This game is shallow – unfortunately, an apt word to describe this update of a game that wasn’t all that well received the first time around.
It begins promisingly enough, with rather nice cartoon-style, yet detailed, 3D graphics (even on my now-chugging machine), and with the promise of much pirating goodness on the high seas.
You choose a home country for your character (from the English, Spanish, French or Dutch) and the scene is set for what appears to be your main quest in the game – re-uniting several (actually four) members of your family, after having been picked on by the evil Marquis De Montalban.
You start with a tiny ship and a crew to match, and your immediate aim is to make a little cash. The best way to do this in Sid Meier’s Pirates, surprise surprise, is to do some pirating. In this beginning phase, however, you need to choose your targets very carefully, and it’s best to try and board as quickly as possible, rather than engage in a long cannon-fight as you’ll in all likelihood be both out-gunned and out-crewed.
When you board a ship, unless you’ve really battered it, you’ll be thrown into a duel with the captain. The number keys on the numeric keypad are used – well, six of them – 3 for defensive moves and 3 for offensive moves. Your health is just the number of crew you have remaining, ditto for the enemy captain, and these go down as the duel goes on, with the winning dueler losing less crew than the other.
The aim is to get the enemy captain into the position of defeat. There are several variations in the actual, physical setting used for these duels, but you’ll have seen them all (and probably all the possible ways to defeat an enemy captain) before too long. The same is true of the on-land duels, little side-quests that appear from time-to-time, either as a wanted criminal who you can defeat for money (or an item), or as a guard bothering a barmaid. You don’t have to help the barmaid every time, but they’re a good source of information as to what ships will make good targets.
The barmaids are only really useful when you’re chasing the Baron Raymondo (Montalban’s henchman) or Montalban himself. You can also recruit crew at bars, up to your fleet’s maximum, and often can buy information or bits of quest maps or items from the mysterious traveler in the corner.
Each town also has a governor you can visit (to romance his daughter, and to gain promotions with the ruling country), a shipwright for buying and selling ships and buying ship upgrades, and a merchants for trading cargo.
Settlements have a mayor instead of a governor, and if you visit him often he’ll ask to be escorted to a (usually) nearby town, where he’ll become the new governor, and that town’s economy will flourish. The economy of each town affects how much loot you’ll get if you raid it, and how many men will want to join your crew.
Aside from the main quest of finding your four missing family members (each hidden in a hut on-land, that you find by piecing together maps from bits Raymondo leaves behind every time you defeat him), there’s also the aim of romancing a governor’s daughter to the point where you marry her (measured in 10 steps), four lost cities to find once you’ve found all four family members, there’re 10 famous pirates to defeat (and find their treasure), and 10 promotions to be earned from each country. You can only pirate for so long, before your crew will become so mutinous you have to retire, but each time you retire, if you’re not too old, you can choose to become a pirate again after some months have passed.
The big problem with this game, is that for all the shine and the little details, there’s really not alot to it. I completed it over several days on my second play-through, spending about 5 hours each day in total playing, I: found all four members of my family, romanced the most attractive of the daughters to the full amount (each daughter has attractiveness ranging from “rather plain” to “beautiful”), defeated the Marquis De Montalban, found all four lost cities, defeated all 10 pirates and found their treasures, earned four promotions with two of the countries, five with another and 10 with another, and had close to the full wealth points (every time you retire, you take a cut of your loot).
Plus I’d seen all the “cinematic” close-ups used in the duels. Most of them, I’d seen many times. I hadn’t even started the game on the easiest difficulty setting, and had advanced up to nearly the hardest setting. I have no compulsion to go back to it, and to be honest I was beginning to get bored even before I’d finished, but I had hoped that maybe something new would turn up or be unlocked when I had.
It’s a real shame, because the presentation is certainly worthy of a full-price game, but the actual content feels more like that of a £10-on-release game. Overall, Sid Meier’s Pirates! is a disappointing offering.
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Sid Meier’s Pirates! is a rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB for Alcohol Reference, Suggestive Themes, Violence. This game can also be found on: Xbox.Powered by Sidelines