Sid Meier’s Pirates! is one of those games that just won’t go away and with very good reason. Originally released in 1987, the game saw a number of ports before being remade in 2004. The remake itself has then been ported over and over again through the present day, with an iPad version making its way onto the App Store a few weeks ago. Pick up this latest iPad version and you’ll see exactly why the game has had such longevity – nearly 25 years after the original release of the original version, Pirates still proves itself to be wholly and completely engaging.
Pirates is an open world adventure, one in which you play a privateer (although you can go pirate, you’re a privateer). It all starts out easily (and sadly) enough, with your character as a child who runs away in the dark of night as an evil Spanish nobleman enslaves your family (you guys owed him some money). The game then fast forwards 10 years with you, now an adult, looking to make your way to the new world in order to somehow, some way, find your fortune and rescue your family.
You quickly find yourself in charge of a ship and crew in the Caribbean (a little mutiny never hurt anyone), and you have free rein to go wherever you’d like and do whatever you’d like. At least, you do as long as you provide food for your crew during the voyage and give them enough to do so that they’re happy (eventually you’ll ditch them and get a new crew). You sail from port to port (and there are a ton of ports), picking up quests, gaining hints about the whereabouts of your family members, romancing the governors’ daughters, trading, building your reputation, and engaging in battles on land & sea.
Pirates provides a 15 step path that you can follow in order to save your family and be happy, but you’re not really required to proceed down said path. Instead, you’re pretty much allowed to do anything you want, whether it’s fight for one country over another, defeat pirates, or perhaps fly a flag of skull and crossbones yourself.
You pick up quests in ports either at the governor’s mansion or in the tavern (which is also where you can add to your crew and buy special trinkets which will help you later), but the game is enjoyable enough even if you don’t grab all that many quests and simply opt to go pirate and capture all the ships and loot you can. There are more than two dozen types of ships you can add to your mini-armada (although you’re limited to a handful at a time), and shipwrights at different ports can upgrade various aspects of your ship (cannon, sails, bunks, hull, etc.).
The game has been redesigned somewhat for its iPad release in order to incorporate the device’s touchscreen, and the update works beautifully. In fact, if you didn’t know that Pirates had been updated and changed around for the iPad, you might very well think it had originally been conceived of for Apple’s tablet.
All the various options about what direction to take your career and the choices you make in that path allow Pirates to be replayed over and over and over again without it ever being exactly the same. There are, in fact, so many different things that can happen and so many various little pieces to the game that where this port truly suffers is without its having a full manual. The game does provide a few mini-tutorial screens which pop-up over and over again. They are never annoying as they can be clicked through quickly enough, but they don’t always provide enough information about what is going on.
That shortcoming aside, if you’re looking for a swashbuckling good time in a game with a great sense of humor, fun graphics, and excellent use of the touchscreen, you’re going to absolutely love Sid Meier’s Pirates!
Different versions of Sid Meier’s Pirates have earned various ESRB ratings from E (Everyone) to T (Teen), but there does not seem to be one associated with the iPad game. This game can also be found on Xbox, Xbox 360, PC, Wii, PSP.