Click to see larger image
"Sid Meier's Pirates!" Jack Sparrow Has Nothing On You In This Open World Pirate Game!
Sep 24, 2009 (Updated Oct 10, 2009)
Review by DJ Walther
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:Wide open fast paced gameplay, different mini-games, laid back atmosphere.
Cons:Frame rate glitchy at times, no online play, a bit repetitive with one mini-game (dancing)
The Bottom Line:
This is a game that can be enjoyed by all ages. If you like a game filled with mini-games and a wide open gameplay then, give this a look.
I have not been a huge fan of a lot of Sid Meier's games over the years. But, he always seems to come out with one, here and there, that I really enjoy. This keeps me trying his games just hoping that I will find the one that will hold my interest. In Sid Meier's Pirates I found it as this game held my interest for quite a long time. This is not a game that will appeal too everyone but, if you like games that you can just put in, get into the rather in-depth gameplay quickly, and have some quirky fun, then this is worth a try. This is a very worthy action/strategy game to try and get hooked on for many fun hours of gaming.
Recommend this product?
The story itself is far from being anything epic but, does has a sense of direction and reason. The game starts right off by showing you a cut-scene as you are a young boy having a dinner celebration with your family. You are celebrating a shipment of goods that will insure your families survival as they will now be able to have enough money to pay off their debt to Count Montalban. Unfortunately, he has other plans as he busts up the party explaining that the ship as been lost at sea and quickly your family is put into a life of slavery. You barely escape and of course, have only two thing on your mind, rescuing your family and getting revenge. You then are shown as a young man as you are now a member of a pirate ship that eventually turns to mutiny and makes you their captain of your first small ship. The story is pretty basic with just a few quick cut-scenes here and their as you complete certain campaign missions. However, with the simplicity of the campaign to get your family rescued and have revenge leaves the gameplay wide open in a sea of plunder. The game is much more focused on the open sea than it is in a somewhat closed story-line. There is no limitation or anything to unlock as you complete the story. This wide open sense of gameplay is what really makes it enjoyable even though you will not be "owed" by any twists or turns in the story-line.
Where the game really shines is in the overall fast-paced gameplay. You are always doing something or going somewhere to get in the middle of something. The first thing you will do is choose a name for your character, a speciality, a nation to be your allies, and an era in time. There are quite a few specialities to choose from like sword fighting (making you swing faster in duels), navigation (allowing you to sail faster in the open sea), or naval combat to help in your cannon aiming during ship-to-ship battles. Each one does stand out and you will really notice throughout the game the one you chose taking affect. The nation you choose to ally with will also be affected by the era you choose as to how many friendly ports you will have at the start of the game. Once your in the game, the game never slows down again as your quickly off to rescue your family and complete as many side quests along the way as you can.
If you have ever played a game like Thrillville then you will quickly understand this game style. It is filled with quick mini-games that determine your success throughout your campaign. The time you are not playing a mini-game of some sort you are sailing the open Caribbean sea traveling to a destination of your choosing as this game is wide open. On your travels you will be engaged in many naval combats or at a port making repairs, hiring crewmen, or finding side quests. The main story-line you are trying to complete have different quests that you will have to accomplish in order to unlock the next one. This is done on a map with a dot-to-dot style picture with a check mark for ones accomplished and an "X" for ones you still need to do. You can only do one at a time and they are random. There are certain ones you will have to do but, you never know when on the map you will have to complete them. Some of them are of course easy and and quick, while others are harder and more time consuming. They can consists of quests like just sinking a certain type of ship, find a certain pirate (and take him down), or rescue one of your family members. There is quite a lot of variety here and not knowing what will happen next, no matter how many times you play through the game, adds a lot to the replay value. Traveling the open sea is easy as you just move the analog stick to steer and try and keep your sails going with the wind so you can sail faster. Remember, time is key in this game so getting to point A to point B faster pays off later.
