by Marko Susimetsä
previewed on PC
Preview build hands-on
Can you build a trading empire to dominate all others? This question pretty much tells you all you need to know about East India Company. If you additionally know a little bit of history and how much the East India Companies of various European powers affected the political situations in Europe and India and the key roles that they played in the wars of the era, you are mentally ready to take the chair of an East India Company in this game.
In essence, you will be heading an East India Company from one of the powerful European countries – United Kingdom, Holland, France, Denmark, Portugal, Sweden, Spain or the Holy Roman Empire – vying for the treasures and trade of East India. You have to build diplomatic relations with far-away countries as well as your neighbors in Europe, setting up trade routes, or – best of all – battle enemy fleets in the high seas!
As a fan of this era, I was very excited when I got my hands on the preview build of the game, allowing me to enjoy a taste of what’s to come. The preview build is, unfortunately, restricted on the tactical sea battles and shows nothing of the trade empire management side of the game. However, the sea battles seem to offer enough excitement for any fan of sail ships and fleet battles.
The preview build allows you to select the difficulty level of your sea battles between Easy, Normal and Difficult as well as the realism level between Arcade, Normal and Simulation. I appreciate the thoughtfulness of the developers very much for including such a variety of realism levels – this way the game will also serve those of us who are very meticulous of historical facts, such as ship sailing and turning speeds etc.
All sea battles take place on tactical level and offer two kinds of play-modes: RTS and direct command. The RTS mode allows you to give orders to your fleet as a whole, or individual ships one at a time simply by clicking on them and then the attack target or alternatively a heading to sail towards. The fleet and ships obey orders such as going into line formation, firing at will, fleeing depending on the state of the ships – damage to the sails will naturally slow any ship down – and their crew, taking into account their number and morale.
In Direct Command mode, you take charge of one of the ships (the flag ship) and go into battle as its captain. This allows you to take full charge of the speed and heading of your ship, as well as the ammunition loaded into the cannons and the firing arcs. There are three sorts of ammunition: round shot, grape and chain. Round shot will naturally be best against ship hulls, grape shot against personnel and chain against the sails. With a limited amount of each shot type on your ship, you will have to choose carefully which shot type is the best for each occasion – or alternatively, allow the AI choose for you. Choosing the firing arc simply means that you can choose between narrow, medium and wide firing arcs.
The three preview build encounters allowed us to try our hand at daytime, night-time and stormy weather battles with bigger and smaller fleets. Aside from the reasonable effects to visibility and steering ability of the ships, these conditions didn’t seem to affect the RTS gameplay mode that much.