Sid Meier is a name synonymous with RTS games such as the Civilization series. However, this time his name is attached to an adventure game going by the name of Sid Meier's Pirates: Live the Life (from here on will be referred to as Pirates). As the name suggests, Pirates throws you head long into the world of 17th century pirates - not the more common kind of pirate whom sits in front of a pc downloading music/games/movies - rather the more entertaining sword fighting and treasure burying kind of pirate. Pirates is actually a remake a of a Commodore64 game of the same name. However, this time around everything in it, such as swords fights and the like are presented in full 3D.
When you start a game you are greeted by a short, game engine based movie of your family celebrating, when all of a sudden an intruder strikes and takes your family forcing you to take to the sea in search of them. This is where you get to a menu screen where you pick a name for your character and select the captain you wish to join. You get a choice between French, British, Dutch and Spanish pirates to join up with. However, soon after you get into the game you realize the captain you join up with is a right prick to work for, you then cause a mutiny, and take over the ship. From there on in you control the ship and start on your search to find your family by talking to local leaders in each town you visit. Although there is not much exploration to do in towns, if you have a treasure map you can go ashore any island and control a small party of pirates in an isometric view to dig for gold.
Navigating your way around the world is taken care of using a 3D world map, where you will encounter the odd ship which you can either choose to fight or ignore. If you fight and win as well, as winning whatever treasure they have, some of the crew may wish to join your crew, in which case you can either let them stay or tell them to walk the plank. You can also choose to either keep the ship you have defeated or sink her. Keeping a ship bigger then the one you had is obviously a good choice. When you keep a ship it follows you around the world map, this is a good way to build up a party of ships to carry more men, more treasure and more food. As you beat ships, news will spread of your victories building your reputation as a pirate. If you get close enough while fighting a ship you will board them and take on the enemy captain in a dual, the winner of which, of course wins the battle.
Exploring isn't a problem in this game, because if you get lost or lose track of what you are supposed to be doing; you only need to check the quest status by clicking on 'quest status' at the top right of the display to find out what you need to do to progress in the story. When you visit towns a menu screen appears where you can pick from a number of options, usually consisting of: Talk to the mayor, Visit the tavern for info on possible victims (and check out the local whores), Trade with the merchant; where you can spend gold attained on your adventures to buy food, cannons, and various other pirate related items for your quest.
A strategy factor comes into play when taking on other ships, as having a lot of guns will not help you much if you donâ€™t have enough crewmen to use said guns. For example; do not even think about using a 16 crew ship with 40 guns on board in a battle, as it takes a lot longer for them to load the guns then if you had 40+ crewmen. Each ship depending on its size can hold a different amount of men and can be renamed if you should wish to do so.
The controls in Pirates are set up quite well, using the number pad as a set of shortcut keys and using either the mouse in a point and click fashion or the arrow keys to move your ship. When in the world map you can right click to bring up the telescope to get a better view of the other ships. Sword fighting is played out using a selection of buttons located at the bottom right of the screen. You can either use the mouse or the number pad to select your attack or counter, and while it may feel odd at first it will become easier with practice.
As far as graphics go, Pirates really shines in terms of detail in ocean based battles when fighting other ships. If you hit an enemy ship just right, you can see enemy sailors or barrels being thrown off the ship and sink into the ocean. In sword fights with other captains the camera zooms right in on the action in 3D. It helps in replacing ships if your flag ship is too damage or weak, without damaging the ship you wish to capture. When cruising along in your boat you may notice some dolphins following you.
The sound in Pirates is fairly good. For example; when knocking a guy out of a boat they let out a nice scream as the plunge head first into the water and drown. You can hear the sails ripple in the wind as you cruise along and the pirates can be heard singing, badly.
System Requirements -
Operating System: Windows 98/Me/2000/XP
Processor: Pentium 1.0 GHz or higher
Memory: 256 MB RAM
Hard Disk Space: 1.4 GB Free
CD-ROM Drive: 4X Speed or faster
Video: 64 MB video card with Hardware T&L support
Sound: Windows 98/Me/2000/XP-compatible sound card
DirectX: DirectX version 9.0c (included) or higher