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Ever since I first saw The Princess Bride I was fascinated with all things swashbuckling. Pirates! is a really fun game, and very slightly addictive. The story is as a young boy, an Evil Pirate called Marquis Montalban kidnaps your family, and the your wealth. You escape and swear to avenge your family. 10 years later you choose passage to the Carribean on either French, Dutch, Spanish or English Galleons. You then trade, pillage and plunder your way to to infamy. Its very playable with a couple of different mini - games. You have to dance with Govenors daughters in attempt woo them, get important information out of them and eventually marry them. You have to look for buried treasure, fight the most famous pirates in history, look for lost Incan civilisations and lute prosperous towns. It is a very good game, and I play it daily. If, live Mr Vic Reeves and myself, you have an interest in all thing piratical (a made up word there) or nautical, then the pirat-epedia (Sid Meier's fans will know he puts a "pedia" in all of his games) will teach you a bit too.
There are not enough pirate games out there. The mystery and lure of the pirate's life has an allure that I find absolutely enthralling. To sail endless seas, the thrills of battle, the euphoric rush of gains or soul crushing crunch for a failure which entails your death. Either immediate or by hanging later. Sid Meier's tries to capture all of these energies in their title Sid Meier's Pirates. Taking the story from the eyes of a rich young youth who has his parents murdered by an infamous pirate, you vow revenge and command your own pirate fleet to seek him out and destroy him. Starting off with a tiny vessel that can barely hold off angry dolphin attacks you set off. The first thing I noticed was the speaking, or more accurately, the gibberish voices used to portray the speaking of all nationalities and peoples. I suppose this would take care of having people speak actual languages for you, and it adds a lot of childish charm which had me smiling to be honest. me and my friend had an inside joke with what the person says when your character challenges somebody to a duel to save some maiden in a bar. Sounds something like "CHOO VAH!" which had us laughing pretty hard. Ridiculous. You become more infamous as you woo women through dances, interaction with nobles. Doing favors or making enemies by attacking and destroying ships corresponding to the 3 nationalities in effect. English, French, and Spain. The only thing I didn't like about this game is that the way it forces you to retire. Arguably many would say that this adds the pressure of moving along and adventuring. The more idle you stay the less successful you are as a pirate. You can extend your longevity and lifespan by voodoo curses, elixirs and other fun stuff you find in tribes, but at some point or another you're going to get old, and have to retire. When you do the game takes into calculations all you've done. Who've you swooned, who've you killed, enemies you made, allies you founded, everything and give you a small story as to what you do in the future, how you live your last dies and so forth. There is no online play, which is a major bummer. Maybe in the next title.
Ahoy there shipmates and splice the main brace, we set off for treasure and adventure on the high seas at sunrise, once I have.. ahem.. installed and configured this here piece of eight... Sorry to get carried away but the welcome return of Sid Meier's Pirates to the PC has really got me caught up both in nostalgia for previous Pirate editions and the vogue for pirate themed books and movies. Those of you who remember the original Pirates in vibrant EGA graphics on the PC and Amiga will feel right at home as Mr Meier has made the wise decision to tweak gameplay but not to fix anything that is not broken. You take to the high seas with a world of adventure ahead and it is up to you who you side with or against and how honest you are in your dealings with fellow sea dogs. Sail where you want, skirmish with pirates, rob merchant ships, carry out acts of war for your chosen governments, recruit crew from towns, trade goods and even get married to a Governor's daughter if you so desire, and that is just for starters. Yes it really is that open ended and the the graphics are beautifully realised as the gameplay deserved after all this time. Whilst the game is easy to get into there is a slight learning curve with some of the finer parts of ship to ship combat and sneaking into towns (another thing you can do to add to the list) taking a while to master. The plethora of pirate activities on offer can be a little bewildering if you are trying to plan out a long career on the ocean but if you jump right in and try everything you are sure to have fun and keep coming back to try out different features and attempt new feats of swashbuckling to see how much of a fortune you can amass and reputation you can achieve.
