This game. This damn game. Never has one PC game eaten up as much of my time as Pirates! (I’m not an MMO fan, please don’t hit me). I wasn’t even around for the original’s heyday, but I can definitely tell why everyone in my family has such fond memories of it and why this updated re-release is held in such high regard. Much like a remastered Steely Dan album, Sid Meier’s Pirates only added to the brilliance of the original game with some much appreciated improvements and a graphical overhaul more fitting for modern PCs. And using my dad/uncle/cousin as sources, it’s the best version of the game.
The story is pretty simple. You start the game as a child part of a rather decent off family, and you’re eating dinner. All of a sudden this man bursts into your house, and says your family owes him money. So he kidnaps your family and you manage to escape. Ten years later, the much older and eager young man you turned out to be is ready to find your family. From here on, you customize your character somewhat. His name, the era you start in, the difficulty (if you’re starting on the easiest difficulty it starts in the era of “The Golden Age of Piracy”), and your special skill. I normally roll with sailing or sword fighting, as you do more of that than anything else besides maybe dancing. From here, you pick your starting nation and you mutiny the captain of your ship and sail into a random port of the nationality you chose. It doesn’t really matter as you can do work for any nation, but most beginner’s don’t pick Spain to start as they have the most ports by far in the game. From here on out the game is completely non-linear and you can do what you want.
There are many types of ships you can commandeer, from small Indian Canoes to giant Ships of the Line. Each of them has an advantage and disadvantage. Usually a smaller ship means it’s faster but less guns and crew, and a bigger ship is slower but can carry more guns and crew. On lower difficulty levels you can get away with a big ship, but as you increase it and the AI gets a speed boost, you’re more than likely defaulting to a Sloop/Pinnace/Ship of the Line (if you can find one). As you travel throughout the Spanish Main, you can dance with Governor’s daughters (which will allow you to get married), buy upgrades for your ship, search for buried treasure, find lost cities of native american tribes, and so on and so forth. Of course the main quest is defeating the evil Montalban and rescuing your family. I cannot stress this enough though. Do the main storyline first. Why? Because your pirate ages. As he gets older, he can’t move as fast, and sword fights become a real bitch. Montalban doesn’t age, so the longer you take, the harder he becomes. That’s the one flaw in the game, but it’s not terribly gamebreaking.
Pirates! is definitely a must play game, even if you aren’t fond of pirates or sailing in general. The sandbox experience makes for a long lasting game, and it’s replayability make it one worth spending the tiny amount of money on. I installed it on the computer at my job and my co-worker has managed to keep a pirate going well into his 100’s, and even then he has a copy on the Xbox at home so he can play it there. You can pick it up and play for twenty minutes, or grind through it for hours at a time. I paid a whopping $10 for my copy, and it was $10 worth spending. It was the game for me that got me into PC gaming, and if you’ve never been big on it, this game is a perfect place to start. Whether you’ve played the original game or not, whether you like sandbox games or not, I highly recommend you at least look at a Let’s Play of this game. Your inner child demands it.
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