Good Old Reviews: Pirates! Gold

Good Old Reviews: Pirates! Gold

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This week we close Sid Meier month with a look at the 1993 game Pirates! Gold.

I will admit that I didn't intend to review Pirates! Gold for this week. I have a thing for being chronological. In turn, when I first downloaded the Pirates! Gold package (only $5.99 at GOG), I did so fully intending to focus my time on the original 1987 classic Pirates!. That said, after spending an hour or two with the original I let my curiosity get the best of me and decided to give Gold a try. Pirates!, to its credit, is still pretty fun and fairly impressive for its time. That said, there was no contest between the two. I was ready to be done with the original after just a few hours. I've spent days, however, playing Gold and feel like I could still keep going.

Pirates! Gold is a game about piracy (go figure). You play an aspiring buccaneer in the Spanish Main who, after snagging yourself a ship, pretty much has free reign to sail the open seas doing as you please. This can mean anything from shipping goods and helping one of the game's competing nations, to straight-up stealing other people's stuff.

Being a gamer with a predilection for wanton destruction, I immediately gravitated toward blowing up other ships. As time went on, however, I began to branch out and, bit-by-bit, broke into an experience covering a decently wide range of mechanics and skills. Put shortly, Pirates! Gold is a game with a lot more going on for it than mere violence. You'll need to manage supplies, butter up foreign governments, keep your crew happy with plunder and, of course, make money and climb to the tip-top ranks of high society. All of this is wrapped in a package completely void of the silliness that's often permeated the pirate-themed entertainment of recent years. This isn't some Disney movie where Johnny Depp quips his way out of an impossible situation. If you don't think and try to take on more than you can handle, you will lose.

That being the case, it's also an experience that very much understands the joy of in-game freedom. Your focus at any given moment is completely up to your own whims. One minute you can be transporting cargo to a port just to find yourself, in the next, following a treasure map to a buried cache of gold. Maybe you'll want to pursue a famed treasure fleet or try to rescue your family from the clutches of ne'er-do-wells. Gold provides a plethora of play options to explore or ignore depending on your preferences. Simply put, it's freedom done right.

Which isn't to say that Pirates! Gold gets everything perfect. While it does provide a lot of options, things can still feel a bit repetitious time. Granted, it will probably take hours of consistent gameplay before you ever reach that point, but there will still come a moment when you sail into a port and realize that you've basically been repeating the same actions over and over again. Even then, however, the game is so danged enthralling that you'll probably just keep playing. After all, your crew just spotted another ship that clearly needs to have its cargo stolen. Then, of course, you'll need to sell that stuff. And hire more crew. And how did another hour go by?

There are still a few elements that I never quite warmed up to. Gold's fencing system, for instance, seemed like a bit of a downgrade compared to the simple but still challenging mechanics of the original Pirates!. Whereas the first game kicked my butt on more than a few occasions (on the easiest setting too), fencing in Gold was a veritable cakewalk. All I usually had to do to was equip the cutlass and then mercilessly attack my opponent until he gave up. It was, admittedly, nice to have a generally sure-fire way to win, but it also didn't carry the same satisfaction that I felt from beating a foe in the 1987 Pirates!.

I also wasn't too impressed by some of the visuals in Gold. While much of the art is quite nice, the game is guilty of some intense asset recycling. As you can imagine, this doesn't help with the aforementioned feeling of sameness that occasionally rears its ugly head. Funnily enough, I actually liked the simpler visuals of the original Pirates! better. Granted, the 1987 game is also guilty of reusing its assets just as heavily as its remake. That said, I love old school pixel art and there were some elements of Gold that I just found downright ugly. The land masses, for instance, look like someone went nuts with the spray tool in Paint.

Whatever problems I had with it however, they were very much overshadowed by one of the most enjoyable experiences I've had since I began Good Old Reviews began back in September 2013. Pirates! Gold isn't the best game that I've ever played. That said, it's definitely one of the most addictive. It's an experience I could easily waste weeks on and that makes me wish I had time to do exactly that. The fact that I can't is probably my only regret walking away from it and, in turn, I'd highly recommend it to anyone with time to burn and even a mild love of the high seas.

January is coming to an end and with February we're dropping the formal themes to give our writers a chance to explore some games they've been dying to play. Come back next week for Phantasmagoria!.

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i played the first game but never did get the chance to pick up the gold edition, i might have to pick it up as i do have fond memories of it.

oh phantasmagoria next week, thats one of the better FMV adventure games although it does have some cringe worthy acting and as far as im aware its still banned here in australia for sexual violence (implied sexual assault)

Huh... Migh be worth a check then, though I usually don't tend to play older games too much. Unless it has SMT next to its name for some reason.

Anyway, I think I noticed a mistake. '...crew just spotted another that ship clearly needs to have its stuff stolen.' Shouldn't it be '...crew just spotted another ship that clearly needs to have its stuff stolen.'? Emphasis on where the that is at. I'm not sure how to pinpoint it better though...

Other than that, well written review right here.

God I loved Pirates gold back in 96 or 97. I picked it up on a budget label and just kept on playing for years. This and Civ 2 (and sims city 2) must have been my most played games in my childhood along with the two elite sequels.

I went back and tried both the original Pirates! and Gold, and maybe I would have liked it had I picked it up a decade or so ago, but I'm apparently been spoiled by playing the most recent Pirates! remake as they both look pretty dated in just about every way in comparison. Of course, that's how remakes are supposed to go anyway.

StewShearer:
I did so filly intending to focus my time on the original 1987 classic Pirates!.

You did it as a female horse who wanted to talk about pirates? That actually sounds kind of hot.

Aardvaarkman:

StewShearer:
I did so filly intending to focus my time on the original 1987 classic Pirates!.

You did it as a female horse who wanted to talk about pirates? That actually sounds kind of hot.

Sigh...this is the problem with making last minute changes and adjustments when you're already prone to typos. Thanks for catching this and also to hickwarrior for the other earlier save.

My favorite old school game bar none, great review.

Played the OG on the commodore 64 played gold on the pc years later with a cpu downclocker to get it to run at all. One of the first game you could get lost in exploring or w/e and just utterly lose track of time while doing it.

This and gunship! were my 2 favorite games of that era.

 

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