Sunday, January 23, 2011

Pirates!: Final Rating

How it would have ended if I had captured the treasure fleet in Campeche (yes, it took a few reloads).
United States
MicroProse (developer and publisher)
Released 1987 for Commodore 64, PC (self-booting), and Amstrad CPC; 1988 for Apple II, Macintosh, and Apple II GS; 1989 for Atari ST, PC-88, and PC-98; 1990 for Amiga; 1991 for NES
Re-released in 1993 as Pirates! Gold for Amiga CD, Sega Genesis, Macintosh, and Windows
Remade in 2004 for Xbox, Windows, and Macintosh
Date Started: 21 January 2011
Date Finished: 22 January 2011
Total Hours: 8
Difficulty: Easy-Moderate (2.5/5)
Final Rating: 48
Ranking at Game 360: 326/360 (91%)

As we've already seen, Pirates! is barely defensible as a CRPG--my only excuse for playing it is that it's on MobyGames's list--and I've already exceeded the postings I said I was going to make for the game, but I figure that since I played it through, I might as well rate it as a CRPG and see where it comes out. Here's my GIMLET for the game:

1. The boundin' Main. Pirates! is set in the real world, albeit a fanciful depiction of it. Its sheer size and its attention to historic detail are grand, but even better is the way that things happen irrespective of your actions. Nations go to war and declare peace, Indians attack settlements, and other pirates sack towns. But these events aren't just random, ex-post-facto occurrences. In one month, the treasure fleet is in Puerto Bello, the next in Cartegena, and in between, you can actually intercept it as it sails between them. If you hear about a pirate raid on Tortuga, you can reload, get to Tortuga sooner, and catch the pirates before they attack! Very few games feature a world in which events occur so dynamically. And your actions change the nature of the world: you can disrupt trade, affect prices, instigate wars, and convert cities. I can't think of many games that do it better. Score: 9.

Catching the treasure f           leet out of harbor.

2. Gettin' yur sea legs. The lack of traditional CRPG-style character development is one of the reasons that Pirates! is only marginally a CRPG. You do not have attributes or gain levels or get experience for your quests and combats. In fact, the opposite occurs: you get older and sicker and slower, and you eventually have to decide whether it's worth extending your years of piracy. Although you can pick a nationality at the beginning of the game, it seems to have no bearing on anything except your starting town: you can advance in any nation's admiralty, and no one ever refers to you by your nation. The only real development is the advancement (at your own discretion) through the apprentice, journeyman, adventurer, and swashbuckler ranks, but the downsides to doing so (harder gameplay) generally outrank the benefits (a slightly higher share of the gold), although to be fair I played this last game fairly safe, keeping to the apprentice level for most of my career, and had few challenges. Score: 1.

3. Jawin' wit' mateys. The "NPCs" in the game include the governors, tavernkeepers, other pirates, and governor's daughters. No matter their location or nationality, they always say the same things, and you always have the same limited options while talking to them. You learn very little about the game world from them. Probably a little more variety could have been put into this part of the game. Score: 3.

The extent of NPC interaction.
4. Scallywags and scurvy dogs. The encounters in the game occur with various ships and other pirates. Unfortunately, they almost all play out exactly the same: you approach a ship and note the style, then "investigate" to see the nationality. At that point, you have the option to close for battle, hail for news, or sail away. You generally attack ships of the nation you're against and/or pirates and hail or sail away from the others. The encounters don't play any differently with different nationalities, although other pirates are slightly less likely to let you sail away or hail them. There are nonetheless roleplaying options in these limited choices, as you saw yesterday with my sudden decision to make enemies of the Dutch or my early decision to make a living as a pirate hunter. Still, some variety would have been nicer. No dedicated captain ever scuttles his ship to keep an enemy from capturing it, and no one ever shows up and attacks you. Score: 4.

5. Swasshbucklin' and hoodoo. No magic in this game, of course. There are three types of combat: ship-to-ship battles, land combat, and swordplay. All of them depend partly on probabilities (e.g., your age and level, and whether you chose "skill at gunnery" or "skill at fencing" in the opening), but mostly on your own aim, timing, and reactions. None of them are terribly hard. In my entire game, I never lost a ship-to-ship battle or sword fight (although I came very close to the latter once or twice) until the very end. Land combat is the most intriguing of the group, as it involves tactics such as choosing the right terrain, dispersing your parties, and flanking the enemy. I've never done it often enough--not even when I was younger--to get really good at it, although I suppose you could have a career in which you engaged in land combat continually, trying to capture towns for your favored nation. Ship-to-ship combat can be fairly tactical, especially when you're trying to do something crazy like taking on a war galleon with a pinnace. Ultimately, however, all combats get repetitive and boring towards the end of the game. Score: 5.

