Sid Meier's Pirates!

In the age where mediocre games with movie-sized blistering budgets and high profile voice acting have become standard, Sid Meier's Pirates goes in the other direction, focusing on the basics of what makes games great.

The first thing that strikes you when loading up the game is there's no voiced narration: no Patrick Stewart to offer crisp Shakespearean eloquence about the perils of the sea. Instead, the characters in the game talk in nondescript Simlish (and maybe a mix of German) which, although initially seems lacking, gives the game a sense of earthly warmth and charm. That homely vibe permeates into the core gameplay as well.

Refusing to be pigeon-holed into one genre, the game combines various elements that are entertaining enough to not be dreadfully labeled as "mini-games". Travelling around the world map, players need to be mindful of wind, shallows and food. Getting close-up, the ship battles become more action-oriented as you try to manoeuvre your customised (and most likely stolen) ship to fire broadsides.

Clash into an enemy ship and Disney-like swashbuckling duels ensue, where players dodge and attack using the numeric keypad.

Pirates wouldn't be pirates without plundering, and when attacking towns, it turns into a simple but effective turn-based strategy game. Woo and win the heart of a Governor's daughter by dancing to her moves - mildly resembling Beat Mania or DDR - but less shameful. Each gameplay aspect has its own place, joyously gelling together to create a diverse but pleasant experience.

The downside to living the life of a pirate is there's no higher calling, no goal to achieve other than to hoard as much money as you can.

The quests to rescue your family and get revenge are a nice diversion, but don't offer enough to carry the game. And having to periodically split your plunder (meaning disbanding crew, splitting money and selling off other ships) detracts from the pacing of the game.

Also, the lack of retaliation for plundering is disappointing: take down a bustling Spanish town and get only one Pirate Raider on your tail? It would've been exciting to pit your ship against a whole Spanish Armada (I fondly recall taking on hordes of pirates in Apple II's Taipei).

However, for the first 15 hours or so it's difficult for such cynicism to creep in - Sid Meier's Pirates! may not have all the frills, but it's got plenty of thrills.

Visuals: Cartoony, but still crisp and vibrant Audio: No voiced narrative, sound effects during duels and sailing the high seas is impressive Gameplay: Different modes of gameplay (sailing, fighting and dancing) keep you entertained for hours Score: 3 1/2 out of 4 Publisher: Atari Developer: Firaxis URL:

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Funky Zealot

PC World
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill


I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?