#150 Sid Meier’s Pirates

Posted: 8th March 2021 by Jeroen in Games
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936th played so far

Genre: Action/Adventure
Platform: Various
Year of Release: 1987
Developer: MicroProse
Publisher: MicroProse

Sid Meier is of course most known for the Civilization series that bears his name, although even from Civilization II he has not been the lead designer on the game, seemingly spending as much time exploring other game ideas instead. You can argue that his work on the first Railroad Tycoon game is just as notable for this list. Today’s game, though, is Sid Meier’s Pirates, which takes some influence from management sims but seems to be more of an action based game. Considering that he originally focused on flight simulators, the mix makes more sense, but having his name on it does give lead you to think in the simulation direction and I’ll see how much of this is a simulation versus an action game.

Our Thoughts

There is a lot to unpack in this game, with a number of gameplay options and variants that are immense, while all feel like they are an important part of the whole. There’s a big manual with the game (that I had in PDF form, perhaps not the best way to get it but these days the GOG version is the best way to play this game) and I tried to refer to it with each different element so I could get it – but even then it was tricky to play the game.

At every point, the game starts with you in a sword fight with a captain. When you win it – pretty much guaranteed on this attempt – you take ownership of the ship and it is yours to sail the Caribbean with. From that point on, the choices are yours. You can try to attack other ships to board them, steal their wares or take control of the ship in your fleet. You can travel between ports to sell your goods or trade between them. You can try to attack those ports to take control for your side – from land or from sea. And if you want to get off your ship, you even have the chance to go treasure hunting.

It feels immensely open, and with it simulating various different eras with different relationships between the nations taking over the area – down to the Dutch only coming in after their independence. Seeing Piet Hein referenced – now a slightly controversial figure, but a hero of the era – did immediately make me feel that at least some research went into the scenarios, which is quite neat. I have to admit that seeing the Dutch referenced in these games is always a bit neat, in a group of nations that were all quite bad at the time.

Anyway, with the historical context that will shift between you get quite a varied open world with a lot of difficulty options that mean you have a lot to do here. The one thing that lets it down is its age – the controls are awkward and slightly different for each section, with some features that can get annoying – there was one point where the controls wouldn’t let me sail out of a bay because I couldn’t turn quick enough, and hitting the edge made you do a 180 degree turn. I assume the remake improves a lot of it, which would really tune this game to be a fun one to keep getting lost in.

Final Thoughts

Sid Meier’s Pirates is a game that had time catch up with it, with controls that feel awkward now. I didn’t play the remake for the blog, but assuming it keeps how open the original is, it feels like a fun, really playable experience.