Note: I'm aware this is a long review, but theres so much to this game its the only way to do it justice. To help you out, Ive split the review into the following sections: The Game, Morale, Locations, Swordfighting, Attacking Towns, Treasure Maps, Escort Missions, Family, Dancing Subgame, Graphics, Music, Controls, Gameplay, Lastability and Conclusion. The Game The basic idea could not be simpler: you have a ship and want to make your fame and fortune. If you really want to, you can do this the honest way, buying goods cheaply in one port, and selling it for a high another. But hey, wheres the fun in that? The games called Pirates for goodness sake! Get out their and act like a real man! The real fun is to be had in attacking other ships and towns, finding buried treasure and generally terrorising the Spanish Main and being a bit horrible! At the start of the game, you must choose a nationality from English, French, Spanish or Portuguese. This choice may (or may not!) influence the way you play the game as you will need to build up alliances, so that you have friendly sea-ports to visit, when needed. The 1600s were a volatile time, with countries declaring war on each other and making peace all the time and youll need to keep your eye on who is currently at war with whom. For example, if you are playing as an English captain and try and land in a French port when England and France are at war, you might get a rather frosty reception (they may even fire on you as you try to enter port.) Sink a lot of French ships, though, and English ports will welcome you with open arms and confer titles upon you. Morale One of the key aspects of the game is keeping the morale of your crew high. Crews with high morale will follow you into battle; with low morale, they may start deserting or even mutiny. Morale can be kept high by lots of activity attacking ships or ports and generally finding money and treasure will keep them happy. Take them on too long a voyage or spend too much time on personal projects like finding your family and they will start to become discontented. You can also keep them happy by dividing up the plunder occasionally. However, dont do this too often, or their share will be small and they will feel insulted. A good tip when dividing the plunder is to sell everything you have except one ship, then go on a sea battle and get as many of your crew as possible killed. That way, when you divide up the plunder , therell be a larger amount to divide amongst a smaller group. As you can see, Pirates is not a game for the morally strong! Locations There are two basic locations in the game (although these offer far more variety than it sounds): on land or at sea. On Land On land generally means you are visiting a town: here, there are a number of things you can do. You can visit the merchant to buy or sell goods (little tip: dont bother buying its far more fun to attack other ships and steal their goods!). You can visit the shipwright to get ships repaired or upgraded (as you progress, you can buy add-ons for your ship to make them faster, stronger or better armed). The inn plays a central part of the game. The barman will provide you with gossip, including, on occasions, the location of ships packed with treasure. You can also recruit crew members the larger your fleet, the bigger the crew you will need but you will also need to feed them! You can also meet retired pirates, who will offer to sell you items the most valuable of which are treasure maps. Occasionally, one of the old sea dogs will be pestering the barmaid, so you can choose to jump in to defend her honour. Win the ensuing swordfight and she will also give you useful information. The other key location on land is the governors palace. Here you can find out which countries are at war and, if youve been attacking that nations enemies, you may be rewarded with a title and some land. Acquire a high enough rank and you will be entitled to free ship repairs or upgrades for your ships. You can also meet the governors daughter and try to impress her with a long-term view to getting married. Like all good sailors, you should have a girl in every port, so flirt away! If you impress the daughters enough, they, too, will give you information. From these two basic locations, the gameplay flows. You simply sail around, landing in different ports and try to amass as much fame and fortune as you can. This is effectively done via a series of repeating sub-games. Sea Battles When you encounter another ship, you can choose to attack it if it belongs to a hostile nation. You then switch to 3D view containing your ship and the ship you are attacking. You can fire your cannon to cause damage to the other ship and keep doing that until it either sinks or surrenders. Alternatively, you can ram it to board it and enter hand-to-hand combat. The computer intelligence on sea battles is quite pleasing: attack a ship which is bigger than you and you might be in trouble. On the other hand, if you have a bigger ship, the opponent might choose to surrender straight away (except other pirates who always fight to the death.) You also need to use the wind to position yourself for the best line of attack, and keep your eye on what your opponent is doing. Other tactical considerations are that the more cannon you have on your ship, the more damage you will do, and the larger your crew, the faster you will be able to re-load and go back on the offensive. A great deal of care has been taken to ensure that sea battles are somewhat realistic, yet also fun. For example, you can see the damage you are inflicting on the enemy ship and the effect it has hit the sails and the ship be sluggish and difficulty manoeuvring , destroy its cannon, and its a sitting duck. Its