Sid Meier's Pirates! (2004)

Sid Meier's Pirates! (2004)

Infobox VG
title = Sid Meier's Pirates! (2004)

developer = Firaxis Games Full Fat (PSP)
publisher = Atari, 2K Games, Valve Corporation (Steam)
designer =
engine = Gamebryo
version = 1.02 (August 11, 2005)
released = November 22 2004 (Windows)
July 11 2005 (Xbox)
October 26 2006 (Steam)
January 22 2007 (PSP)
November 1 2007 (Gametap)
February 11 2008 (Xbox 360)
August 29 2008 (Mac OS X)
genre = Strategy
modes = Single player
ratings = ESRB:
PC: E (Everyone)
Xbox, Xbox 360: T (Teen)
PSP: E10+ (Everyone 10 and older)
platforms = Microsoft Windows, Xbox, Xbox 360 (Xbox Originals), PlayStation Portable, Mac OS X
media = CD (2), DVD (Xbox), UMD (PSP)
requirements = Windows 98/Me/2000/XP, Pentium III or AMD Athlon 1 GHz or higher, 256 MB RAM, 1.4 GB hard disk space, 4X CD-ROM Drive (8X Recommended), 64 MB T&L-compatible SVGA video card
input = Keyboard and Mouse (Windows), gamepad (Xbox, Xbox 360, PSP)

"Sid Meier's Pirates!" is a 2004 strategy/action/adventure computer game developed by Firaxis Games and published by Atari. [moby game|id=/sid-meiers-pirates-|name="Pirates!"] The game is a remake of Sid Meier's earlier 1987 game, also named "Sid Meier's Pirates!". Overall, the gameplay remains similar to the original game, though it features a 3D game engine (NDL's Gamebryo). Some elements such as sun sighting have been removed, but other features have been added, such as a ballroom dancing mini-game and an improved turn-based land combat system.

A Microsoft Xbox version was released on July 11, 2005 which includes some multiplayer capabilities. The Xbox version is on the Xbox 360 backwards compatibility list in North America and Europe. A version for the Sony PlayStation Portable was released on January 22 2007. This new version features some modified gameplay mechanisms and was developed by Full Fat in collaboration with Firaxis Games. Also, a mobile version will be put out in Q1 of 2008 and is being made by Oasys Mobile. [ [ ] ] The Xbox version was released on the Xbox Live Marketplace for the Xbox 360 as an Xbox Original on February 11, 2008. The game was ported to Mac OS X by Feral Interactive, under its' Feral Legends label.


New games start with a short back story: An evil Spanish nobleman, the Marquis de Montalban, enslaves the hero's family because the family is unable to pay their debt to him when the fleet of ships under their control is lost at sea. The hero, at this time a boy, manages to evade capture. Ten years later, the boy, now an adult, enters a bar, where he is given a list of options to define his name, difficulty level, special skill, and preferred era. After selecting these, the player must choose which nation to initially sail with: the English, Dutch, Spanish, or French. In every case the voyage on this ship is harsh and the captain treats the hero and his fellow crew like slaves until he incites a mutiny by his ill treatment. The crew sets the captain adrift and selects the hero as their new captain. After this, the ship is the hero's and he is deposited a short distance from a major city of the ship's nationality.

From this point on, the hero's future is entirely in the player's hands in an open-ended campaign in which the hero gains fame and notoriety before retiring. The story itself evolves in whatever manner the player chooses, and optimally ends with the player gaining enough fame points by completing various achievements to retire into a wealthy position in the Caribbean community.


"Pirates" is separated into several mini-games requiring different skills, as well as an overall "sailing map" mode where the player navigates around the Caribbean, looking for things to do. Sailing technique, evasion (running from guards), naval gunnery, turn-based strategy, dancing, fencing and strategic planning are all skills needed to succeed in "Pirates". During the game, players can acquire items and special crewmembers which make some mini-games less skill-dependent, but must also choose one of five different skills at the start, which the game will give them an advantage in.

Most controls are relegated to the nine keys of the number pad, and the game is completely playable using only the keyboard (numpad keys and enter). This is assisted by a visual representation of the keypad in the lower right corner of the screen, which also shows the function of each key at any given time. For example, during ship-to-ship combat, the "3", "7", and "1" keys on the numpad representation are shown with images of different cannonball types - these buttons are used to select different types of cannonballs to fire. The on-screen keypad can also be clicked with a mouse, performing the same function as the keyboard key would have performed. Though the mouse can be used for various commands, the keypad is the preferred input mechanism due to the game's mechanics.


