I must admit, I live in The Bahamas, so I couldn't help but get this game. First thing I did was name myself Edward Teach. Next thing was rename my boat the Queen Anne (apparently ship names are stopped at a certain length, so I couldn't give her the proper name of Queen Anne's Revenge).
The game in a word is beautiful. Graphical it isn't ground breaking but the attention to detail is there. The ocean has waves, your ship leaves a small wake behind you. There are storm clouds that have rain and lightning (which can damage your sails by the way!). The music is perfect, it even changes slightly depending on the port you're at. (stop by The Bahamas and you get some good old fashion steel drum music).
The sound effects are spot on, from hearing your men on the boat, to the waves, to the creak of your ship. It definately feels like you're sailing on the high seas.
You start off by sneaking out of the house when a rich guys busts in and decides that since he got screwed in a deal that he was going to take it out on your family, since then you have decided to regain your family's wealth and find the missing family members and strike back at the guy who wronged you.
The game let's you pick who you sign on with initially. The English, Dutch, French, or Spanish. (For some reason I am thinking there was another faction but I'm at work and can't check for sure). You visit the governor in your starting port and he basically gives you some paperwork that says you're allowed to attack the enemies of your country. Then again visit all of the ports and you can attack any country you like and no matter what someone is happy with you. You can go and attack ships at random or check in at various ports for tips or missions. Sometimes the barmaid will tip you in on a shipment of gold bullion, or a governor will need an escort to a new settlement.
Each port also has a merchant and a shipwright. The merchant is good for buying more food, and selling ill gotten loot. There are different types of loot, and different ports pay different amounts. (Yes, actual economics on a small scale in a pirate game)
The Shipwright will repair your ship for a fee, or for free (more on that later). Some shipwrights can even upgrade your ship, either with finegrain powder for longer range, a new type of ammo (grapeshot or a ball and chain, great for detroying sails btw) among other things.
When you attack another ship you need to sail around and get a good shot to fire your weapons, which take time to reload. If you don't have enough crew it takes longer, giving the enemy more time to fire at you or try to escape. But it isn't that simple, you must mind the wind. You can't sail head on into the wind, you gotta learn to angle slightly to go forward on an angle by catching a little wind. (Tacking is the correct term I believe)
You can sometimes disable a ship to the point where if you sail close they "Strike the Colors" and surrender, sometimes they have a special crewman who you "convince" to join you. Some preserve food so it last longer, others can repair the sails while you are on the sea. Sometimes the crew itself we join you. you can also loot the ship, and keep it in your fleet to carry loot (but it will take more crew to man the new ship!) or simply sink her and move on.
Then again, you might want to try a different approach and sail right into the ship and board her. Well, you can. then you fight their captain in a duel. Initially you only have a cutlas. but later on you can buy better weapons, or be given then as gifts by impressing the mayor/governor's daughters. When you board there is a bit of flashy swordplay and then you take over. Simpe enough, Jump, Parry, Duck. Thrust, Swing, Chop. He starts to swing high, duck and then quickly attack. Press him back far enough and he is knocked overboard and you capture the ship!
A few tips:
If you make a country happy enough by capturing rival ships you get promotions. Some allow you to repair at any port owned by that country, at higher levels you get repairs for free.
You must make sure to have enough crew so you can sail at top speed. Repair often, torn sails slow you down so travel takes longer!
There are several quests in the game. Rescue your family, find rival pirate's treasure, defeat the other 9 pirates, and a couple others for you to find out when you get the game
One of the things that really stood out, was when I went after Blackbeard. He actually had wicks woven into his beard and lit on fire, just like the stories of how the real Blackbeard looked. That impressed me a lot.
I'm still playing the game and having a blast. I have found all 9 pirate treassures, I have saved my sister and aunt so far, and I have killed 8 of the 9 other pirates. (1 more and I am the most notorious pirate!) It is very easy to sit down and play this game for hours on end.
I can find no bugs or glitches with this game so far. The graphics are wonderfully done and the sound is absolutely great. It has a very great feel, it is exactly what a pirate game should be.
I would have to give the game a easy 5 Cutlases...I mean Ragebringers.