I feel like there's more to it than I fully explored.
6. Me Effects. Another element that probably disqualifies Pirates! as a CRPG is the lack of any equipment. It would have been cool if you could have used some of your booty to buy better swords, ship upgrades, maybe some light armor, and so on (although since Sid Meier wasn't trying to make a CRPG, I can see why these options aren't present). Score: 0.

7. Swag. The economy plays a vital role in the game. You can actually affect the prosperity of a city--and, consequently, the trade value of goods--in the way that you buy and sell. Some people play Pirates! as traders, doing not much more than buying and selling; this seems exceedingly boring to me, but there are a lot of logistics that go into it. You have to watch the news carefully for signs of new gold mines, Indian attacks, and plagues, and you have to record the prices you get for goods at various towns. I basically just sold based on convenience, which is probably why I ended up as a "rather wealthy man" instead of an extremely wealthy one. Although there's no equipment to buy with your booty, you do need it for treasure maps, intelligence about cities, letters of marque, and ship repairs. Your total gold also determines your crew morale, along with the length of the voyage and the number of crewmembers, adding a bit of fun strategy. Finally, gold never stops being important, since it affects your final score. I guess I just wish there was more stuff to buy. Score: 7.

Fairly middling prices on everything. A smart captain wouldn't sell here.
8. Goin' on account. There is no one "quest" in the game--another sign of non-CRPGness--but you do have a lot of options for self-imposed quests, such as rising the ranks of various nations, rescuing all your family members, getting married, sacking a particular town, capturing the treasure fleet or silver train, and achieving a certain total in gold or land. Your ultimate "quest," I guess, is to get as high a score as possible in the final tallying, although some players might prefer individual achievements--like four dukedoms--to any overarching score. The governors also give you some minor quests, such as delivering letters or capturing pirates. Score: 6.

9. Graphics, Sound, and Inputs (aye, there be no pirate talk for these). The graphics in the DOS version are tolerable, but the sound really is not, and I played most of it with the speakers off. The game has an annoying tendency to make you wait until its little victory tunes finish playing before you can see the results of your ship captures and such. I wish the controls had involved less arrow-scrolling through options and more ability to choose by letter, but generally they were fairly intuitive. Score: 4.

10. Yo-ho-ho. The gameplay is really the best element of Pirates! It is completely non-linear, allowing you to do whatever you want whenever you want. Much of the fun in the game comes from strategizing next actions, since time is so precious. Do I waste four months finding the buried treasure near Villa Hermosa, or do I wait until I have some other business there? Should I travel from Gibraltar to Havana via Santa Catalina, where someone has intelligence about my missing mother, but knowing that I will likely have no other significant encounters? Or should I travel up the Lesser Antilles, knowing it will maximize my chances of finding my enemies' ships? Do I trade in the heavily-defended San Juan, knowing the fort might fire on me, or do I head for the undefended but poor Trinidad? As we covered in the first posting, Pirates! allows for considerable role-playing, and in that role-playing comes enormous replayability. Once you master certain aspects of the gameplay, the challenge suffers a bit, but you can always ratchet that up by giving yourself a promotion. As you might guess from the frequency of my postings about the game this weekend, it is enormously addictive. For all of these reasons, I give the game my highest score in this category so far: 9.

The final score of 48 seems awfully low given how much I enjoyed the game, but of course I'm ranking it as a CRPG rather than a strategy game or simulator. For its real category, I would invent another kind of GIMLET scale.

The game was actually marketed as Sid Meier's Pirates! Like Richard Garriott, Meier is one of the few names that you know if you know games. He would later go on to create the Civilization series, which I sheepishly admit I've never played and am unlikely to play as part of this blog. But I will be dipping into other MicroProse titles with Darklands (1992), BloodNet (1993), and Master of Magic (1994).

Having finished this game, I have a few questions for other Pirates! players:

  • Has anyone ever sailed all the way up to Bermuda, or walked across Honduras to Gran Granada? If so, why?
  • Has anyone played an entire game after failing the copy protect question at the beginning? How did it go?
  • Is the 2004 version basically just the same game with better graphics and sound, or does it add a lot of new material?

Although I probably tested the patience of CRPG purists with these postings, I added Pirates! Gold and the 2004 re-release to my list, maybe just for one posting, to see what's changed. I look absurdly forward to finding out.