The majority of the game is spent sailing from destination to destination around the Caribbean islands. To control their ship the player must use the number pad (or the directional arrows) on the keyboard. Mouse navigation is also possible, where clicking anywhere on the screen will send the ship sailing in that direction. During the sailing segment, the player navigates between areas of interest in the Caribbean, including colonies, cities, missions, pirate havens, and others. Wind conditions have an important effect on sailing, as winds tend to blow westwards (especially on lower difficulty levels) and as such speed up travels to the west while slowing down travel to the east. Clouds passing overhead indicate barometric depressions, and at the centers of these depressions are storms which cause powerful winds (usually assisting sailing in any direction) but also posing a threat to any ship passing underneath the storm. Unlike previous versions of the game, the Caribbean is teeming with ships represented visually by their three-dimensional models. The player can spot these ships from a distance and even collect information about their mission, port of departure, destination, and nationality. This allows the player to hand-pick his, as well as actively pursue most ships if an attack is to be attempted. Unlike previous "Pirates!" games, however, enemy ships cannot force the player to fight, although they can bombard the player's ships en route to a destination. Fortified cities which hold a particular grudge against the player (or whose controlling nation holds a substantial bounty over the player's head) may also open fire upon the player's fleet as they pass by. The player must also navigate around reefs and shoals, which cause hull damage to any ship which passes over them. Finally, if the player wishes, he may sail their ship unto the shoreline, allowing the crew to disembark and begin to march. This can be used when the player wishes to approach a hostile city without being fired upon, or to travel on land seeking buried treasure, lost cities, or Montalban's hideout.

Naval battles

The player will encounter numerous ships while sailing, all of which can be attacked. The player may decide to start a battle, although enemy ships may open fire and begin a chase on the sailing map. The player also gets the option to switch flagships, controlling which of the ships under his possession will actually engage the enemy. Sailing ships in combat is handled much the same as sailing them on the main map. The player controls a single ship, and must navigate this ship according to the prevailing winds, the ship's specific sailing strengths, and the goals he wishes to accomplish during the battle. Several differences do apply, mostly the inability to sail directly into the wind with most ships (which is possible, albeit slowly, on the sailing map), as well as the lack of dynamic weather (no storms, although engaging while in a storm will provide storm conditions during the entire battle). Depending on the player's ship, the enemy's ship, and various other factors, a battle may have one or more desirable outcomes. The most common goal in ship-to-ship combat would be the capture of the enemy vessel, either by directly boarding it and carrying the deck, or by subduing the ship by cannon fire. An enemy ship will always surrender if it is dismasted (escort ships never surrender), although it can also choose to surrender if faced with a powerful boarding party compared to its own crew. Smaller ships are adept at the former strategy (quick boarding, with little cannon fire exchanged). Larger ships, especially Frigates, are often much more suited to subduing the enemy ship through cannon fire, due to their powerful broadsides.

Another possible outcome may be the sinking of the enemy ship. After the enemy's hull has been hit enough with cannon balls, a shot will end up in the powder magazine, destroying the ship.

Much of the naval combat mini-game goes into attempting to outmaneuver the enemy, bringing the enemy vessel into cannon range while trying to stay out of the enemy's line-of-fire. The player may also attempt to board the enemy as quickly as possible so as not to harm his ship or to avoid damaging the target. Wind direction and specific ship capabilities feature heavily into this. Some ships are adept at sailing in sharp angles to the wind direction, while others can only gain reasonable speed while sailing along with the wind. Turning speed is also different between ship types, and so some ships can actually weave between cannonballs, while others turn extremely slowly and cannot make fancy maneuvers at all. There is great emphasis in knowing the particular strengths and weaknesses of one's ship, and the ability to continuously gauge wind direction and act accordingly.

Automatic aiming is also applied to the shot, which may (especially in lower difficulties) cause the cannonballs to be fired at a narrower angle to the ship's heading. This automatic aiming attempt to take into account the heading and speed of the enemy ship, and so will often cause a more accurate hit, although it can also be detrimental, especially against quick enemies. Cannons facing the enemy are fired in volleys. Once fired, the crew begins to reload, a task which takes a certain amount of time depending on the number of cannons, the number of crew, and several other factors. Volleys can be fired even when not all cannons have been loaded, as opposed to a broadside. The largest broadside possible is fired by a fully armed Ship of the Line, which mounts 48 guns. Such a volley is often wide enough to hit the enemy regardless of his attempts to maneuver out of the way. The player needs to take into account the enemy's heading and speed when firing the broadside, as cannonballs take some time to travel the distance between the two ships, and therefore cannot be fired directly at the enemy's position unless the enemy is motionless or at extremely close range.

