by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
Trading games are not exactly a dime a dozen and the demise of Ascaron Entertainment, creators of the popular Port Royale and Patrician franchises, left fans worried that the genre would end up in a permanent rut. But out of the ashes of Ascaron, a new studio called Gaming Minds formed. Manned by many of the original developers, Gaming Minds successfully resurrected the Patrician franchise in 2010 and, more recently, the Port Royale franchise as well.
Port Royale 3 takes players back to 16th and 17th century Caribbean where Europeís naval superpowers vied for power and pirates roamed unchecked. Unlike Patrician, where naval combat is used primarily to protect trade routes, Port Royale is all about trade and conquest. Initially, you align yourself with England, Spain, Holland or France but breaking free to form your own little empire is a fun and challenging task that should appeal to any tradesman. After all, isnít controlling territory the best way to ensure the availability of goods for trade?
A game of boats
A Pinnace and a small warehouse make up the humble beginnings of your future empire. Trading along the Caribbean, you slowly explore the map, discovering new towns and new opportunities. As your fortune grows, so does your fleet. You buy new ships and send them off to trade on your behalf. The game has a number of preset trade styles such as Prosperity which is geared towards trading goods that are most needed along a route to keep the population in towns both healthy and happy, and Profit which focuses completely making money.
Trade goods are tied to locations that produce them. Tobacco, for instance, is abundant along the string of islands that make up the eastern border of the Caribbean but scarce in mainland towns. For lumber, the opposite is true. For many goods, you will need to sell in distant ports to make a decent living. In order to produce more advanced goods, you are often required to ferry raw materials across large distances.
With money pouring in and a better sense of which goods have what value, you can set up farms and factories to produce your own goods. The gameís reputation system will keep track of your actions both in town and on the global map. To construct new buildings, a good local reputation is sufficient but to talk to a local governor or viceroy, your global reputation comes into play. Trading goods is a good and steady way to build up your reputation, but helping the locals is often quicker.
Before long your wares are being hawked all around the Caribbean and, with your ships present in every corner of the map, you are likely to start running into pirates. Pirate attacks become more frequent unless you take action yourself. Local shipyards will offer warships as often as they do trade ships and if you can afford it, buying your first Frigate or War Galleon will feel like a major step forwards. But then you will equip it with men, guns and cannonballs, and then you will just feel poor.
Leave me alone will ya?
Keeping a fleet of warships around is an expensive undertaking but it can also be very rewarding. Boarding and capturing ships which can be sold for hefty sums will usually surpass even the most profitable trade runs made by your convoys.
Sea combat is spot on, Caribbean setting is a nice change from Northern Europe.
Badly thought out interface. (Interface needs serious rethinking)?