking a look at Sid Meier’s Pirates!, an old remake of an older classic title. Brought to us by Firaxis during 2005, the game barely resembled the original title. With colorful graphics, new 3D models and animations, as well as joyful music, Pirates! is a good example of how remakes should be done.
The story is a straightforward tale of revenge. The evil baron Moldaban abducts your family and takes over their wealth. You, then, are left with the only option to join a crew, commandeer the ship, name yourself captain, and amass fortune and power, so you can confront the baron and save your family. Or you can just forget about them and live your life in the open seas the way you see fit.
The game allows you to follow your own story, without ever pushing you towards your main goal of saving your family. You may be a ruthless pirate, a trader or a navy captain under the command of a country. The freedom of choice gives an excellent amount of replayability to the game and will allow different play-throughs every time.
The game will start you with a small ship and some crew under the flag of a country you choose in the beginning. You are then free to sail the Caribbean and visit various ports and towns. There you can do lots of stuff: to begin with, you can visit the mayor who may give you a mission or even a promotion if you have performed well (and if you are lucky, you will get to flirt with his beautiful daughter). You can also buy or sell goods and food at the market, repair and upgrade your ship, or visit the tavern in order to get new recruits and information on the whereabouts of hidden treasure and famous pirates. You then can sail the seas and attack anyone you see, from galleons bearing the flag of a country to lowly Indian canoes.
Of course your actions are never without a consequence, since the relations between countries can alter based on who you choose to attack and plunder. Attacking the French, while under the command of the Dutch, can trigger a small conflict, resulting in war ships being deployed, pirate hunters chasing you and towns closing their ports to you. In the end the Caribbean will become your playground and as you amass fame and power, you will get to control the course of power between the countries.
But that is the free-form play of the game. The main quest is to find the evil baron Moldaban who captured your family. Not an easy task in the beginning, since he commands a big bad ship full of cannonballs that can blow to smithereens any unprepared captain. But even finding him and defeating him will not end the game, as he will only reveal a portion of a map to where one of your family members is hidden. So you will have to confront him a good deal of times, unless his map piece reveals a location that’s easy to find. These locations and hidden treasures are accessible on foot, so remember that anchoring and taking your fellow pirates along is needed.
Another different aspect of the game, that sets on land, is land battles with armies, indians and town sieges. In these occasions the game plays like a traditional turn-based strategy - unlike the sea battle, which are action battles where you maneuver your ship, trying to get in range to fire your cannons, while avoiding their shot and keeping an eye for the wind. The land battles are simple and somewhat boring, but the sea battles at higher difficulties can get really interesting and challenging. Pirates! also throws in a couple of activities, in the form of mini-games, such as dueling and ball-room dancing, which is pretty much about paying attention to the visual cues and pressing the correct button.
For its years, the graphics in Pirates! are decent. Nothing to blow your mind, but a pleasant representation of a cartoony pirate world. The models are basic and the animations, even though well made, will eventually feel really repetitive.
Sound is also decent, with good quality of musical themes and sound effects. The sound of creeking wood, sound of the sea and the jolly music create a good, fitting atmosphere throughout the game.
Sid Meier’s Pirates! does a great job at bringing an old classic title to a newer era, with simpler and more accessible mechanics, making it feel like an entirely different game. Beautifully made, it will definitely offer you some good, enjoyable moments.
Windows® 98/Me/2000/XP, Pentium® 1.0 GHz or higher, 256 MB RAM, 1.2 GB Free HDD, 64 MB video card* with Hardware T&L support, Windows® 98/Me/2000/XP-compatible sound card*, DirectX® version 9.0b (included) or higher
* Indicates device should be compatible with DirectX® version 9.0b or higher.
22 Nov, 2004
Excellent replay value