Well, it's finally here, and what a timing! I've only recently become addicted to the old Pirates! Gold game for the SEGA Genesis, and was really eager to try this one out. I played it all through this morning, and was able to form a decent opinion about it.. And here it is
If you've ever played the original Pirates game, you'll have no trouble adjusting to this one. The learning curve for fans is about... 2 minutes. It takes 1 minute to figure out that you're only going to use your keypad and mouse for this game (avast, ye laptoppers!), and then another minute to notice that every game stage uses that same keypad, but only in a different way. This lurning curve is just one bigass flatline, and I had no trouble at all getting used to the game.
To get it over with.. Graphics. The best you can have in these kind of games. Realistic and colourful water, awesome looking ships, nice and somewhat cartoony looking pirates, and that whole Pirates of the Caribean/Monkey Island feel. Just find yourself some screenshots. It's a-ok.
Sound. Music is the same sort of piraty music as you can find in other pirates games, which I won't mention here, cause I already did in the above paragraph. It's nothing special, but it sets the mood. Sound effects and such are kinda... well.. bland. And there's also the thing about speech. There's either something wrong with my sound configuration, or there's no speech in this game. Understandable, when you think of the endless of similar lines that had to be recorded, but even the intro movie is missing it. Instead, you just hear background sounds, and the occasional grunting. Could've been better.
And finally.. The game itself ^_^
Basically, it's the old fashioned Pirates, only with more options, clearer and more understandable captain logs, more in-game information about ships and their needed crew, more hints on where to score the best deals, and just overall a lot more different events. The crew is also programmed a lot better than the old game, as now they don't leave your ship every time you fuck up. Also, they're not as whiny for dividing the plunder so soon, as they were before. Better balanced. But don't think that it'll be easy. There's still a lot of smart seafaring to learn about. Lots of tricks of the trade. =)
I haven't courted any ladies yet (I've never been that much of a flirt) but I have seen a couple of battles, even battles with more than one enemy. There's different types of cannonballs to fire, with the ball & chain as my favourite (no, you're not blasting women across the sea :p ) which completely tears up your opponents sails. The battle either ends with a waving white flag, or a swordfight between you and the enemy captain. Swordfights are easier than before, which is a bit of a letdown. Instead of choosing a sword, you get to choose in-battle between different types of attacks. You can even taunt, but that seems kinda useless. Graphically, these fights are awesome. But after a couple of times, it's more like a chore. Thank God they don't take long.
Trading is done quite easily, espescially since the game is more clearer on available transfer rates this time around, and after only 10 months of seafaring, I already managed to round up quite the large sum of money. =D
The taverns and governors are present yet again, and do exactly what you'd expect them too.. Find a crew, hear some inside information, and maybe acquire some nice items, like treasure maps, and jewelry, which can aid you in your quest to find that right women. But hey, this ain't the sims, so let's get back to the blood spilling.
Instead of just having a captain and a crew, your ship now also can have special crewmembers.. Upgrades, which can help you in your quests. Gunners, which can train your crew in firing their guns faster, fat gits which can store food better, and more.. I don't know how much of these peeps there are, but seeing that there's room for at least 15 in the menu, I'm willing to believe that that'll be the case.
There are other pirate-captains lazying about too, and capturing their ships will make you rich quick, but these fights are harder than normal, and you should be prepared to receive quite a beating. Your other opponents, the Spanish, French, Dutch and English, are all at war with at least one other at some point in the game, and you can really use these wars at your advantage. When the Dutch hate the French, sinking a French ship can earn you titles and valueable trades from the Dutch side, which is also the best trader all around. The Spanish seem to have a knack for providing nice scoops, so having a few Spanish friends here and there can't hurt either.. It's all about the choices you make. You can even switch between alliances and wars every now and then, to keep a finger in each party's jar of honey. Yummie.
Anyways.. Overall, Pirates is just an excellent game, and everything I hoped for. It's got better and more events than the original, it's better balanced, and to top it all of, it's a lot more user friendly.