Sid Meier’s Pirates! is a pirate simulation game, created by Sid Meier and developed & published by Microprose in 1987. Sid Meier had designed a dozen-or-so games before, but this is the first one to feature his name in the title of the game (as happened with some notable later games of his, such as Railroad Tycoon, Civilization, Colonization, Alpha Centauri etc.).
Pirates! is what today would probably be called an “open world game”, but I don’t know how the game was categorised at the time. The gameplay is a bit like Elite, in that it features a large world for the player to move around in, with various hubs (cities, towns) where you can trade goods, find new quests, gather information, etc. The map is not randomly generated or even fictional, but based on the actual layout of the Caribbean in the 16th and 17th century.
You begin the game as captain of a single small ship in a friendly town. From there you’re on your own. Some of the things you can do include taking on missions from the governor, hunting for treasure, finding long lost relatives and capturing the silver fleet. But whatever your goal is, you’ll probably do a whole lot of sailing, looting, fighting and trading in the meantime.
It’s a surprisingly vast game for the time, which is one of the reasons why it was received so well. In 1993 a remake of the game was launched, also for DOS, called “Pirates! Gold”, featuring SVGA graphics, SoundBlaster support, mouse support and a few enhancements to the game (such as an in-game map for easier navigating).
I think both of these versions of Pirates! are brilliant and I’d love to play and compare them in DOS Game Club. I’ve played mainly the Gold version back in the 90s, but not a whole lot since. There’s also an even more modern remake from 2004, but even though I’ve also played that one, I think the DOS versions are still the best ones.