I'm not sure what a swashbuckler is but it sounds like something that holds up a swash's pants. Now I've just got to figure out what the hell a swash is and everything will make sense.

At first glance Sid Meier's Pirates looks like a giant conglomerate of mini games combined with an economic sim. Frankly, that's exactly what it is but the way that it's all tied together is pure magic. Pirates enjoys the distinction of having a familiar feel while remaining highly original. There is so much depth and variety in this game that you'll be riding high on the seven seas of adventure for weeks on end.

As a young buckaroo you witness your family being kidnapped by an evil gang of pirates led by Count Montalban. In the following decade you have matured enough to conduct a search and rescue for them as you take to the seas in your ship. To locate your family members, which are scattered throughout the Caribbean, you will embark on an adventure which will include searching for clues, collecting treasures, fighting, attacking ships, plundering various ports and basically making a name for yourself. The gameplay is open ended. There is no shortage of ways to accomplish various goals. There is always something interesting to do and you're not forced to take up every side-quest that comes along.

You can be a merciless pirate that takes on the likes of Blackbeard or Captain Kidd, or a do-gooder that defends towns against attacking bands of pirates. You can be a businessman and just engage in trade and commerce. Or you can do a little bit of everything for a full-rounded experience. The gameplay is a great blend of elements that include strategy, RPG, economic sim and pure adventure.

Some of the battles are in real-time, such as the sword fighting while others, such as land-based attacks on ports, are turn-based. There's even a dancing game which is a rhythm-based mini-game in which you will win the favor of the governor's daughter if you do well. Getting married to this fine maiden will make you an upstanding citizen in the town.

At the beginning of the game you choose which nation that you want to represent. Choices include England, Spain, France or the Netherlands. Depending on which nation you choose and what nations you attack different situations will arise. Expect tons of replay value as you try your hand at all countries and altering your gameplay style each time.

The graphics are simple but at least there's no camera, clipping or framerate issues. All the characters speak in a Sim-approved gibberish. There is no cussing and very little violence making this game perfect for the entire family.

Trust me, this game isn't sucky. It's fun, challenging and very addictive simply because it's impossible to figure out what happens next but you just can't go to bed until you find out.

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System: Xbox, PC
Dev: Firaxis
Pub: 2K Games
Release: July 2005
Players: 1 - 5
Review by Kelly