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Civilization VI has gone all Sid Meier's Pirates with a swashbuckling new mode

Sid's back at sea.

Frankly, it's about time someone took the expansionist nations of Sid Meier's Civilization VI down a peg. This month's free update for the hegaxonal society generator adds the Pirates multiplayer scenario, daring you to wear in those sea legs by becoming the most feared fleet commander on the high seas. Plunder trade routes, inspire fear, flee the forces of burgeoning imperial powers... hang on, Sid, haven't we been here before?

Have you played Sid Meier's Pirates? Myself, I've only touched the short demo that came in an old Xbox mag some decades back. This month's free new Civ 6 update ditches all that land-lubbing nation-building in an attempt to recapture the 2005 swashbuckler - sans the fencing minigame, sadly.

Rather than the era-spanning progression race of Civ proper, Pirates uses the game's hexagonal atlas as a playground for swashbuckling rogues. There are four flavours of pirate to choose from, each with their own active and passive abilities. Dread pirates, for example, can instantly sink weakened ships, while Privateers will always pick up a bit more loot from pillaging trade routes. The goal? Survive to the end of the game with the most treasure plundered, the most fights won, and infamy points earned.

You're not alone at sea, mind. Besides other pirate factions, the burgeoning imperial nations of England, France, Spain and The Netherlands are setting their fleets out for conquest - but while that means well-supplied navies to avoid, it also means predictable trade routes ripe for plunder. High-value (and highly-guarded) treasure fleets will set sail from time to time, while barbarians have been replaced with buccaneers, occasionally pulling out their own infamous captains to threaten your operations.

"Civilization is a very different style of game from Pirates," the developers explained in a more comprehensive October update video. "Retooling the established rules of Civ VI to work in this unique setting was an interesting challenge." See the patch notes for more.

This wouldn't be the first time Firaxis have tried to skew Civ VI into an entirely different genre. The devs previously took a shot at making a Civ battle royale with Red Death. While I haven't played either that or Pirates - and couldn't tell you if either is good - I reckon this kind of wild experimentation with Civ's established format is cool as hell.

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Sid Meier's Civilization VI

PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC, Nintendo Switch

Sid Meier's Pirates

iOS, Nintendo Wii, Xbox, PSP, PC

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Natalie Clayton


Writes news when everyone else is asleep, sometimes