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Sid Meier's Pirates! Review
developer: Firaxis Games
PIII 1000, 256MB RAM, 1.2GB HDD, 32MB video card
|ESRB rating: E
release date: Nov 22, 04 (released)
|» All About Sid Meier's Pirates! on ActionTrip|
Once upon a time, there lived a boy who liked to sail the open seas. The wafting smell of salt in the air, and the scorching sun burning his skin made him feel alive and free. As far as his boyish eyes could see, a vast expanse of water would disappear off into the misty horizon. He felt joyful and unbound. It's a shame then that all of this was merely a figment of the boy's imagination, as his eyes rapidly moved to catch up with all the animated pixels on screen that made up the original 'Pirates!'. This was many moons ago, and now the boy is all grown up, the gleam of the digital adventure still sparkling in his eye. He still roams the open seas as his mind now tries to adjust to both the animated images and the perception of depth that they create in the remake of the classic 'Pirates!', fittingly titled 'Sid Meier's Pirates!'.
I'm getting up there, baby!
I hate to flyyyyyyyyyyy...
God almighty, when I look back at all the weeks (and I mean this quite literally) of my life I've spent on the original game, it's no small wonder that I awaited the remake with such silent trepidation. Sure, the busy holiday season brought us the 900 lb. gorillas of the FPS genre, but somewhere deep inside of my brain, a bunch of gray cells were throwing a wild bash, merrily celebrating the fact they'll be playing 'Pirates!' again.
For the uninitiated, 'Pirates!' is the original trendsetter as far as Pirate-themed naval action RPGs are concerned. Younger players will most certainly compare it with Akella's Sea Dogs, and the sequel, Pirates of the Caribbean, and rightfully so; however, our younger readers should know that the game that started it all and that served as a direct inspiration for Sea Dogs was the original 'Pirates!' for the Amiga game system. Only later, the game was ported to the PC.
Once again, the player steps in the boots of a young swashbuckler captain whose family was taken away to slavery when he was but a wee lad. Our young buck escapes this treacherous fate only to emerge years later as a budding young captain in search of fame, fortune and his missing family. Just like in the original game, the character creation process will allow you to set the difficulty level and the starting era for your adventure.
In the early days, the Caribbean, under the control of the Spanish Empire, was a dangerous place to live. Foreign governments used pirates to destabilize the region, and to keep the Spanish Armada busy. As the decades passed, however, the might of the Spanish Empire and its influence in the Caribbean waned and with it, so did the piracy. As the colonial forces of the English, Dutch and French grew in both strength and numbers, pirates became a nuisance rather than a useful pawn in the fight against the Spanish. Starting the campaign in 1620 will see very few English colonies, but more Spanish loot, while in 1660 you'll be introduced to a much more balanced playing field where it will be very hard to keep your allegiance to just one or two colonial powers.
The overall goal of the game is simple: loot, pillage and plunder to garner as much wealth as you can for yourself, but also mind your reputation and the prestige amongst the population of the Caribbean. Do that and your name will go into the annals of history along with Henry Morgan, Blackbeard and the rest of the notorious pirates.
Now seeing how the remake plays very much like the original, instead of wading through all the numerous features, I will simply concentrate on the most important novelties in the remake.
To be quite honest with you, there aren't that many of them to begin with. The remake will fit a 'Pirates!' fan like an old glove. It took me not more than five minutes to get back into the groove of things. It was as if I had never stopped playing the game. In a way, this is a good thing, as Firaxis has managed to make the transition to 3D as smooth as possible without losing any of the charm of the old game.
The biggest gameplay novelties include the mandatory division of plunder, the shipwright changes, as well as more elaborate turn-based land battles. Other minor additions include more quests of various sorts, a pirate ranking system, a mini-game that'll let you sneak past the guards to get into an enemy town, or escape prison, as well as a dance mini-game, which will let you woo one of the governor's daughters who will be throwing themselves at your feet during your voyages. (At your feet? More like at your Long Tom... - Ed.)
The mandatory division of plunder is certainly the most notable gameplay alteration, as it somewhat changes the overall pace. The way that this works is that once a certain time has passed (and not a lot of time, mind you), the crew will get very cranky and demand their share of the loot. When that time comes, depending on how much gold you've plundered, you'll get a share of the profit that is modified by the difficulty level you've chosen to play on. If the crew is happy, they'll let you keep your flagship and any shipmates that you may've picked up along the way. The trick here is that, the more money your crew gets, the more famous you'll become and more wannabe pirates will rally to sign the 'article' with you. Consequently, the game gets tougher with every new division of the loot, which makes the gameplay more balanced (by splitting it in different stages so that you can't do everything at once), and the campaign gradually more challenging.
The land battles play a lot like a board game, although if you want to be technical about it, you can easily characterize it as pure turn-based strategy combat. This part of the game works very well, as you'll have to factor in the terrain and unit type as well as the unit facing. It goes without saying of course that the battles are now more engaging than they were in the original.
8.4 Very Good
Nicely-crafted remake of a very addictive and fun game, secret areas and quests;
Melee combat and a few other mini-games too simplistic and retro, I reached very high rank too fast (and I played on 'Rogue' level of difficulty), needed more ship customization options.