Pirates!: Not joining us in the ha-ha’s, Percy?
Before we get started I’d just like to take a few moments to abuse my position of head features writer here at Peoww and get something off my chest. Fuck Johnny Depp. That’s right; fuck him, Orlando Bloom and Kira Knightly. Fuck ’em all. Sure Depp may have played the definitive Raoul Duke but him and those wooden as a gang plank co-stars fucked up pirates for everyone. Before they made Pirates of the Caribbean, pirates where fierce, brutal, sea dogs plundering every ship in sight letter of marquee be damned. Now they’re stoned wasters who would spend more time prancing and preening in front of a mirror than a premiership footballer.
‘I’ve always favoured the longsword’
With that out of the way let’s reopen the Perfekt Past vault to examine today’s exhibit: Pirates! By strategy uber-genius Sid Meier and his long time ally Microprose. Now the first thing to mention is that when I talk about the original Pirates everything also applies to the later version Pirates! Gold as the only difference between them is that ‘Gold has an easier to use interface and a better line in graphics and sound. This rule also applies to the latest version too but less so as that introduced new gameplay elements such as dancing mini games and multiplayer larks not found in the original game.
Each game of Pirates starts with you heading a mutiny aboard ship and fighting the captain for command. This introduces you to the first of the main three gameplay sections: sword fighting. The first thing you have to do is chose between three different types of sword to wield. The rapier is fast but lacks strength; the longsword gives you killing distance while the cutlass excels as close quarters. As you have more and more fights throughout the game you’ll quickly find the sword to match your own style of fighting.
Personally I’ve always favoured the longsword as it lets you keep your distance and makes parrying easier which can be crucial in fights where you’re out numbered (more on that later) Having presumably won command of the ship you begin your career in a town governed by one of four nations: England, France, Holland and Spain having chosen your nationally before the game starts. Here the second gameplay element is management as you can visit different locations before putting to sea such as the merchants, local tavern or the town’s governor all of which a vital to manage your ship, crew and career.
‘flirt with his daughters’
The most important location to start with is the tavern as here you can hear rumours about treasure fleets, buy sections of treasure maps and recruit any willing sailors to your crew which is crucial in the early game as the number of crew you have on your ship(s) effects how well it performs. The merchant can buy and sell four different cargo types of food, sugar, goods and cannons all of which vary from town to town allowing for some Elite style buy-low-sell-high profiteering. Food is consumed as your ships are at sea and is needed to keep the crew fed and happy. Sugar and goods are strictly for conversion into money with the usual buy low to sell high tactics applicable (or just plunder them from enemy ships for no charge) and cannons are used to attack enemy ships during ship to ship fights.
The next stop for any aspiring captain is the governor’s residence where you can have a chat with him to find out who your nation is at war with and therefore ‘legal’ targets for your piracy and, if you have enough political clout, flirt with his daughters. The governors can if your actions warrant it promote you and grant you some extra money and land to improve your standing answer along with gifting you a segment of map that can be used to track down your various missing family members. This works much like bought treasure maps with you having to collect four pieces to get a whole map but if you know your way around you might recognise landmarks with less than the full four pieces.
Outside of friendly territory you can meet with foreign governors provided you can sneak into town or dock without being fired upon. Once it their presence they can also offer to sell you letters of Marquee that let you attack their enemies without reprisals which can pay good money in the long term at the risk of having even more foreign ships and towns attacking you on sight.
‘the amount of drag’
The other two in town locations are the shipyards for repairing or selling your ships and the bank which is used to divvy up the treasure and end your pirate career and with it the game. Once you’ve concluded your business in town it’s time to stretch your sea legs and get yourself a prize.
Once at sea you view your main ship from above with nearby land and sea shown along with the wind direction, speed and your sails. Sailing with the wind with your sails down will get you around faster but if you have to go against the wind it’s best to raise them and reduce the amount of drag. As you travel out of friendly territory you’ll quickly encounter other ships with the option of attack, hail for news or just ignoring them, but where’s the fun in that?
Assuming you chose the attack option the game moves into the last of the three main gameplay elements: ship to ship combat. Viewed from above like standard sailing you have the added information of what ship you are commanding be it a small and fast sloop or huge and well armed war galleon and finally the number of men in your crew. The number of men you have directly effects how quickly you can raise and lower your sails, fire your cannons and how long you can sustain or repeal a boarding attack so the more you have the better although having a large crew with low morale is a quick route to mutiny.
‘blow the enemy captain’
Across from your stats are your enemies giving you a good idea of how you should attack them. If you’re outnumbered or outgunned you should try and keep your distance inflicting damage with your cannons until they’ve been weakened enough to board, they surrender or until their sails are ruined rendering them immobile. Likewise if you outnumber them you’d best get alongside quickly and overpower them before they can scuttle the ship or dump their precious cargo aboard.
Once aboard there ship or your ship the action swaps to sword fighting with you fighting the enemy captain with the victor winning the battle. The more men you have in your crew increases the number of hits you can afford to take with every blow landed or taken striping away precious support in the battle. Assuming you land the final blow, the enemy captain will surrender letting you chose what if any cargo to plunder, whither to keep or sink the captured ship along with stealing any money they might have onboard. If you’re lucky enough to capture a fellow pirate rather than a normal captain you can also get information from them about treasure fleets or just hold him for ransom.
Once you’ve learnt the three game types you’ll spend hours, days even weeks sailing around the Caribbean taking ships, wooing ladies, and if you’re really bold invading towns all for the glory of your chosen nation or you can just forget about being a privateer and become a full on renegade pirate daring anyone to test you like the legendry pirates of old, not like those limp wrested pricks from recent times.
Oh yeah and while I’m here, fuck the Walchowski brothers for ruining cyberpunk.