Sid Meier’s Pirates (2004), Caribbean History in a Game

Sid Meier’s Pirates (2004)

Developer: Firaxis

Publisher: Atari

Platform Played: Xbox 360, PC

Price: $9.99, I forget when I bought it for PC

In my last post, here I mentioned my favorite history teacher/professor, Andy Zuck. He reinforced a lifelong love of military and cultural history in my life. I owe him much. This award winning teacher, guided me towards my non STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) related talents in a STEM obsessed world. Thankfully, the STEM talents in the gaming world depend on storytellers to create excellent games.


My nephews when they were younger used to adore watching me play this game. They were fascinated with the movements of the sailing vessels from the sloops to the large frigate. The rich environment of this game distracts people of all ages. My mom born way before the idea of video games existed adored watching me play this game too. This is an immersive single player experience from environment and gameplay.




Pirates, by Sid Meier, renowned game designer and storyteller is an immersive single-player experience that is almost a better open world game than Skyrim. The historical backdrop, the freedom of customization, and the gameplay is simple and accessible which helps the player enjoy this title more than most. Treasure Island by Robert Lewis Stevenson got me into reading. Pirates got me into gaming.

Gameplay: As stated above Pirates is an open world game. After a short exposition involving a broken family and a ill-fated voyage to the new world via a Dutch, French, English, or Spanish charter. Once this is over the player quickly acquires the sloop they sailed in on as their own and through decisive acts becomes master of the vessel. After this they can quickly acquire a letter of marque and become a privateer. Just like the real privateers. Don’t underestimate the starting sloop. It can outrun the bigger vessels. At the end of the game I ended up with a large frigate and with some patience and skill it can out gun and outrun any other vessel in the game. Unfortunately with forty cannon loaded with round shot it can also destroy any other vessel in the game with ease. This can hurt the player’s bottom line.

As a working adult I appreciate a game that has little to no learning curve, and little exposition. I’m looking for an escape, a respite, and action. Pirates delivers all three with little annoying (to me) ancillaries. When the player hits the new game button the cutscenes can be easily skipped and gameplay can commence easily. After all with the elements mentioned earlier, why would you want to delay?

Historical Backdrop: The 17th century was when exploration and colonization were kicking into overdrive. The whole world wanted to catch up to the Spanish and Portuguese Empires. Stuart-led Britain, the Dutch Republic, and Bourbon France were doing their best to become colonial empires. Colonialism was the name of the game and the palyers here would employ privateers to fight against each other in proxy wars. And even pirates held the letters of marque to be employed by privateers. This was an interesting time.

Furthermore, larger-than-life characters exist in this game: Henry Morgan, Blackbeard, Jack Rackham, etc… only folks who were really missing were Anne Bonney and a few others. Female pirates existed folks. Hey, maybe in a sequel? Food for thought if you are a game developer.

Freedom of Customization: As stated earlier, this is an open world game. This allows for customization. The player can customize his character’s talents: fencing, dancing, medicine. The player can also decide if he or she wants to sink anything that sails or only go after the main villains. This allows for interesting game play similar to an Elder Scrolls game, as there are options other than combat to solve problems. Furthermore, the main quest is optional. You can create your own future in this game. I finished the main quest and stopped the Marquis and the Baron, but at other times I was more interested in having a fame score of 100.

Final Analysis: This is a fun and challenging game that you’ll quickly adore. Give it a play. Sid Meier knew what he was doing here as he brings his usual formula of fun and accessibility to it alongside an accurate historical backdrop. I strongly advise playing pirates. You’ll want some white or dark rum and maybe you’ll listen to this song.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s