Around the world
Set in 13th century Northern Europe, Patrician is very much about building a merchant empire. There are extracurricular activities such as dealing with pirates and fulfilling missions, but at its core, Patrician is about production and trade. Port Royale takes us West, to the East coast of the Americas and propels us forwards into the 17th century, the Golden Age of Piracy. Trade and production still play a considerable role, but the Port Royale games have always leaned little more towards piracy and sea battles, as well as putting a more emphasis on missions from governors and other denizens of the Caribbean. Adding a third game to their trading game repertoire, Gaming Minds settled on 15th century Venice, kept trade as the primary focus but threw in Doge elections, senate vetted ranking up and put even more emphasis on NPC missions. These seemingly subtle changes turned out to have a profound impact on their tried and true trading game concept.
Rise of Venice takes its time before really confronting you with what is different as compared to its older siblings. The tutorial introduces the base concept of leveling up through the approval of the senate almost immediately and does a capable job of laying out what is expected of you to keep progressing. Consisting of representatives of ten well-to-do families, the senate requires you to stay friendly with at least five of its members so that enough will vote for you when you seek to advance. Any relationship requires work be put into it, and work in Rise of Venice means fulfilling missions, handing out bribes and doing good deeds in the form of trashing pirates and building hospitals and schools.
Things get tricky when you realize that your ability to rank up is intimately connected to your ability to raise convoys. It takes seemingly forever before the number of convoys you are allowed to have increases. On the one hand, this limitation makes ranking up both meaningful and desirable, on the other it throws up a major speed bump that can be frustrating and is impossible to circumvent.
Players can also engage in... frowned upon acts. Thieves can be hired to steal warehouse stocks, Denunciators to discredit competitors and Seducers to revoke your competitionís entry permits to certain harbors. I must admit to feeling that, in most cases, the benefits of these actions rarely outweigh the risks. Discrediting a competitor is the happy exception though. It does nothing for your own relationship with the senate, but if you are running for Doge, discrediting the competition can help you win the position.
A new perspective
Fans will remember the Patrician add-on called Rise of a Dynasty. If you ever wondered where the actual dynasty was hiding, then, rest assured, it can be found in Venice. Youíre not just playing with a single character; youíre playing with an entire family which expands with marriage. Family members become useful agents to your trading organization. Some become captains on your ships, others can be sent to stabilize impoverished cities, fight epidemics and increase your reputation with the senate or individual cities.
The dynasty and senate mechanics add depth, great campaign map.
Building inside of cities has been dumbed down. Senate mechanic could be fleshed out a little more.