  1. Damned, I wish I had played this game 20 years ago! But I think what deterred me was that I had earlier played Ports of Call, another maritime strategy game with action elements. Sadly PoC could have been a truly great game had it not been for the frustrating and exceedingly boring action sequences where you have to manually land your ships.
    After that I was always wary of games that combined turn based strategy with real time action sequences...

  2. Ah, memories! I mostly played the NES version, though. I got it for my dorm roommate in university for Christmas one year. Became very popular with a lot of people on our floor.

    "Is the 2004 version basically just the same game with better graphics and sound, or does it add a lot of new material?"

    I wouldn't say it has a lot of new material, but it does have some additions from the original. One of the more questionable ones is a ballroom dancing minigame that people came to hate. You have to watch the hand signals the governor's daughter and do the correct steps. This is how you woo the daughters and find a bride in this game.

    I also remember the land battles being better in the 2004 version. I avoided land battles in the original, myself, because they were kind of painful.

  3. Master of Magic is the bastard child of the first Civilization and Master of Orion. It is not an RPG. I suppose it had units gain XP and pioneered hero units - really tough guys who become ridiculous when you find or craft equipment for them - but its genre is still 4X. Sorry about that.

    But if you were up for side trips, I'd heartily recommend the RTS Majesty: A Fantasy Kingdom Sim (2000). It transplants the mechanics of an RPG kingdom into an entirely different genre. The player is a Sovereign whose men are barely a match to the giant rats that crawl out of the sewers. To get anything done, the player must recruit heroes and announce rewards. Taxes from the sales of healing potions and enchanted weapons are a significant part of the economy. It's hilarious.

    Pirates 2004 has upgrades for sale.

    1. Actually, heroes first show up in SSG's Warlords (about four years before MoM). ...If there wasn't anything before that.

      At any rate, yes, it's a fantasy conquest game, and not any kind of RPG. It's good, but probably not the RPGAddict's kind of game (and certainly not the kind for the blog).

  4. The score of 48 is really quite impressive since this game is essentially competing with two categories that don't apply. It's scored higher than a number of games which are widely considered classics.

  5. Petrus, there are an awful lof of them, aren't there? I find Pirates of the Barbary Coast (1986), Ports of Call (1989), Pirates: Captain's Quest (1997), Sea Dogsl (2000), Port Royale (2002), Pirates of the Caribbean (2003), Port Royale 2 (2004), and Pirateville (2007), in addition to the three Pirates! releases, a text adventure called Pirate Adventure (1978), and several online games. This includes only PC games, by the way. This is not a genre starving for games. But, oddly, Pirates! is the only one MobyGames suggests is a CRPG.

    Brian, thanks for the answer. I can't say I think the original game suffers from the lack of a ballroom dancing mini-game, but I'm glad the land battles improved.

    Anon, I've never even heard of Master of Magic before I just typed it into this posting, seeing it on my list. Sounds like another questionable tag on MobyGames.

    Eric, keep in mind that my scoring is only meant to reflect my enjoyment of the game and not how significant the game was in the development of CRPG history, nor even how much I "would have enjoyed it" at the time of the original release. Wizard's Crown might have been seminal--a necessary step towards the Gold Box games--but I personally couldn't stand it.

  6. Please give Sword of the Samurai a go when you reach its release even if mobygames bills it as 'action, adventure, strategy'. It's more of an RPG than most RPGs. Even if you don't post about it on the blog (though I suspect you will if you do try it), I am just certain that you'll enjoy it since you like Pirates! so. It even has some stat-building! But the big draw is 'become Shogun by any means you deem applicable or necessary!'. It's a gem of game design.

  7. The 2004 version does have equipment, actually. There's items that make minigames easier, generally a weaker and stronger version of each that can be owned simultaneously for every greater effect, which can be bought in taverns or acquired through various other means. You actually have to hunt for them, though - the guy selling 'em in the tavern might not have anything at all, and if he does he'll have one specific item. There's also gifts for the governors' daughters and a few other miscellaneous things. And you can do some minor upgrades to ships.

  8. Sword of the Samurai is basically the Japanese Pirates! (ie. set in Japan, as opposed to crazy anime).

    I personally couldn't stand the remakes of Pirates!. The graphics in the original weren't bad at all, the only thing that really needed some work was the music. I don't remember details of why I didn't like Pirates Gold but I found the land battles in the 2004 version to be even worse and the ballroom dancing game was just garbage. The entire aesthetic just seemed cartoony to me.

