Games for Lunch: Sid Meier's Pirates!

Posted by Kyle Orland (October 08, 2010)

Games for Lunch chronicles the first hour of a different game every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Each hour ends with the answer to the only question that matters at that point: Do I want to keep playing? For more information, check out the Frequently Asked Questions.

Developer: Firaxis
Publisher: 2K Games
Release Date: Oct. 5, 2010
System: Wii (reviewed), PC
ESRB Rating: E-10+
Official Web site

In a nutshell: Ay diddle dee dee, a pirateís life for Wii.

0:00 I put a decent amount of time into the updated PC version of this one already, so my main interest today is how this classic title transfers over to the Wiiís control scheme.

0:01 Nice short trumpet fanfare on the preview screen. Also, the game is saving already? I havenít done anything yet...

0:03 ďIt began with a celebration. Indebted for many years to Marquis Montelban a families honor would soon be restored.Ē But the Marquis and his men come in to seize their property and sell them in to bondage. The boy runs off, refusing to be a slave. Ten years later, he continues his quest for revenge. The familiar opening looks a little grainy and rough on my HDTV.

0:05 I like the default name Incognito so much I decide to keep it. I choose the middle difficulty, Adventurer, because it features more dangerous sea battles and more treacherous villains. I decide to choose gunnery as my skill, since I always had problems aiming in the sea battles of the PC version. Letís start in the default year of 1660.

0:07 Each of the gameís four nations comes with a very clear description of the pros and cons of being associated with each. I go with France, which is not as easy to play as England but sounds much easier than Spain.

0:08 A cut scene shows me heading off to the new world in a ship run by a tyrannical captain.The crew mutiny and I somehow take over. ďA fortune to be had. A family to rescue. Revenge to be served. Your destiny awaits you.Ē What better way to open a game?

0:09 Now that Iím captain I can customize the way I look. Thatís one way to fold a customizable character into a pre-rendered cut scene, I guess. I go with long flowing black locks and a rich, pirate-appropriate goatee.

0:11 I can customize the look of the ship as well. I try to make it as menacing as possible, with a spiked ďpuffle,Ē a devil figurehead, and a dark black sail with a pirate emblem.. YARRR!

0:13 Every action I take on the Port menu is preceded by 5 to 10 seconds of loading... just enough to be annoying. Anyway, the Governor offers that I might like to help attack the evil, Dutch-held port of St. Eustasius.

0:15 At the tavern, it only takes two taps of the A button to add 19 pirates to my existing crew of 40. Couldnít be easier.

0:16 I can change my uniform in the captainís quarters as well. Such vanity! I donít recall this from the PC game, but I may have just not found it important.

0:17 The quest log seems a bit simplified for the Wii version. I have to speak to a bar maid in Antigua to advance the ďMain Story.Ē Iím looking for Captain Kidd, #3 in the ďtop 10 PiratesĒ whoís currently hiding in The Fortress, and there are 43 other general achievements to unlock.

0:18 Sailing away now, with simple steering control assigned to the d-pad on the Wii Remote. I wish I could zoom out a bit farther to see far off ports as well as my immediate surroundings. I head right for St. Eustasis, where I add 16 more men to my crew. A bartender tells me Antigua will let me upgrade my ship with triple hammocks. Thatís... thatís a lot of hammocks.

0:20 Just finished my first battle at sea. Steering with the d-pad and firing with A feels pretty natural, but using the oddly-placed minus button to change weaponry is pretty annoying. I win handily, mainly because the enemy ship has awful aim. My first meaningless Achievement is called The First Battle.

0:22 My second fight doesnít go nearly as well. The British smuggler I foolishly took on is much faster than me and has no trouble avoiding most of my shots. Also, once night falls, I canít see a blasted thing on my screen. Do I need to adjust my TV settings, or is this intentional?

0:26 Luckily I still have the heavily damaged ship I won from my first battle. I push it slowly, against the wind, towards Antigua, where I recruit 22 new sailors. When I talk to the barmaid, as instructed, it activates a duel with a pushy British officer thatís talking her up. All right, swashbuckling time!