often fun to torture a disabled ship by simply sailing round it and firing on it! On defeating a ship (assuming you havent sunk it), you can plunder it for its gold and other goods. You can also choose to take the ship and some of its crew with you (usually a good idea if the ship is not too badly damaged) or plunder it then sink it. Sometimes you will also run into other pirates. Defeating these increases your reputation and helps you on your way to the goal of becoming the number 1 pirate of the age. Swordfighting If you choose to ram the ship, you will enter swordfight mode. Confront the enemy and beat them in single combat to take over their ship and possibly get some useful information. Swordfighting is probably one of the weaker parts of the game. There are only a few basic moves to master and, to be honest, you will probably never need the defensive moves. After a few goes, you will know the right time to strike wait until your opponent raises his sword and then nip in and strike him first. After a while, swordfighting becomes a bit of a chore due to its repetitive nature. Attacking Towns Once you are stronger and have built up a large crew, you can even attack towns and plunder them. Doing this takes you into a turns based strategy game where you do battle with the towns garrison (towns have different strength garrisons and the size of their garrison determines how difficult it will be to beat). Successfully wipe out the garrison and you can plunder the town (which generally will yield more money than attacking ships). This aspect of the game is fun, but limited and, unless you set yourself a real challenge by attacking a strongly fortified town with just a small crew, its unlikely you will have much trouble winning. This is probably one of the major criticisms of the game generally that it is too easy to do well, even on the higher levels. Treasure Maps Of course, being a pirate is all about X marks the spot, so you will often come across treasure maps. These will give you a location saying somewhere near a town name. You have to sail to the town then identify (from the features on the map) the exact location. Land your ship, take a party out to dig and hey presto! the treasure is yours. Digging can occasionally be frustrating as you need to be digging in just the right spot to find the treasure be slightly to the left or right of where it is buried and you will find nothing. Having said that, its usually fairly easy to identify where you need to dig and there is a reasonable margin for error, so you dont have to be pixel perfect in your positioning! Escort Missions Occasionally, you will be asked to escort a ship to another port. Usually these carry either a new governor o treasure. Completing the mission will, of course, buy favour with that nation. However, if you want to be a real pirate, you can wait until you get into the middle of the ocean and then attack it, taking the plunder for yourself! Whats interesting here is that your actions affect other parts of the game: stop a governor from arriving in his new town and the town will be plunged into chaos, causing it to weaken and leaving it open to attack (probably by you!). Similarly, rob a treasure ship and the inhabitants of its destination may riot when they dont get their wages. Family The other side of the game is the hunt for the members of your family who were abducted into slavery. This is essentially the same as looking for treasure. Defeating enemies will give you information as to their whereabouts and you then have to find and free them. Re-uniting your family will increase your happiness and fame. However, spending too much time on personal projects like this will increase discontent amongst your crew. Dancing Subgame Initially, when chatting to a governors daughter, they will be very cool with you. However, as your fame and fortune grows, they will become more receptive, and let you escort them to the ball. This takes you into a dancing subgame similar to the ones available on the consoles. A direction arrow flashes and you have to press the corresponding key to perform that move. Act in time and youll dance like a pro, press it too late or press the wrong key and youll stumble. At the end of the dance, if youve done well, the governors daughter will reward you, possibly even agreeing to marry you. Do badly, and you will lose her favour. The dancing subgame is probably one of the trickiest to master at first. However, it does introduce you gently. Initial dances are short, with only a limited combination of keys. As the game progresses, they get longer and more complex. However, like most of the subgames, once youve played them a few times, theyre not really that difficult. Graphics Unsurprisingly, the graphics on this game are a huge improvement over earlier versions. The colours are bright and the map when you are sailing the sea is in full 3D and its always clear where you are going. You can see other ships coming from a distance and decide whether to avoid them or move in for an attack. The main graphics in the sub-game are also done in a cartoon style, adding to the sense of fun and giving everything a bright look and feel. Music The music too is great. Each subgame or location has its own short tune and youll quickly find yourself humming and whistling along to each of them. Similarly, the sound effects are great. As you pass other ships, you can hear the sailors calling out to you; in a sea battle, you can hear the boom of the cannon and the cries of the enemy sailors as they are thrown into the water! Whilst the sound effects are minimal, they are highly atmospheric and really add to the look and feel of the game. Controls Controls are really logical. Although there are a number of sub-games, the