  9. Actually, I *liked* the dancing minigame in the remake of pirates. It's about timing and rhythm and is a refreshing difference. The sneaking through town minigame, on the other hand, sucked -- too difficult for the reward gained.

  10. Master of Magic is a great game, but no crpg. GOG labels their copy strategy and turnbased fantasy simply. Are you counting Heroes of Might and Magic as CRPGS?

    And don't feel bad about playing Pirates! on a CRPG-blog! Personally I think it fit in at LEAST as well as the simplest of the earlier games and the rogue(-likes) for that matter. Also it was great fun to read :)

    Thanks for blogging, I really enjoy following it.

  11. Personally I would have liked to see MoM, HoMM and Age of Wonders included, but calling them CRPGs is a bit of a stretch, even though there are CRPG elements like character building, skills and a nice assortment of items that your characters can use.

    1. If these were included, I'd reckon Cavewars should be too. Damn, it is so obscure that I doubt anybody here even heard of it, let alone played it.

  12. Pirates! was one of the first PC games I ever played, so I'm glad to read about it even if it is not quite a standard RPG.

    I'm also very excited to hear your thoughts about Darklands---I probably spent more time on that game than any other before or since! I wonder if it would still keep my interest today though...

  13. I enjoyed reading about Pirates! even though it is not a CRPG. I also agree that while it is not a CRPG, it is close enough that I agree with the inclusion of Pirates!Gold and the 2004 Remake.

    Someone mentioned Master of Magic. Let me be upfront with this, Master of Magic is great game, one of my personal favorites. Despite that, it is not a CRPG and probably does not deserve time on this blog, despite the rpg-trappings it affects.

    That being said, if you CRPG-Addict decide to play it and blog about it, I will read about it and enjoy it.

  14. Helm, I'd hate to disappoint such a dedicated reader, so I've added Sword of the Samurai to my list for at least a brief investigation in 1989.

    Thanks for the info on the 2004 version, malkav11. Those sound like nice touches. Given 7hm's and Eugene's varying opinions on ballroom dancing, I'll reserve judgement until I play it (in probably 15 years!).

    Equlan, MobyGames actually DOES list HoMM as CRPGs. While I allow that this inclusion is questionable, I want to give the series a try, because I understand they introduce plot elements that show up in MM6 and MM7.

    Twood, Darklands is coming up in like 160 games, so keep reading.

    I'm glad you all enjoyed Pirates!

    1. I was disappointed to see that there was no brief written up for Sword of the Samurai in 1989. As I have played both games more extensively than I ought to admit, Sword of the Samurai was a pleasant diversion in the same vein as Pirates! but with a Japanese spin. Both are by Sid Meier. However, both are quite superior to Covert Action (also Sid Meier similar time period), solely in my opinion, strictly because the minigames in the latter were less enjoyable. I digress. Even without any brief, I do hope you find or have found a chance to play Sword of the Samurai at your leisure. If you haven't yet, I can confirm it is definitely worth an afternoon or two if only for the nostalgic charm in playing a game that is both very similar to and wholly different from Pirates! while still being fun.

  15. Hmm; if Pirates! counts as a CRPG, what about, say, Elite (which does let you upgrade your ship's equipment)?

  16. I think the HoMM/M&M crossover starts as of HoMM3. Which is the best of the bunch anyway. But I would in no way count them as RPGs, m'self. The original King's Bounty, possibly (which is the spiritual predecessor). The newfangled Russian King's Bounty games, more possibly. HoMM games? Nah.

  17. See, the theory was, rather than apply MY definition of a CRPG, I'd use a neutral third party. I tried Wikipedia's list at first, but it turned out it was missing a whole lot of stuff. So I supplemented it with MobyGames's list, which seems to have a lot of questionable stuff. Find me a middle ground that doesn't involve our individual interpretations and I'll take it. In the meanwhile, my answer to you, Ben, is that no one lists "Elite" as a CRPG whereas MobyGames does list "Pirates!" as a CRPG (in addition to other things; their categories aren't exclusive). Is there any difference between the two? Perhaps "Elite" doesn't allow for customization and promotions of the main character?

  18. The only RPG elements in Elite is that you can upgrade your ship (or in some versions buy different ships) and role play to a certain degree. You can chose to be a law abiding merchant, smuggler (by trading in narcotics and alien artifacts)or a pirate. You can have one of three legal statuses: Clean, Offender or Fugitive, and your rating as a combateer increases from Harmless, to Mostly Harmless and up to Deadly and Elite. There are also som quests or missions, like getting a Cloaking Device and escaping from a star going nova.
    But the emphasis is on action and trading. I eventually reached Elite status on the Spectrum version; dog fighting against small packs of pirates was great and intense fun. Elite is definitely one of the greatest games of all time ("Game of a lifetime" as the ads said), but sadly the sequel - Frontier - adopted a more realistic physics, so it felt more like a boring simulation of a modern jet fighter than good, old fashioned WW1 and WW2 dog fights.

