One wonders why Privateer 2 was a step backward from this classic.
The first thing that snatched me is the complete customizability of your ship. The ship that you chose to fly with towards the end of the game really managed to demonstrate to the rest of the galaxy what kind of privateer you were. And, the accessories you purchased determined how much money you were making and how good you were at making it...
The second is the availability of missions. Although, the plot-advancing missions were some of the best in the game, the fact that there was always something to do in every starbase (from cargo running to bounty hunting) really enhanced the lasting appeal of this game.
The limiting number of ships you could fly. It would have been great to fly a military surplus Broadsword, or even the Militia/Retro/Pirate craft, the talon (even if they seemed to be made of paper). If they had made all of the ships that you encountered playable, that would have given this game even more permanent value.
The Bottom Line
Think of this as a version of Wing Commander 2 - only sleeker and a lot more fun. Also, it's a lot less rigid in terms of gameplay since you do everything on your own terms. My favorite Space Combat games (for instance, Star Control 2) are always games that offer customizability and variety, and Privateer is no exception. From what I've heard of Privateer 2 (I haven't actually played it), I'm rather disappointed that not only does it have nothing to do with the original Privateer, but it also took a step backward in gameplay.