same basic controls are used. For the first hour of so when you play the game, you will probably have the instruction booklet in front of you. After that its (excuse the pun) plain sailing. Its also great to see controls affected by your status in the game. Gameplay Of course, the graphics, sound and control may be great, but without a decent game behind it, it could still be a disaster. Thankfully, Pirates has not neglected this area producing a game that pulls you in from the moment you set sail. True, the game is essentially just a series of subgames connected by sailing around the ocean, but they are great fun! This should be boring, because its just a sequence of the same events repeated over and over (swordfight, attack a ship, visit port, attack a ship etc.) However, the fact that the gameplay is so open-ended really does make it worthwhile. Its entirely up to you what you do: you can be indescribably horrible and attack everyone, or target certain nations. You can suddenly switch allegiance so that nations who expect you to be friendly find themselves being attacked. Its also very easy to get distracted. You set off on a mission to escort a governor to his new colony, but come across a massive treasure ship on the way and cant resist the temptation to attack it! The game is also frustratingly addictive. Despite the fact that the subgames are pretty limited, theres always that temptation to just play for another few minutes. The beauty of the game is that you never really know what is going to happen next. Just when you are becoming a little bored and decide to call it a day, you arrive in port and cant resist just visiting the governor who tells you about your long-lost sister. Well, it would be rude not to rescue her straight away, wouldnt it? So you climb back in your ship and sail off. On the way to meet her, you come across several enemy ships which need relieving of their cargo and so on . Next time you look at the clock, you suddenly realise that another hour has passed! Lastability My only real criticism of the game is over its long term appeal and repeat play value. Eventually, as your characters health starts to fail, you will be forced to retire. This is one part of the game which has never been that satisfactory in any of its incarnations. On retiring, all you get is a screen telling you what became of you after retirement, how much money you earned in your career, family members rescued etc, and thats pretty much it. After spending so much time on the game, this is a real anti-climax. Secondly, when youve invested so much in your character, its difficult to go back and start again from scratch. The first time I retired, I just couldnt face going back to the beginning and having to build up a new character. It took me a few months before I was ready to set sail again. Once I did, though, the game proved just as addictive as ever! The other disappointing aspect to the game is that these is no on-line gameplay option. How cool would it have been to battle it out with other pirates from across the world! Perhaps something for Sid Meier to consider for Pirates 2? Conclusion These are fairly minor criticisms, though, the game itself is utterly fantastic and I would highly recommend it to anyone. The open-ended nature of the game means you can really play it however you like and youre not locked into a particular mode you can change your strategy and attitude as often as you like. The open-ended nature of the gameplay means you really have no idea whats around the corner and have to react to situations as they occur just like life in fact! Better still, the game is now a couple of years old, so can be picked up cheap, both new and second hand, and should run on most PCs bought within the last few years. For the record, the minimum specs are: Windows 98/SE/ME/2000/XP, 1GHz processor, 256Mb RAM, 8x CD-ROM drive, ATI Radeon 8500 or GeForce 3 graphics card, 1.4Gb free hard disk space, Direct X 9.0 Well, what are you waiting for? Get out and start terrorising the Spanish Main now!
Pirates! by Sid Meiers was one of the defining computer games of the 8 / 16-bit era and is still one of my favourite games of all time. As the years went by, other pirate sims came and went - but none could match the deceptively simple yet completely compelling open-ended gameplay of the original MPS Labs game. Pirates Gold failed to really capture the spirit of the first game, Cutthroats was a good attempt but ultimately failed to be much fun, Sea Dogs had real potential but was buggy as hell. The throne for best pirate game was left vacant, no heir was found to Pirates!. Until a new game came along. And that game was: (um ) Pirates! Yes, the same game, but updated for modern computers. Sid Meiers & Microprose have teamed up once again to give us a game that will surely endure as the king of all piratey games (the Monkey Island games don't really count as piratey games as such) for many years to come. The original, if you didn't know, was a blend of arcade, action-adventure, and RPG. You developed your character throughout the game (though not in the traditional stat-driven way) and as well as pirating, you could also choose / switch national allegiance to obtain titles and land, find lost treasure, find and free long lost family members, capture ports for a chosen country, and even get married. The success of this version (the original game is included in the Limited Edition package) is that it doesn't try to change much - if they had, fans of the original game would surely have been greatly disappointed. That's not to say that everything's the same, but the essential gameplay has been retained. Certain things have been ditched - sea attacks on ports, for instance - but in general most elements