  19. Try to define an rpg and a hundred different people will give you a hundred different answers.

    I'd stick with what you have already established you are going to play.

    On the plus side MoM is a great game. A classic in every sense of the word. I was always a little upset that they never made MoM 2, but we got MOO 2 and 3 (I loved those as well, but would have liked to have seen a MoM 2).

    Thanks for this blast to the past with Pirates! I never did that well when I was a kid. I think my highest ranking was farm hand.

  20. I was actually a bit disappointed. I remember hitting "king's advisor" five times in a row (in each scenario) when I was a kid. Of course, back then I didn't have any compunction against reloading if things didn't go my way. In fact, I think I used to save before I knew I was going to get a map. If I didn't know the location the map depicted immediately, I would reload and try again.

  21. Thanks for this detour through Pirates, a very enjoyable read as usual, even if it's not a strict RPG. I am for making short excursions out of normal territory if it helps you keep up your motivation, especially if the games are considered classics.

    (By the way I had a lot of work lately and couldn't follow up with your tremendous writing production this month, I'm slowly catching up!)

  22. Thank you very much for your posts, they are really enlightening for the enhancements I plan to make to my game (Expedition: The New World)

    While it's currently set on 1492, I'll be adding the possibility of playing in other time frames.

    If you want to give a look at it, there's a video here: your comments are more than welcome :)

  23. Pirates! reminds me also about Defender of the Crown.
    Both take place in real world history (DotC in England after the Norman conquest in 1066) and feature both strategy and various mini-games.
    I remember being very impressed by the graphics of the Amiga version of Defender of the Crown, but in the end the game was a bit too shallow and simple. I get the impression that Pirates! is deeper.

  24. I had DotC on my C64 and I liked it a lot, but of course later strategy games like Warlords came along and blew it away with better options. I probably should have used DotC is an example in my "Paladin" posting about how poorly some strategy games age.

  25. The 2004 Version adds items and ballroom dancing.

    Ballroom dancing without the dancing items on Swashbuckler level with a beautiful girl is *hard*.

    To me, Pirates! always felt like the most true-CRPG of all, since you have all the choices and none of the tiresome statistics which sometimes gets used as main defining value for a RPG.
    To me, Diablo is no CRPG. There are no choices to be made. Sure, you can choose whether you want to go Warrior or Mage (and fire or ice), but thats just statistics for me, really.

  26. I agree, but as I covered in another posting, computer roleplaying games have never been so much about actual "role-playing" as about adapting the stats, logistics, and equipment from tabletop roleplaying games to the computer.

  27. The Dread Pirate RodgersDecember 1, 2011 at 10:57 PM

    I played this game religiously as a kid. Sitting in an unheated porch, wearing a coat, on our crappy pc.

    I have both sailed to bermuda, and walked to gran grenada (sacking it, I was a master at the overland combat) both times for the lost family member quest.

    I think I played a game after failing the copy protection, just to see if it would let me keep playing. Think I did pretty poorly, but it was, what, 20 years ago.

    Pirates Gold was basically this game with better graphics and sound plus mouse support. I like the new one, it adds some minigames that aren't too bad, I like how they've changed the ground combat, and you can upgrade your ships and buy stuff to help you stay healthy, and swords and suchforth. I've been playing it on and off since it came out.

  28. Great user name for your first comment here, too.

  29. 1) Has anyone ever sailed all the way up to Bermuda, or walked across Honduras to Gran Granada? If so, why?
    Yes, because that blasted place is RICH! Arrr!

    2) Has anyone played an entire game after failing the copy protect question at the beginning? How did it go?
    Never tried, but I think you won't be able to engage the captain who would provide you with the 1st ship which allows you to sail on. Meaning, you will have to retry to get the answer correct.

    3) Is the 2004 version basically just the same game with better graphics and sound, or does it add a lot of new material?

    Combat is also improved, allowing you to pull off special offensive and defensive moves.

    Courting governors' daughters also require some ballroom dancing skills to pull off.

    Also, firearms!

    1. Ooh! Forgot some other stuff.

      A top 10 list of Pirates to beat and become the most timber-shiverin' pirate of the Caribbeans!

      Finally, the inclusion of an arch-nemesis; the bastard who enslaved the player's entire family.