Back to the different little mini-games that you will be playing between battling at sea and going to a port for repairs. The most action will come from your ship-to-ship battles which is quite simple but, still fun. Once you engage another ship (or two if they have an escort) you are taken to a closer view. The basics are steering your ship to get a good shot on your target then fire. However, there is some depth to this as well. The different ports you come across on your travels will offer different upgrades to your ships as well as repairing them. This means you will can have different ammo in your cannons causing different effects. better sails, or even stronger hulls. You can use a certain ammo to try and lower the number of crew members (helping when you board the ship), one that will do more damage to your opponents hull (sinking the ship means no boarding), or maybe one to tear through it's sails slowing it down. The one you use determines the flow of battle. Doing this you will also need to try and avoid the enemy from doing the same thing to you. The wind is also a big factor in this as your ship will not move well if your going into it. This is where the specialization you choose can come into if you choose one for naval battle. If your ship comes into contact with another during the battle then you will board their ship. This is where you play the most used mini-game, sword fighting. After a short cut-scene you will prompt to choose between three swords. One for fast attacks, one for heavy attacks, or one for defense. Once you choose your weapon, the battle starts with your main goal being the act of knocking your opponent back far enough to where he has no where else to go. You can use a quick low power attack which knocks you opponent back one or a slower more powerful attack that will knock them back to or three spaces. This is indicated by a rope at the top of the screen like a tug-of-war game. Watching your opponents actions and timing your own counter action is key here. I suggest picking the "sword fighting" specialization the first time you play the game to help you get this mini-game down because it is the hardest and most used one in the game. This is a quick thinking timing game that you will have to get down good enough or you will not last long.
The different mini-games differ in how they are done keeping the game fresh. Another one that is used often is the ballroom dancing. When you enter a friendly port and speak to the lord you may have the option too cort and dance with his daughter. Yes, you can get married in the game and as many times as you want. Of course you will have to dance many times with same lady and perform certain side quests to accomplish this. However, each lady will offer you information the more she is interested in you that will help you on your quests. This dancing mini-game is my least favorite as it becomes repetitive and rather boring pretty fast and the music being played at different nations ports are not very interesting. As you and your partner dance around the floor with others, you are prompt to hit the corresponding button as it pops up on the screen. If you need to go back you hit "A", up you hit "Y", or left and right you press the button that matches the direction. If you miss the timing or hit the wrong button you will stumble and get a giggle out of your dance partner. In the beginning of the game this is can be a little tough but, once you find items throughout your quest this becomes extremely easy and repetitive. However, if you are playing on a harder difficulty level then the prompts no longer appear making you do it by watching your dance partners quick arm movements and the direction. This at least makes it more of a challenge. Another of the mini-games is a land attack that occurs if you attempt to take over an unfriendly port. This is not one you will probably play a lot because you have to have a large crew in order to pull this off. The game places your troops outside the fortification in small platoons. Some use muskets while others use swords. The platoon your character is in will be the strongest. This is a turn based strategy mini-game that has you taking advantage of height (for you musketeers getting better aim) and using trees for cover (making it harder for musketeers to hit your sword platoons). There is not much depth to this but, it is pretty fun and worth the gamble. If you win, you can make the port any nation you are allied with giving you another friendly port on the map. In all, all of the different mini-games are pretty fun and the only one I found to be a little repetitive and long was the dancing.
One other thing I liked was the different AI levels that you can play the game in. On easier levels the game really is easy as pie. The middle difficulty keeps the game fair but, may get to easy in time. The harder levels the game flat out cheats. This is not a joke, the game really does cheat. For example, on a very hard level when you get ready to board a ship you may have over 300 crew. Once on the other boat you will notice your crew maybe is down to just over 200 or even lower. The fencing mini-game becomes extremely hard as well and it becomes more luck than anything else as the AI will pretty much always anticipate your move. Still, you can change the level play as many times you want just by dividing your plunder with your crew at a port. Every time you do this, the game will ask if you want to up in difficulty level my one or down by one. Giving you the option to find the right level for your play style. What truly makes the gameplay unique is just all of the different things you can while playing the game. Of course, your main goal is complete the story line missions but, taking out wanted pirates, plundering to your hearts content, having the ladies fall in love with you, and keeping your crew happy at the same time keeps you interested until you are just to old to continue.