Another important tactical decision is the ability to choose shot types. Round shot is the default shot type, with additional upgrades making the use of grape shot and chain shot. Each type causes a different range of damage upon impact, and also has different ballistic capabilities. Round shot has the longest range of the three, and greatest speed. Upon impact, it has a great chance of damaging a ship's hull (potentially sinking the ship), and a smaller chance of destroying cannons, killing crew, or damaging the sails. Chain shot has a shorter range and flies at a slower speed. Its impact is most likely to cause sail damage to the enemy ship, slowing it down, or potentially dismasting it. Chain shot also has a small chance of killing enemy crew. Grape shot is very slow and has a short range, but upon impact it can kill large portions of the enemy crew, weakening the ship and slowing their reloading. Grape shot also has the potential of damaging enemy sails.

hip capture and prizes

If a ship has surrendered, or its captain defeated in combat, it is considered "captured". The player may now unload any gold and cargo from the ship, and may also add it to his fleet if there is room. If the ship's crew had a specialist, like a sailmaker or a cooper, these will automatically be added to the player's crew. Some of the captured ship's crew may also be inclined to join the player's ranks, especially if the player's crew morale is high. Captured enemy crews may also have news on various events which are of interest to the player.

It is also possible to sink the captured ship. This is desirable if it has been damaged too severely to be towed quickly to port, or if the player has no interest in selling ships. Also, if the player's crew is very small or is already maintaining a large fleet, adding an extra ship may cause the whole fleet to become inefficient, slowing it down considerably on the sailing map.


Several events in the game will trigger a swordfighting mini-game, where the player fences an opponent in one-on-one combat. These segments may or may not include crews fighting in the background, being affected by the progress of the battle as well.

Most often, swordfighting duels occur when two ships collide during naval combat. Swordfights can also break out during attacks on cities, particularly if the city has too few defenders to mount a battle outside the city gates, but also if the player manages to reach the town gates during such land battles without first having defeated the enemy force. During these two kinds of fights, the player's crew and the enemy crew will have an important influence on combat. Crew sizes and morales dictate which side is more likely to lose men during the conflict - any men lost on one side will cause a reduced effectiveness of that side's leader's combat moves.

Dueling also occurs when the player challenges an enemy. This often occurs in taverns, when the player challenges the captain of the guard, or when confronting a known criminal and attempting to bring him to justice. When romancing governors' daughters, they will at one point request the player to defeat a jealous suitor in one-on-one combat. These duels occur without crew presence, and as such are not subject to the effects of crew morale.

A duel is carried out with swords, although pistols can be acquired by the player to give him a starting advantage. During the duel, each combatant attempts to strike at his enemy without being struck. Each combatant can use one of three attacks - a low slash, a high chop, and a mid-stab. Each combatant can also defend against incoming blows, with a dodge (against high chops), a jump (against low slashes), or a parry (against mid-stabs). When a blow "connects" properly, that is, the opponent fails to block with the right move, the struck duelist moves backwards. When one duelist reaches the "limit" of the fighting area, he loses the duel and either surrenders or is knocked out of the battle.

A red and white bar across the bottom of the screen indicates battle advantage. Where the red and white portions of the bar meet indicates which duelist has the advantage. The closer the meeting point is to a duelist, the worse they are doing. When the player properly performs a blocking move, or strikes the enemy, the bar shifts towards the opponent, indicating that he has lost advantage. The duelist with more advantage can attack faster, while the duelist with less advantage attacks slower. Also, a failed attack has the chance of disorienting the attacker, causing them to become even slower for a short time.

Another important combat move is the taunt. If this move is executed in full without the opponent striking, the opponent loses advantage.

Also, when fighting on ships, several events can provide opportunity for a non-conventional attack. These include buckets and gaffs lying around on the ship's deck, as well as ropes swinging overhead. When the player or the enemy are situated adjacent to such an item, executing the correct attack will use the item (kicking the bucket, swinging from the ropes, etc.). If such an attack is successful, it knocks the enemy back and causes more disadvantage to him than a normal strike.

Lastly, almost every fighting scene has a middle point which has a strong effect on combat. On a ship, this is the flight of stairs leading from the poop deck or forecastle onto the main deck. In a tavern, this is the balcony and the stairs leading up to it. If a combatant has been pushed all the way to the middle point, a cut scene will show the two combatants moving past the obstacle. On a ship, they run down or up the stairs. In a tavern, the enemy will be knocked down the gallery, and the player will run up the stairs. This has the effect of giving time for the advantage bar to swing back to the neutral position, equalizing the fight somewhat during this cut scene.

Most importantly, each contestant in a duel will select his dueling sword out of three possible selections: the rapier, the cutlass and the longsword. The rapier is the quickest attacking sword, capable of delivering swift attacks but slow on the defense. The cutlass is a strong defensive sword, capable of quickly blocking or dodging out of harm's way but is slow on the attack. The longsword lies in the middle, with average attack and defense. When playing on the lowest difficulty setting, the player cannot choose a sword, and is automatically given a longsword. Several items can be acquired that enhance the player's fighting capabilities. Also, selecting the "fencing" skill at the beginning of the game will allow the player faster performance.