  30. I'm late to the party here, but I just wanted to chime in by saying that I'd played both the original and the 2004 versions of Pirates! and I have to say that for me personally, the 2004 version is now easier for me to deal with for an extended period (though I had no problem with the first one back in the day.)

    There were subtle touches with music and sound effects that I felt added to the feel of the game in a way that 80's games had no chance of replicating. (Then again, you could just "use your imagination" back then, a standard feature of every low-budget game back.)

    And though it's been a few years since I played either version, I seem to recall having a few stats for your character, though I don't think they changed throughout the game. But they did affect how one approached certain parts of the game. There were a lot more equipment options available, too. (And yes, I even enjoyed the ballroom dancing addition, though its impact on the game is minimal.)

    My biggest gripe with the game, actually, was the excessive use of event-related cutscenes, which were cool at first but became tiresome after the twentieth time you see them.

    But enough of that. Back to the 2012 content!

    1. I'm glad you read it. I really enjoyed my Pirates! entries, even though it's impossible to justify as a CRPG. I look forward to trying out the 2004 edition in...well, probably 2028.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  31. It was mentioned before, but I wanted to confirm Uncharted Waters (coming up soon) includes more RPG trappings. You'll have to create a character, set his stats, and manage equipment. From the 5 minutes I played to test it for inclusion in my own playing, it seems to have more emphasis put on trading; however, that's just first impressions.

    After reading the comments and seeing Helm's suggestion, I'm looking forward to seeing your write-up of Sword of the Samurai.

  32. Master of Magic is a Civilization clone that includes some RPG elements. Specifically, game play is about running a country and building up cities and armies. But as the leader, you can cast some big spells and learn some skills that will help with the cities and armies. It's >less< of an RPG than Pirates!. A tremendously fun game that I highly recommend, but not an RPG.

    Heroes of Might and Magic is also not an RPG series. They changed title (to include "Heroes of") specifically to call out the genre change. It's a tactical war sim with virtually no opportunity to play a real role. On the other hand, your heroes can gain levels and skills and artifacts that help out their armies, so there are elements. And starting with HoMM2, there are backstories, so that's there, too. I do recommend the series, though I myself haven't been able to get through them all.

    The King's Bounty games (both the original and the new ones) are somewhere between a CRPG and the Heroes games. It's still a tactical army sim, but you control only one hero and you make a few actual roleplaying choices.

    Majesty is officially an RTS, and for good reason, but it does have RPG elements, too.

    While I'm of the opinion that all of the above merit play, if you're going to be inclusive of things with marginal RPG elements, you'll be here even longer than you already think you will be. Wolfinstein 3D could be argued to be a 1-person dungeon crawl with rolls to hit and everything.

    Back to Pirates!, I have tried several times to get into it, but have failed each time. Something about it isn't clicking for me, and it's possible that it's because I never played it when I was young, but other people seem to like it despite that. I intend on reading the rest of the Pirates! articles (I've been skimming the final posts for each game, mostly) and seeing if I can figure out what I've missed.

    1. I realize that HoMM is barely justifiable--or perhaps not justifiable at all--as a CRPG series. I still plan to play them because it's my blog and I can do whatever I want nyah nyah nyah. Plus, there's some thematic links between the HoMM games and the main MM games that I want to explore.

      On Pirates!, there really aren't many other games that give you such an open, dynamic world to explore and so many possibilities in your outcome. The quality of the individual encounters and combats is poor, but the sense of exploration is fantastic.

      I'm sorry to hear that you're just going through the final postings. I frankly think they're the weakest of the postings on the blog. I have a lot more fun writing (and I think the quality is better) about mid-game, which I've learned the interface and can start exploring the nuances.

    2. Oh. Well, I had to start somewhere, as there's a lot of content to catch up to, but I'll keep that in mind and look further into the descriptions sooner.

    3. Yeah, I actually think King's Bounty, both in the sense of the original and the Russian reboot-series, is more of a CRPG than the Heroes of Might & Magic series, since at least in the King's Bounty games you control one character throughout and have a definitive overarching quest that is related to combat but not solely about combat--ala an CRPG--as opposed to Heroes of Might & Magic where it is kind of like "well, beat all the other enemy armies with whatever you want, I suppose, then you are done."

      Not to say that is bad, but I am a huge King's Bounty fan, so I had to toss that out there.

  33. Was the Pirates remake really 2004? Sheesh, I feel old now. That was an amazing game. I never got around to playing the original, but I've heard the 04 version is basically the same thing with a few minor addition that improve the overall package. I'll admit I kind of enjoyed the dancing thing. I didn't find it to be very hard.

