If you’re an older gamer, then you are more than likely familiar with Sid Meier’s Pirates. It was one of the first games to give you truly open-ended gameplay – you were free to sail under any flag, change allegiances, be a merchant or a pirate … the Caribbean was an open sea for you to explore. The gameplay was pretty straightforward, but it had an engaging quality to it that would cause you to lose yourself in the game for hours on end. Now the game has received a much overdue update and its basic design has withstood the test of time – the game is just as much fun as it ever was, if not more so.The premise of the game is simple: you’re a young buccaneer captain out to make your fortune on the Spanish Main. You’re also out to avenge the capture of you family and rescue them from indentured servitude, but it is really up to you whether or not you want to pursue their rescue. The game will rate your performance more highly if you do, but you can certainly simply concentrate on becoming a feared pirate and leave your family to fend for themselves. The game does not oblige you to do anything.Politics plays a large role in the game as it did in the Caribbean in the 17th Century. The four nations vying for dominance in the region constantly shift allegiances and move in and out of states of war. As an enterprising captain you need to take advantage of this and always be on the look out for new opportunities.The animations are detailed and you’ll see your sails react to the wind as you tack or come about, the wake kicked up by your ship, and even dolphins who come to play in that wake. While sailing the seas you’ll encounter other ships and as you approach you’ll see the flag of their nationality and the ship’s class. Battles on deck are abstracted to a sword dual between you and the enemy captain. You can select a rapier, long sword, or cutlass with which to fight, each of which is a trade off to some degree between speed and defense. You have three attack moves to choose from and a defensive move to counter each.The cities in the game are for far more than sacking. As you sail the Caribbean you’ll see the relative size of each city and be able to tell its relative wealth from the condition of the flag that flies above the town.When in town you have several locations that you can visit. Each town also has a shipwright who can repair your battle damage, buy your captured ships, or in some cases provide upgrades to your hull, sails, or cannons to aid your ship’s performance in battle. Speaking of treasure, it wouldn’t be a pirate game without buried treasure. At the lower difficulty levels maps are always complete and well-marked and it is simply a question of going to the right location and picking up your prize. At higher levels things get a bit trickier as you often have to make do with map fragments and must search for specific landmarks like an arched rock or a clump of dead trees to find the buried booty.Overall Pirates has that hard to pinpoint addictive quality to it that will keep you coming back. Hours will disappear as you strive to complete one more raid or get your next promotion. It’s a magical quality that’s missing in most games, and one that will keep you coming back to Pirates as other games come and go.