You will be using a lot of different control schemes throughout the game due to all of the different mini-games. There are some that are more complicated than other but, in all, there are no real issues with any of them. They are all easy to understand and should not take a lot of play time to get used to them. Whether you are navigating the high seas, sword fighting, having naval battles, or just dancing the controls respond well with no pauses or hiccups. I was very surprised at this considering how many different things you are performing throughout the game. Even the menus themselves are very in-depth but, easy to get around. My only small complaint is, on occasion I found myself hitting the wrong button here and there as sometimes the control layout was a little off. This did not happen a lot so it was not a real big issue with me. They did a good job at piecing everything together and giving you nice feel to the game.
The graphics are kind of cartoonish for the most part however, this is not really a bad thing. It helps keep the game in a very laid back atmosphere. The character models, for the most part, are all right. Your character looks pretty good and most of the others do as well. There is just nothing complex about them or stand out in anyway. The complaint I had with the character models are with some of the ladies you talk with and try to become friendly with throughout your journey. Some of them are quite pitiful looking in the face (look like men) and their only saving grace is that every lady in the game have large breasts. I am laughing out loud at the end of that sentence. Still, this didn't hurt the overall attempt they tried making the graphics somewhat linear. When it comes all of the ships, the sea, different ports you visit, and fighting sequences as they look good. Watching the different ammo your cannons can fire fly through the air, sails being riddled with holes, and pieces of the hull splashing into the water during the ship-to-ship battles are great. Even the close up hand-to-hand battles are done well as you will notice bodies falling from the sky as you are engaged in battle after you board a ship. They could have put a little more into the characters themselves and cut-scenes that don't look any different but, at least they made up for it in the other areas.
As for the environment, that looks just fine. While your sailing the open sea from port to port and island to island you will notice some little things they throw into the mix. Dolphins will show up and swim in your wake, your sails flowing in the direction of the wind, and a colorful backdrop that fits perfect in a relaxing atmosphere. However, there are a couple of hiccups that go along with it. For example, there is some areas where the game is rather spotty. Going from one small cut-scene to another during hand-to-hand combat can have a slight delay which does get a little annoying. There is no problems with the frame rate while your at sea whether your in battle or not but, having the small hiccups in the other areas gets repetitive. For a game that did not go all out in the graphics department i would expect no delays at all.
The first thing I noticed was the voice acting in the game, there is none. Words are substituted by grunts and moans and there is no actual words being spoken. It reminded me of playing a "Sims" style game where you just hear made up words and moans. What the game lacks in voice acting it more than makes up with the sound effects themselves. To the "crack" of cannon fire, the "clink" of swords hitting each other, ships breaking apart little by little taking damage, to water softly hitting against the hull, and a subtle storm you sail through are all spot on. The music soundtrack has it's ups and downs but, fits in well to the era in which the game is intended. You may not be blown away by anything you hear, you will not care much with the effects playing in the background and the constant fact that you are always doing something while playing.
The game may not be for everyone but, I think it will appeal the vast majority. You will appreciate what they were trying to accomplish with this game and how well they did accomplish it. Keeping the game with a very free-style feel to it is what makes this game stand out. Being able to always go where you want, attack who you want, do anything you want with no ties is a very rare thing in video games. No matter where you are on the map or in the game, you are going to be close to a mission or side quest you maybe working on. Also, you sort of have a timer when you play through the game which is your lifespan (still hours of gameplay). This will keep you coming back for more as you can only complete so much during one campaign. It is all but impossible to complete everything you want too in the amount of time you have so you find yourself starting over trying to complete things you may have failed the first time. The game has it's highs and lows but, the highs definitely outweigh the lows. The price varies quite a bit for this game so take your time and find one in your price range. This is a solid 4 star game that should not be overlooked.
Thank you for reading.
Here is related game reviews if you are interested in reading them:
Crimson Skies High Road To Revenge
Game play: 4/5
Learning Curve: 20 min
Replay Value: 4.5/5
Overall Rating: 4/5
ESRB: E - Everyone
Online No (except for down-loadable content)
Read all comments (2)
Share this product review with your friends