    This was a pretty interesting series of posts. While I wouldn't want an entire CRPG spoiled so thoroughly (unless I've played it), it works great for a game like this that doesn't have any surprises after the initial learning curve.

    Didn't you say before Questron was your first CRPG? I may be mistaken, but if it is, why don't you bend your rules a bit for that like you did this one and review it? I'd be interested to see your modern take on the first CRPG that ever addicted you.

  34. I'm a bit late for commenting this but there is an easter egg in this game at least in c64 version.
    It comes in a form of a damaged Dutch cargo fluit that sails impossibly fast against the wind (- 20 knots !?? ) and has a very little crew on board.

    It took me a while but then I suddenly figured out why that damaged ship with no masts was sailing impossibly fast against the wind and was of course a Dutch vessel.

    1. No kidding? Are you saying that YOU can experience this by acquiring a damaged cargo fluyt? Or is it an NPC ship that you encounter?

    2. Or does this happen to any Dutch cargo fluyt enemy that you significantly damage?

    3. No, you cannot experience it yourself. The Flying Dutchman is a one-of-a-kind ghost ship that you cannot capture. It's quite funny that Sid Meier would leave that in.

    4. I never encountered this in the Mac version! I wonder if it was included! How awesome!

  35. Has anyone ever sailed all the way up to Bermuda, or walked across Honduras to Gran Granada? If so, why?
    Yup, was curious to see what was there. I even captured Gran Granada at some point.

    Has anyone played an entire game after failing the copy protect question at the beginning? How did it go?
    Oh god no, it's literally unplayable. It's even harder than the top difficulty (about twice as hard)

    Is the 2004 version basically just the same game with better graphics and sound, or does it add a lot of new material?
    2004 includes Dancing, equipment, ship upgrades, and obviously graphics. However you lose the 1560 and some other time period, no Silver train or treasure fleet. They each have their perks, but I miss the 1560 period a lot. It was challenging enough to be my favorite in the original.

    -- Francois424

  36. I go to Gran Granada once per expedition. So at least 4 times per game. The gold you get is always worth the time and they obviously never have any idea you're coming so you always get it all. I'll try to make it the far off places like Bermuda once per game. It increases my enjoyment to see all the world has to offer. I would travel by land even to get to areas that could be reached by sea. That makes sure nobody knows you're coming and you get all the gold you can get.

    With the original game (I've played it heavily on the Amiga and C64) I exclusively fight towns on land. You rise up the ranks much more quickly if you can take a town and the best way to do that is with more men on land. Sailing a frigate or bigger into a town is quite hard to do without getting damaged. This was much easier in the Amiga and Sega Genesis Pirates! Gold remakes so depending on my objectives I would attack a town by ship in that game.

    I have the DOS version of Pirates Gold but I've never been able to get far into it because it's so inferior, even to the original game on DOS.

    I played this game so much as a kid I memorized (to this day) all the terrain. My dad would play it and ask me to tell him where a one corner of a map piece was. I always rescued all of my family members and got the lost Inca treasure 4 times because I always found it with one corner of the map.

    Pirates Gold doesn't really add much to the game, it arguably gives it a bit more RPG credibility as there are fixed quests in the game. "The 10 Great Pirate Quests" which are all things you would have strived to do in the first game anyway. Even the graphics, while better in a sense, when compared to the Amiga version of the first game, don't offer much of an upgrade. There is a full soundtrack to the game that is enjoyable. If you like the original you'll like the gold version, at least on the Amiga or Genesis. The DOS version is radically different than those two and I never enjoyed it.

    Weird that this game was classified as an RPG, I don't see it. Just an open world strategy/simulation. Much like a lot of Microprose/Sid stuff. Railroad Tycoon, Civilization... I've looked at a lot of magazine reviews of it at the time and nobody ever called it an RPG. I just looked at Moby's listing of it now and it's just labeled an action/strategy game.

    One of the best games of all time... But not an RPG. Of course, you are correct in that you are role playing. As a kid I would watch my dad play it on the Amiga and I would run up and down our basement stairs pretending it was a ship and sword fight and jump into the sea (the floor) and climb back up the ship. In that sense, it caused me to role play more than any other game I've ever played.

  37. What's great about Gran Granada is that there's no fort. So it almost doesn't matter how many men you take with you; as long as you're a decent swordsman, it's a milk run.

  38. Had to comment that a long time ago I had the choice between buying this (which I already had a pirated copy of YAR!) or Hillsfar, and I can't help but still think I made the wrong choice...

