Originally released simply as: Sid Meier's Pirates!; by MicroProse in 1987 for platforms such as: Macintosh and Apple II/IIGS. Pirates! was remade in 16 glorious bits for the Sega Genesis and Amiga CD32; among others, as: Pirates! Gold.
In honor of International Speak like a Pirate day - Capn' Ort brings you Pirates! Gold. A precious title from my childhood, and a game I keep coming back to when I'm bored of Platformers, RPGs, and MMOs. This game is the sole responsible party for teaching me to read when I was just a wee lad. I remember the days I'd get home from school and take the helm of my schooner to begin my search for plunder and a crew that wouldn't let scurvy get the best of them.
Pirates! Gold blew me away as a kid. The sheer amount of possibilities that existed in the game was unfathomable. Before you get tossed into the Spanish Main, you give your Pirate a family name, the time period (during the 17th century) he lived in, and his nationality (Dutch, English, Spanish, and French). Depending on the time period you chose; you start off with a particular ship and come into power one of two ways: Your vessel gets attacked by pirates and your captain is felled in the smoke and fire, and you are the only man in the crew to stand up to the pirates' captain, winning the respect and loyalty of your fellow sailors; or you lead a mutiny against a very incapable captain (this is a very popular back-story with the English). The game spits you out onto the deck of your ship during one of the previously mentioned scenarios - sword drawn.
Sword fighting in Pirates! is a strange affair. Before the bout, you get your choice of: Rapier (real pirates use rapiers!), Cutlass, and Longsword to use in the upcoming fight. During the battle you can strike in three different directions: Head, Midsection, and shins (hey, we're pirates!), this goes with the other party as well. Make contact with the poor sod, and you'll do damage; come into contact with his blade, and the attack is rendered useless, which can be used to your advantage. Instead of using the parry action, you can and should just attack as the momentum will remain, and if you took my advice about using a rapier like a real pirate; you'll be a whole lot faster than your enemy making your counter attack all that more threatening.
Shortly after your fight is finished you're shown the overworld map and put in control of your ship/fleet. Usually you'll be stuck near a town, which most likely is the main settlement for your nation (i.e. English get Port Royale). Steering your ship towards the town you take note a few things: Wind Direction, Wind Speed, and a strange looking fellow near the bottom corner of your screen; This guy happens to show you the Morale of your crew. When he looks somber, so does your crew; the same for when he's ecstatic. To keep your crew's morale up, all you have to do is sate their blood-lust and craving of food n' plunder. Wind direction and speed work exactly as you must think them to: sail into high winds, you go nowhere and even backwards; sail away from high winds and you'll get a speed boost that would make Sonic the Hedgehog jealous. While traversing these waters you may see white bits of something in the water. These white bits are reefs that will destroy the ship that you are currently piloting, and if you run out of ships in your fleet you'll end up getting shipwrecked.
Towns work fairly simply despite the game being chocked full of complex goodness. You have five buildings: The Pub (Hell yeah!); in which you can hire more crew, buy treasure maps, find quest givers, and hear whispers of wealth that roam the seas, The Goods Shop; in which you can sell your plunder of Sugar/flour, rum, and goods/furs, The Mayor's Manor; In which you can get bounties from the mayor, or even Letters of Writ that ally you to a particular faction; The mayor's daughter may even show up so that you may woo her to be your pirate wife, and last but not least; The Ship Yard where you can repair ships, and sell cannons that you "liberated" from enemy vessels and towns. Which brings me to my next subject!
Plunder. We love it. It's why we do what we do. We want things, so we take them: it's the Pirates' way. Any ship you come across in open waters is open game so long as you aren't playing politics with a particular nation. Ship battles have two ways they can turn out: Sending their ship down to the Locker via cannon-fire, or you ram the ship and board them; initiating a Sword Fight with the opposing captain. Ramming the ship and winning the duel is the most advisable approach; you get loot and an extra ship for your fleet! Still, you can always sink their ship just to satisfy your own blood-lust. Beware of sinking too many ships of one particular faction though; They may get mad and send a famous Pirate Hunter after your salty behind! Attacking towns is roughly the same. Evade the cannon-fire from their fort(s) and ram right into em, instead of fighting a rival captain, you fight the leader of a militia or the town guard. Be careful and pick your battles. A loss results in you being thrown into prison for a few months.
Time plays a major part of the game as well. In your Captain's cabin/pause menu there's a mirror in which you can view your stats. The older you get past 30-something, you get weaker as a sword fighter, but if you have a crew/army of well over 300+ Sea Dogs, a simple sword fight is trivial to the captain of a 15-man Schooner. As you get older you will find that life on the sea is a hard life. When captured by an enemy, or anytime you visit a bank in a town; you can choose to retire from a life of privateering/piracy. The game then tallies up your total gold, victorious battles, quests completed, and even how good looking your wife is to give you a final score. This score is displayed by an occupation such as Tavernkeep or plantation-owner; to name a few. But if you retire early you can still return to the life. After all, the sea is a cruel mistress, but her song is sweet.
Finally; the soundtrack kept me glued to the screen as a kid. I learned the (16 bit) melody of quite a few sea shanties as a young lad. I still remember my dad walking through my room as I played the game and singing "Drunken Sailor" when the tune finally got to him. A mixture of Shanty and Baroque melodies litter the game, from the time you step onto the deck of your ship, to when you give up the life of plunder and rum. Even then; the spirit of the songs will follow you around for days.
So; if you're looking for your " Talk Like a Pirate Day video game fix, look no further than Pirates! Gold. You can even find the Re-remake titled as: Sid Meier's Pirates! on the steam shop for 75% today! I hope you lads give it at least a look. For two dollars and some change you can't go wrong.
See you on the Spanish Main!