As the character ages there is a chance his swordfighting capabilities will decrease, causing him to become slower (unless the user selects the fencing skill at the beginning of the game). This is one of the game's methods for ensuring that older characters be pressed into retirement. Some of the duels in the game become impossibly fast on higher difficulty levels, after the character has reached a certain age.

Land warfare

"Pirates!" also has land battles in which the player fights battles in a turn-based system on a grid map. This occurs whenever the player assaults a well-defended city (100 or more soldiers in the city's garrison), or the Montalban's hideout.

When beginning a land assault, the player is given several units. The exact number of units is determined by the proportion of the player's crew versus the size of the city's garrison. An overwhelming superiority for either side will give that side up to 10 units to command, while equally balanced fights will generally produce four or five units for each side.

Battle takes place outside the city, on a map with hills, forests, and plains. The player's force starts out in one of three selectable positions nearer the bottom of the map, while the enemy force begins closer to the top of the map, near the city gates. The goal of this minigame is either to defeat the enemy force altogether, or to have one unit reach the city gates, after which a swordfighting duel commences against the city's captain of the guard and all remaining defenders. If the garrison initially has less than 100 soldiers, the battle immediately segues to the duel with the captain of the guard.

Combat is turn-based. During a side's turn, each of its units can move, attack, or fire ranged weapons. Most units can move up to two squares a turn, or one through forests. Indians can move two squares through any terrain. Cavalry move three, giving them much higher mobility. Ranged units can move one square and then shoot, or shoot first and end their turn. Units can also turn about, using one movement point. Many factors determine the strength of a unit when attacking or defending, such as damage received from other units, flank attacks, combat in forests, and terrain height.

Units that are damaged in combat will lose morale, lowering their combat strength. When a unit drops below "panicked" morale, it is routed, fleeing from the field of battle. Some units will rout without reaching their lowest morale - this occurs when a unit is being attacked by a much stronger opponent, especially when flanked. If the number of enemy soldiers left to defend the city drops to 100 or lower during combat, it becomes possible for the city to be conquered for a different nationality.

Capturing cities

Successful land combat on the part of the player will yield a one-time ransom. The exact amount is determined by the city's wealth and population parameters. If the city's garrison drops below 100 during or before combat, successful land battles allow the player to change the city's government to that of a different nationality. This not only changes the political situation in the Caribbean, but also makes the new owning nation greatly pleased with the player, as well as any other countries who disliked the original owner, with whom the player's standing drops. The attack also has the effect of lowering the city's wealth rating.


Upon performing tasks favorable to one of the four nations in the game and thus being promoted enough, the player may be given the chance to dance with a governor's daughter at a ball. Dancing is done by following the daughter's signals, and moving appropriately. Successful dancing is rewarded with 'amour' from the governor's daughters, as well as gifts or valuable information. When the daughter's 'amour' is high enough, she will request marriage. If the hero agrees it will show a cutscene of the marriage and the hero will gain bonus fame points.


The player may be refused docking privileges at an enemy town. In these cases, the player is given the option to sneak into town. This is done by avoiding the town's guards who patrol the city and moving towards the tavern, or governor's mansion, which are pointed to by signs throughout the city. The player may run, walk, or climb over fences, and has hay bales to hide behind to avoid detection. The player may also sneak up behind guards and knock them unconscious, which risks discovery if they are discovered or they come to. If caught, they are thrown into jail, where they must remain to serve a sentence of several months, pay a fine, or attempt escape. Certain gift items can increase the chance of a player's escape.

Historical pirates

In the game there are nine computer-controlled historical pirates. Each bears his unique flag and is present on the top ten pirate list with the player as the tenth. Each time one is defeated, their plunder and ship are acquired. Part of the player's overall score is determined by which of these has been vanquished. The nine are Henry Morgan, Blackbeard, Stede Bonnet, Captain Kidd, Jean Lafitte, François l'Ollonais, Roche Brasiliano, Bart Roberts, and Jack Rackham. They each have a buried treasure. If a player digs up a pirate's treasure before defeating the pirate, the pirate will act like a "Pirate Hunter" when the player comes into view. However, the ships that they possess are not historically correct, as Blackbeard had Queen Anne's Revenge, while in the game, it is controlled by Henry Morgan.

ee also

*"Sid Meier's Pirates!"
*"Pirates! Gold (1993)"
*"Port Royale 2"


External links

* [ Official "Pirates!" site]
* [ Firaxis' (developer) site with patches]
* [;title;3 "Pirates!" on Gamespot]

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