In the first of our Back Review series, I’m reviewing Sid Meier’s Pirates, a remake of the 1987 classic ‘Pirates.’ This game reeks of polish, and for that reason gleams the recognition of how a remake should be done.

Sid Meier’s Pirates is about a young male antagonist who’s family is ransacked one night. He therefore swears revenge and heads to the Caribbean in search of answers and – hopefully – his family. He takes up piracy, and that’s were the player comes in. You’re given a ship and a small crew, which varies based on era and nationality, and set loose to make alliances with whoever and plunder at will. Of course, very few ships will go quietly, so aside from broadside cannon fire exchanges, you’ll have to board enemy ships and take them at sword point. The controls for this are spot-on. You control swipes, chops, and jabs with three buttons, and the counter-moves with three others. This makes sword combat something that anyone can learn, but it’ll still take everything you’ve got to defeat the stronger enemy captains, such as the named pirates based on real-life historical pirates. Can you take down Blackbeard? How about Henry Morgan? No, you don’t get a beer for defeating him; sorry to disappoint everyone.

You can get a reputation if you attack one nation’s shipping enough (or that of their allies), at which point they will send out pirate hunters after you, ranging from Sloops of War to the mighty Ship of the Line. The SotL is the ultimate prize; you’ll be ready to face any foe on at sea with a Ship of the Line, but they are exceedingly rare and very hard to capture.

If you attack a nation’s foes often enough, they’ll give you promotions that result in benefits in their ports. For example, at the rank of Count, repairs in that nation’s ports are free, meaning you can beat the tar out of a ship at sea and still sell it at max value. The rank of Duke allows you to upgrade ships for free. These, to me, are goals worth pursuing.

Certain ranks also allow you to court Governor’s daughters. Some are Beautiful, some are Attractive, and yet others are Rather Plain, in the game’s words. The plain ones are easier to please then the beautiful ones, of course. To please them, you must dance with them. This is my worst part; I have no rhythm whatsoever, and have a tendency to press the wrong keys while trying to stay ahead of the game.
Appearance-wise, the game has a very clean, sharp, stylized look that fits the atmosphere well. I do enjoy the cut-scenes that pop up, but since there are so few, they get old quickly. Fortunately for me (and you), they can be skipped. The game’s appearance reminds me strongly of Fable, in a good way. The sounds include Sim-Speak babble when the characters talk. This. to me, is better then straight dialog. However, some of the babble comes off wrong. For example, when you challenge a pushy captain in the taverns, you’re challenge sounds allot like you’re calling the captain a ‘Cuban,’ like that’s a bad thing or something.

The patch and updates available from Firaxis fix a few problems, but the big plus for me is that they turn the pirates in Pirate Havens in to hippies. The tie-dye outfits, flowers drawn on faces, the whole works. I love that the company can have fun with their game, and aren’t taking the whole thing too seriously. I really enjoy Pirates, and with the five eras, five skills, four nations to play, and a random map each game, Pirates can be played indefinitely. Alphasim out.