Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Introducing: a Pirate

The let's play is dead, long live the let's play! Lest you begin thinking I decided to put my time to some more productive use, here is the new series for our mutual time wasting needs. And this time I'll be playing...


Pirates! Gold (the exclamation point is very important), an open-world adventure game cooked up by Sid Meier sometime between his thinly veiled attempts to achieve world domination through video games. It is also one of the first games I played, and one that made a huge impression on my vulnerable mind, nudging me towards other games that offered a large degree of freedom - such as strategies. This is why I chose it for the new series - to see if the game is as good my nostalgia-stained glasses make me believe it is, to show off a possibly quite underrated classic, and to plunder me some booty. (Arrr.)

Oh, in case of disbelief and/or outrage, please know that this has been the plan for a while now (when I said it hasn't been spoiled, I meant that it hasn't been spoiled). The game you might have been expecting to see here, Europa Universalis 3, will be covered right after this. The wait should not be long - this is a console game from before the times of permanent saves, which means the intention is to be able to finish it in one sitting, although I'll try to see and do as much as I can in a single playthrough.

Originally, the game was released to a bunch of now extinct platforms, including Windows 3. It has also been remade with fancy new graphics in 2004. However, all those extra dimensions and bits are clearly superfluous, and I chose to play the same version as first time - Sega Genesis (aka Mega Drive). Finding the ROM and an emulator to play it with took exactly two queries on Google, and while this clearly cuts into the continuing profit stream of a company that doesn't really exist any more, I can write it off as practice for the game.

It's going to keep mocking me with the correct spelling, isn't it?

The game lets you play as a privateer in the Caribbean sometime between 1560 and 1680. In the early periods it is dominated by Spain for a rather monotonous map, while the last one signifies an end of an era when life for honest doublecrossers is getting increasingly hard. 1660 is the default starting date, and I don't really care to change it.

For nationality, you get to pick between English, French, Spanish and Dutch. This affects what you have and where you are to begin with, but in the end, your actions towards the nations in-game are much more important than your chosen nationality. In fact, if you are enough of an opportunistic piece of scum, you can manage to hold a noble title from each country at the same time (see if you can guess where this series is going to). Again, left it at default.

What's the highest difficulty setting called? Swashbuckler? Oh yeah, I can swash those bucklers, possibly even buckle some swashes if need be, so it shouldn't be a problem. I mean if anything, my skills should have improved over the years, right? Right.

You can choose to be extra proficient in fencing, navigation, gunnery, medicine, or have extraordinary wit and charm.  Each of these has it's own benefits, but I find fencing to be most useful as many different issues in the game are resolved in duels.

And we're ready to roll!

There are quests, but we won't tell you.

Um... yeah. I'm pretty sure I assumed this was a bug when I first saw it. Basically, there are 10 special goals you can achieve in the game, but it only tells you after you do them. Or when you decide to read the manual. In any case, I won't spoil them to you just yet.


This, right here. I'm absolutely sure my nostalgia has nothing to do with it, and it's only the very mature side of my personality speaking when I say: how awesome is this? "You're young, you're poor, and now you'll kill a pirate and take his ship" - why would you ever need more background than that? And indeed, that's pretty much all in terms of exposition you ever get from the game. (These starting snippets actually depend on chosen time period and nationality, but the point is that I got the best one.)

One quick duel later, our hero has impressed the pirates so much that they elect him their captain on the spot, and go to the nearest port to resupply.

I hear that's how they call ports in France.

And so begins the story of dread pirate Wigglesworth.

Next time: I actually play the game!

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