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Sid Meier’s Pirates! Review
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Sid Meier’s Pirates!, a sandbox-style adventure on the high seas from 2K Games, is now available from the app store. A reimagination of the classic tale, Pirates! sees you sailing the seas, pillaging, plundering, trading, swordfighting, cannonballing, dancing, and engaging in all manner of pirate life as you see fit.

Sid Meier’s Pirates! Pros:

  • Gorgeous visuals on the cut scenes
  • Intuitive and easy-to-use controls
  • Pirate-themed soundtrack
  • Plenty of replay value
  • GameCenter integration for leaderboards and achievements

Sid Meier’s Pirates! Cons:

  • Minor app instability
  • Lack of voice work
  • Graphics could use a punch up

Pirates! can be played in any of 5 difficulty levels, as a member of one of four factions, and with a skill set that is well-suited for one of five different abilities. This offers the gamer countless ways to tailor the game to his liking from the get-go, as well as creating plenty of replay value, too. You are placed into the role of young man who, as a lad, had his family split up and forced into servitude over a bad debt. He escaped and survived for 10 years before joining on as a deckhand. When his oppressive captain goes a bit too far, the young man fights back, overpowers him, and takes control of his ship and his men. Now, he calls the shots, be it noble goals like trading and courting a governor’s daughter or seedier passions like attacking others and amassing ill-gotten riches.

The beauty of Pirates! lies in its willingness to allow the gamer to play it his way and at his speed. Ultimately, the story leads you toward the goal of defeating the Top 10 pirates, finding your family, and punishing the man who caused your family such strife. However, you can just as easily throw all of that out the window and simply focus on sailing around, attacking whomever you like, pillaging villages, sharing the wealth with your men, trading for needed goods, repairing your vessels, building up your fleet, or any other single activities that you find enjoyable. Several activities are intertwined, and you’ll need to keep an eye on the little things like the amount of food you have to feed your men and their morale. Splitting up your riches every once in a while will also go a long way toward building good will and making a name for yourself.

While there is plenty to do, much of what you’ll find yourself dealing with are maintenance tasks, like keeping your ship in good repair, trading for food and other necessities, and talking up the strangers at the local watering hole for info or recruitment. The real enjoyable stuff involves the action-oriented ship battles and sword fights. The touch interface is a natural for directing your ship, as it follows the path of your finger or your on-screen taps. Ship battles involve jockeying for position, avoiding damage, and managing your ammo types. Ramming one ship into another will initiate a fight sequence with the ship’s captain, where your skill in timing challenges comes in particularly handy, as does having a large number of men to back you up. Gesture-based swipes direct your attacks, as well as your defenses. Success could mean obtaining a new ship and all goods aboard it, while defeat will find you locked up, with little waiting for you on the outside but the opportunity to start again with little or nothing to your name. A series of mini-games gives the overall game some extra fluff, but most pale in comparison to the enjoyment of swashbuckling your way to the top.

Graphically, the cut scenes look quite spectacular, with most of the gameplay footage failing to keep up the high standard. This is not to say that the graphics are poor by any means, just that the sailing and ship battle action is decidedly less polished. The animations are very fluid, and the little touches like dolphins swimming in the water and cannonballs sailing through the air add a nice level of realism that helps to immerse the gamer in this world. The pirate-themed audio is pretty good, though you won’t be privy to any voice work, as the story unfolds through boxes of text and decision buttons. Menus are easy to navigate and the lack of labels encourages you to explore them to find out what they are and how they can affect gameplay. Controls are intuitive and very responsive, giving you a feeling of control that really puts you in the captain’s boots.

Replay value is terrific, as you can mix and match difficulties, factions, and abilities to create vastly different experiences when you play again. GameCenter integration offers global leaderboards and achievements to earn. There is a good amount of content to keep you busy building your brand, and the option to play however you like is very appealing. We were surprised how quickly we got sucked into the game and found ourselves devoting more and more time to learning the nuances through trial-and-error. An iPad-only title for the introductory price of $3.99, Sid Meier’s Pirates! is a 4.5-Dimple blast that’s worth every doubloon.

Sid Meier's Pirates! Review, reviewed by Kevin on 2011-07-30T01:22:47+00:00 rating 4.5 out of 5

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