0:27 Iím not really impressed with the Wii Remote sword fighting here. The game frequently misinterprets my forward thrusts as wide swipes instead. Iíd rather just be hitting buttons. As for the battle itself, I start off trying a lot of tricky jumps and ducks, but end up winning just by slashing over and over. The cut scenes, including the woman bashing my opponent over the head with a bottle, are folded in as well as ever.

0:28 Game shows me that the first mission in my ďMain StoryĒ thread is done, but doesnít suggest what the next one should be. Um...

0:29 Ah, the mysterious stranger in the corner has my next mission. I have to rescue my long lost sister from The Fortress. Yeah... that should be easy...

0:31 I have to sell all the chocolate in my holds to a merchant so I can afford the repairs to the heavily damaged Kingfisher I acquired in the last battle. Guess I should have gone a little easier on them...

0:33 Feeling cocky, I decide to take on two British ships at once. I trade some damage with one before the tiny ship bumps up against me and tries to board. Looks like itís more swordfighting.

0:35 My opponent and I end up trading blows right along the edge of a stairway, constantly activating and re-activating a cut scene where we fight our way up and down its length. It ends up looking a bit ridiculous. We win in the end, but suffer heavy losses. Of course I keep the Sloop of War for my own.

0:36 Back to a sea battle with a single ship, now. My ship is soon left defenseless, with no sails or cannons. Waiting for the Brits to deliver the finishing blow is excruciating.

0:37 They board with a 123-to-1 advantage and I donít stand a chance. After one slash of my foeís sword I automatically surrender and end up in an Antigua prison. A greedy guard lets me out for a bribe of 300 gold. Um, couldnít he just take my gold and leave me locked up?

0:39 Just noticed that holding down the B button while sailing brings up a zoomed view controlled by the Remote pointer. Seems rather pointless...

0:41 Chastised, I avoid a few potential battles as I head south towards The Fortress. I pick up some more sailors where I can along the way.

0:42 Can someone explain to me why the price for each good isnít listed on the merchant trading screen? I have to trade stuff back and forth a few times just to figure out what itís worth. At least itís a relatively streamlined process

0:43 An abbot tells me that the Evil Spaniard, Baron Raymondo, has information about my missing sister in Barbados. Aw, but Iím so close to the Fortress already!

0:45 At the fortress I talk with Captain Kidd, the 3rd ranked pirate in the Caribbean. ďI am Captain Kidd, the 3rd ranked pirate in the Caribbean, and you are not! Now go away you little pile of dog poop or Iíll give you the Black Spot.Ē Iím ... not sure why I was expecting anything different.

0:47 For some reason I agree to an abbotís request that I transport some immigrants to Curacao. Iím a pirate with a heart of gold, I guess.

0:49 As I sail away, a computer-controlled ship seems to be quite confused, sailing around in speedy, wide figure eights for no apparent reason. Itís actually sailing through the land at some points. Thatís just sloppy, on the developersí part.

0:50 I drop off the immigrants, which pleases the English king in control of Curacao and gets me another letter of Marque. I am not above playing both sides.

0:51 Hmmm... the pirate-shaped icon in the corner of the sailing screen is flashing. Does that mean mutiny is coming or something?

0:53 I have to admit, Iím playing kind of disinterestedly this morning... just hopping from port to port, with no real goal or direction. Maybe itís playing on a couch, with a Wii Remote in hand, that has me more relaxed than the usual white-knuckle action of the PC version.

0:54 Yep... 13 crewmen desert in the next port after nine months of sailing with no plunder. All right, guess I should battle a bit and get them some money...

0:59 After an extremely slow sea battle, I finally have a slight advantage. Then it escapes into the night, and my damaged sails arenít up to giving chase. Sigh.

Would I play this game for more than an hour? No.
Why? I have access to the PC version, which runs both more smoothly, at a better resolution and with more responsive controls. But for those who donít have a suitable PC, Iíd recommend this one, for sure.

This review was based on a retail version provided by the publisher.

Check out hundreds of archived Games for Lunch reviews on the official Games for Lunch blog.

I've been writing about video games for 17 years now and for some reason they're still paying me


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