of the original game are here. Some have been significantly upgraded, most notably the land battles, which are now turn-based tactical battles rather than the old real-time "ambushing the Spanish works every time" business. The sword-fights are much the same though the weapons are better balanced - in the old game it was a cutlass every time, but in this a little more strategy is required in your choice. The interface relies mostly on the keyboard with the mouse being used for menu selection. Joypads etc can be configured if you so desire. There are additions to the game - for instance, you now not only visit the Governor's daughter but you have to impress her with your dancing too! When you sneak into town, you now have to actually try to outwit the guards - and there are better reasons to do so, too. To aid you in your quest for Spanish Main domination there are various items that you can be given by friendly Governor's daughters or buy from seedy travellers, crew members that can help you keep your crew happy or give your gunners better aim, and you may need to travel to inhospitable climes to obtain them. You also have the "Top Ten Pirates" index to help you see how well you're doing - you can reap large rewards for defeating them, but mixing with the best is no easy task. Treasure-hunting is also a bit more involved than before, in fact it can be downright tricky finding the right place to dig! There is also an extra difficulty level guaranteed to give even real swashbucklers a challenge. The graphics and sound are, of course, vastly improved on the original (which is after all getting on for two decades old, an eon in the computing world). The graphics look good without being amazing, but the cartoony style suits the game well and the backgrounds are nicely detailed - it makes the transition from 2D in the old game to 3D effectively while the scenes are still recognisable as being those in the original game, only a lot better. There is no speech as such - various characters make vaguely speech-like noises in different accents depending on whether they're pleased with you or not. Perhaps this was done to save space but it doesn't really detract from the game at all. The sound effects are very good with crisp and atmospheric samples throughout. The original music score used in the game is good and quite evocative of the era, but I suspect that I won't be the only fan of the original game who was hoping for a fully orchestrated rendition of Handel's "Water Music" - the dodgy old Yamaha chip music rendition from Pirates! on my old Atari ST still rings through my head sometimes . Overall the game seems a little harder than I remember it, but that's probably just because I'm out of practice :-D At the end of the game you divide up the plunder, and your share dependson the difficulty level. After each voyage you can decide whether to plan another voyage, retire, or advance a difficulty level. (Eventually you have no more voyages in you and are forced to retire anyway.) Your rank at the end of the game is determined by your health, wealth, marital status (the better the woman you marry, the better for you - but they're harder to woo!), accomplishments, etc. Even then you may be offered the chance to come out of retirement. (My sister will no doubt be disappointed that you have no opportunity to play a female pirate ) What made Pirates! such a great game all those years ago was the completely open-ended gameplay and the dynamic game world, where every action you took had an effect on the make-up of that world. Those vital aspects are retained here, and the additions made to the game add to the enjoyment and challenge of playing. This is one game you certainly won't get bored of playing for a long time. System Requirements OS: Windows 98/SE/ME/2000/XP Processor: 1 GHz or higher Memory: 256Mb or higher CD Rom: x8 speed or higher Video card: ATI Radeon 8500 or GeForce 3 or higher (works fine on my GeForce 4) Free hard drive space: 1.4Gb Sound: DirectX 9.0c compatible card Other Information Rating: 12+ Developed by FIRAXIS Games ***************** Final Ratings Graphics: - 88% Sound: - 75% Playability: - 93% Longevity: - 96% Replay Value: - 94% Value For Money: - 95% Overall Rating: - 92% ***************** Availability - I was slightly stunned to find it listed on Amazon.co.uk only on the Marketplace (with someone offering the limited edition for £72.50!!!) I got it at MVC for £29.99 (Limited Edition) - I had been going to get it from MVC's website for the same price but they messed up the order. Play.com have it massively discounted at £9.99 but were sold out when I just checked. Sendit.com (formerly Blackstar) have it for £17.99.
In Pirates! you take the role of a pirate captain in the Caribbean in the 17th century, amassing fame and fortune as you attempt to become one of the most revered pirates in history / Test your skills as a sea captain as you explore the high seas and exotic ports in a richly detailed 3-D world / Overtake the enemy and seize valuable booty / Exchange plank-shattering broadsides in fierce naval battles and engage in duels with worthy opposing captains / As your reputation and skills grow, so will the size and quality of your crew and your ability to take on larger enemy ships, raid and plunder heavily fortified ports and locate ancient treasure / There's a whole cast of interesting and dangerous characters to meet, mysteries to solve, exotic island destinations to discover and powerful alliances to forge / The new Pirates! has the great gameplay and design simplicity of the award-winning original while adding more challenging and exciting battle options and deeper and more varied role-playing experience, including multiple paths to a wealthy, happy retirement.