Sid Meier’s Pirates!
Anyone familiar with the work of Sid Meier knows that if his name is part of a game’s title, then the chances of it being a good game are quite high. And that’s certainly the case with the iPad version of Pirates!, a game comprised essentially of several different mechanics turned into fun mini-games that are held together by a surprising amount of depth. All the pieces fit and work together well, causing you to keep playing for “just one more turn” as you work towards your overarching goal of becoming a dominant force out on the high seas.
On its surface, Pirates! looks like a rather simple iPad game with an equally simple plot. The slightly-blocky character models look a bit dated nowadays, but there is a certain charm to them. The cutscenes you encounter are repetitive and silly, but the lightheartedness makes you smile. The story goes that, as a young lad, your family was enslaved by an evil man for their failure to repay their debts. However, you escaped and are now out on a quest to not only find them but also get your revenge.
But that’s not what drives you to play this game. You’ll want to play (and keep playing) this game because it’s fun. As captain of your pirate ship, you can seek out other vessels and take them on in cannon battles. If you board those vessels, you’ll take on their enemy captain in a swashbuckling duel. You can sail around the entire Caribbean and enter various ports of call or instead choose to bombard them with a fury of cannonballs. There’s treasure to find, ladies to dance with, famous pirates to pursue, and…
…Oh, yeah, your family! Remember them? You should probably go and find them, too, huh? Well, if you’re not too caught up in everything else!
What’s really amazing is how all of these different aspects are connected. There’s no handholding in this game, so this is something you’ll have to discover on your own. Sure, you’ll see brief tutorial screenshots that explain certain controls, and there’s a massive encyclopedia buried in the menu, but the real depths of this game shine through as you yourself start to put the pieces together.
This is best shown through example. You start the game in your ship and spot another ship nearby. You decide to attack, and this triggers the sea battle mini-game. You sail around your enemy while trying to determine the best angle and speed at which to accurately smash them with your cannonballs. Eventually you collide with the ship, climb onboard, and engage the captain in a duel. After dodging and then slicing back with a few swipes of your finger, you’ve defeated him and claimed his ship as your own!
Oh, and look, you also captured their cook. Is that a good thing? Yes, because he’ll improve the morale of the crewmembers on your ship.
Wait, morale? Where did that come from? Well, you need to keep both the stomachs and the wallets of your crewmembers full unless you want to risk a mutiny.
What?! Mutiny? What if you just want to go fight other ships? Well, good, because one way to obtain luxuries and goods is by stealing them from other ships. You can then sell those items at a town to gain more and more gold to keep both you and your men happy.
Armed with this new knowledge, you head into a port and discover that there are yet more things to learn about this game. Shipwrights not only can repair your ship but can also fit them with special upgrades. You can enter the tavern to recruit more crewmembers and also gather all kinds of information about different quests and treasures. You can even visit the local governor to receive praise and promotions for destroying the ships of his country’s enemies.
Just about everything you do in this game leads to the betterment of either your ship or your main character. As you amass special abilities and upgrades, you’ll become bolder and bolder and ready to take on even bigger challenges. Soon you’ll even have the street cred (or should it be sea cred?) to woo the governor’s daughter. Not only will you become the richest pirate the world has ever seen, you’ll also have someone to share all that wealth with.
What’s this? Someone has approached you with information about your sister.
That’s right, your long-lost, enslaved sister. You’ll, uh, be there soon.
Sid Meier’s Pirates! is a fun and simple game to pick up that will keep you entertained for a long time as you explore all the many things it has to offer. With tons of replay value, you get a lot of game for a small asking price. There’s seemingly always something new to discover, so raise your sails and set off to become the most notorious pirate of all time.