The Laziest of Pirates!

Originally posted at GameSpot on April 29, 2008

Sid Meier’s Pirates! has been on my “play this soon” list ever since I bought it late last year. There are many games on that list, and all for various reasons. What struck me about Pirates!, however, was that I didn’t want to play it because I knew it would be fun.

Let me explain.

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I just don’t have the time like I used to for games anymore. I’m not whining (well, maybe a little); it’s just how things work as life goes on.

That said, I knew Pirates! would be a great game, something I would want to play all the time – so I put it off. Yes, it would be a blast – but think of all the time and effort I would have to put into it! As anyone with a family and job knows, time is the most precious thing you can have – not easily found and when it is, easily wasted.

I knew the game wouldn’t be a waste of time, I just knew it would take up time – and I got lazy.

All that has changed, however, as I actually committed to playing it – and I’m now in my sixth game year as a pirate. I’m not the laziest pirate anymore! Plus the game lends itself to being able to pick up and play at anytime, so I know I can always come back to it if I can’t squeeze it in.

Some thoughts on the game play so far:

– I’ve chosen the easiest setting, and so far things have been very easy. Ship battles, sword fights, dances, etc. – I know they would all be much more difficult on a higher setting. But, as I mentioned above – time is precious; I want to get through the game relatively quickly without too much stress. So far, so good.

– I’m already the second most notorious pirate in the Caribbean, with nine down and one to go. It seems a little off that to move up in rank, I just have to bump into the next pirate’s ship and sink him. This may have to do with the difficulty setting, but I’m just saying it seems a little cheap when I just happen upon a pirate captain and take him out without a thought. Shouldn’t there be more of a build up to dispatch these dastardly foes? Again, is may just be the easy Apprentice setting.

– I’ve chosen to sail under the English flag, and so far I’ve conquered two settlements for the motherland. For one I was able to duel my way in, the other (and tougher of the two) was a land battle.

– Still can’t get the British governor of Barbados’s daughter to marry me. I’ve given her a ruby ring, fought her fiancé, danced the night away with her several times – still nothing. Since I’m sailing under the English flag, I want an English bride – and one from the English capital port in the Caribbean would be perfect. What else does a guy have to do?

– Dancing can get very tedious. It was fun at first, but now the songs seem to drag on and on…

– Right out of the gate, I had five ships…then quickly realized that was a bad idea. My small fleet was hard to steer, and it’s hard to keep all hands happy as food can run out quickly. So, now I cruise around in one powerful ship, the H.M.S. Achilles, and rule the seas from there.

– Since I’m trying to stay true to my country, I’m somewhat limited in what I can do. I don’t want to attack British ships or settlements, no matter how much booty I may get out of it.

– There are certain aspects of the game that I know I haven’t used – and I want to at some point; these include sacking a town by sneaking in, sending natives to attack towns, using the pirate towns more (including sending them to attack other cities – I haven’t figured out how to use that to my advantage), conquering more towns for England, understanding and using the Abbeys, escorting refugees, and acquiring more land.

– The maps you’re supposed to follow in this game are messed up – and by “messed up” I mean you can’t read them to save your life. The treasure map I have is nearly worthless, as I’ve wasted (game) weeks on it. The other map is supposed to lead to my sister, and it’s just as messed up (sigh). I’m sure there’s a trick to it, I just haven’t learned it yet.

– I really enjoy the experience of being able to play the game any way you want. Attacking where, when, and who you want, trading, customizing your ship with flags, etc. You really get a sense of being on the open ocean, master of your own destiny. On the flip side, it can be a little overwhelming since there is so much you can do, but little goals the game gives you keep you focused.

– When you’re fighting ship to ship, I love the little details that draw you in. For example, the controller shudders when your cannons are completely loaded and your men yell. This gives you an extra sense of satisfaction when you fire at the opposing ship. Being able to vary your shot type adds a nice layer of strategy to the fights as well.

I’m sure there’s more, but that’s all I can think of at the moment.

Simply put, I’m enjoying a game I knew I would – and I’m glad I made the time for it.

 Post tenebras lux

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