    I still prefer playing the C64 version, but the Genesis version is great as it has no load times.

    I am also glad that others mentioned Uncharted Waters. Both that (and Uncharted Waters II) were really enjoyable. (I played them on the Genesis.)

    1. So, did you buy this game?

      Uncharted Waters (both 1 & 2) were heavily watered down in both the SNES and Genesis systems. The PC version was a lot more detailed and seemed to be larger.

    2. To this day I've only purchased Pirates! Gold for PC and Genesis. (And once more on GOG for good measure.)

      I'll have to dig up the PC version of Uncharted Waters 1 & 2...

  39. For the record, the sound--and especially the music--of the Mac version of this game was amazing. You seriously got robbed.

    DOS Version:
    Mac Version (ignore the loud talker):

    Most of the music clips on the Mac version are taken from Handel's Water Music, and this game had no small part in boosting my love for Baroque music later in life.

    Also, fun fact: As I was prepping the YouTube clips for this comment and listening to the audio in the Mac play video, I kept hearing these godawful blerps and bleeps blasting through my headphones. "What in the hell is that terrible noise? This guy has something weird going on with his system . . ." I was about to type a disclaimer when I realized I still had the DOS version video playing in another tab. Man they ARE terrible. No wonder you muted.

    I know you don't do replays and you've got a list and all, but given how much you liked this game and the fact you have Mini vMac set up and all, it really is worth a few minutes of your time just to listen to it. It's really, really great.

    1. Okay, see, I'm new to this blog. So forgive me when I say stuff you spoke to previously. I'm catching up.

      I see you played this on a Mac back in the day.

  40. I loved Pirates! so much, I played it hundred of hours.

    * "Has anyone played an entire game after failing the copy protect question at the beginning? How did it go?"

    When I first played the game I was about 11 years old. I had a pirated copy from the schoolyard. I didn't know any english by that time, so I didn't even realized that there is a copy protection. So I played a long time at a forced extra heavy difficulty:
    The crews mood get angry very fast, and when you divide up the plunder its an automatic game over. But by the time I managed to survive several years. Every time I leaved a harbor a good portion of the crew deserted.

    Later I randomly find the right answer and kept a copy of that save game in a save place, to start over and over again from there. I even shared the save with a few friends who also felt in love with the game, but didn't realized the copy protection thing. We talked a lot about the game.

    * "Has anyone ever sailed all the way up to Bermuda?"

    Bermuda can be valuable, when you are playing the english in an early setting, especially when the spanish take over other english towns.

    I started with the C64 version of the game, which had long loading times. Later I bought the Amiga version, with enough RAM the loading only happens once, then it plays very smooth. The Amiga version is the most beautiful of all versions, and haves a very good sound. Only thing that bugged me is that there is no scrolling, like in the DOS version, too. The C64 version have smooth scrolling, so sailing fast is much easier. For the best playing experience a digital joystick like the Competition Pro is recommend, I can't even imagine playing this with the keyboard.

    The 2004 version is ok, but it have not the same charm and immersion for me. It adds only minor things, mainly mini games. The old Pirates! was a blast by that time, besides Elite the first open world sandbox game, and with a cool setting. For 2004 the new game was to similar to the old one, without the feeling of the old game. Other games had raised the expectations.

    1. The idea of playing not only on the difficulty level imposed by failing the copy protection but ALSO not even speaking the language is pretty crazy. It's the kind of thing you only have time and patience to do as a kid.

    2. I don't think native English speakers will ever really understand what it was like to have every single game in existence have all its text written in a foreign language that you might occasionally be able to get a parent or an older sibling to translate for you. But that's just how it was, and the idea that text in games could've potentially have been written in a language we knew didn't even occur to us to consider. I don't think it even registered that there were countries in the world where young children actually knew English - to us the reality was simply that text in games was written in a language only adults could understand.

  41. It may not be a true rpg, but Pirates! still has a lot to teach about setting and quest design, and it's an excellent game, so I'm happy to see it here.

    Reading these posts in 2020 (!) and being reminded of the game, which I haven't played since about 2006 (!!), I'm struck by how much Assassin's Creed: Black Flag owes to Pirates!.

  42. Apologies if you've already done so but you can remove Simtex's Master of Magic from your list. It is not a CRPG in any way, no more than Civilization is. It is a fantasy 4X strategy game, and one of the better ones even to this day, but I don't think it should be on here.

    1. I'm not sure it was ever on the list. I think when I wrote that, I was confusing it with an RPG of the same or similar title.


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