Port Royale 3: Pirates and Merchants

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Port Royale 3: Pirates and Merchants review
Sergio Brinkhuis


I conquered the Caribbean, almost

Leave me alone will ya? (cntd)

Sea combat is more satisfying than in Patrician. Gaming Minds got it spot on. Combatants take up to three ships into battle and duke it out in unerringly good weather but in water filled with shoals and sharks. The former will slow ships down when passing over them. The latter will eat any men fallen overboard and not rescued by passing ships, leaving a patch of red-stained water as proof. Bigger ships that run aground will temporarily be unable to maneuver, giving smaller ships time to batter away at their defenses. If you are looking to come away with a prize ship, you can start with chain shot to destroy the enemy’s sails and then use grape shot to pick off sailors from a favorable angle. The boarding action takes a little time to get used to, but it is one of the most satisfying aspects of Port Royale’s sea battles.

I want the greener grass too

While selling prize ships does wonders for your treasury, it does little to expand your empire. There is ample opportunity to do that when you pick a side in one of the frequent wars between the four nations. Letter of marque in hand, you can raid and take towns without losing reputation with anyone except your unwilling target. Where sea battles give you just the right amount of control, land battles offer you none whatsoever. Red crosses mark where your ships need to go to start the attack after which a shooting match ensues between your ships and the town’s defensive tower. Rinse and repeat until all towers are destroyed and then a green cross shows you where to move your ship to send your sailors to attack the defending soldiers and the two groups will settle their differences of their own volition.

That’s it. There are no other actions required and your only role in the action was to ensure you have brought enough ships and men. Such simplicity would have fit just fine for Patrician which is more about trade than conquest. For Port Royale, it feels more like an unfortunate shortcut. The result, however, is worth it. Seeing your flag slowly spreading out over the Caribbean is an immensely satisfying experience.

Other side of the coin

Port Royale 3 does a lot of things right but it may be trying too hard to be a multi-platform game. Neither of its core concepts, trading nor strategy, translate well to consoles which makes it difficult to understand what the game is doing on consoles in the first place. Furthermore, PC gamers then have to deal with a tiny interface that does not scale up to modern PC screen resolutions. Other interface elements are not thought through either. The convoy overview should focus on the selected convoy but it does not, having to click on every town to see what goods it produces (while in the trade route interface a simple hover is enough) is a chore and even the ‘resume game’ of the game options menu is in the wrong position. The list of interface niggles contains mostly small issues, but it is simply too long for a game that has reached its 3rd iteration.

While the interface really needs attention, you do learn to work around it after a while and it did not stop me from enjoying the game. Other issues such as the Dutch viceroy sounding Russian, not being able to wipe out the other nations completely or the occasional crash still exist but did not diminish my fun much.

Port Royale 3 is a worthy addition to the franchise and provides days, if not weeks of entertainment. While trade takes something of a back seat when compared to Patrician, the sea combat action and ability to conquer (most) of the Caribbean make for a very enjoyable game and many a late night.


fun score


Sea combat is spot on, Caribbean setting is a nice change from Northern Europe.


Badly thought out interface. (Interface needs serious rethinking)?