by Sergio Brinkhuis
previewed on PC
Change of scenery
There is something strangely addictive about building up a merchant empire. Sailing boats from port to port to buy and sell goods should be boring, building trade routes should be boring, setting up production lines with the same goods over and over again should be boring. Yet it isn’t. The latest Patrician or Port Royale game has been a permanent fixture on my hard drive since Patrician 2 and although I rarely spend enough time playing them, I keep going back to expand and grow my business. I love it, but I also have to admit that a change of scenery from the Caribbean and Northern Europe is overdue. Luckily, Gaming Minds and Kalypso Media have set their sights on the Mediterranean for their next trading game, aptly called Rise of Venice.
Not just the map
Rise of Venice brings quite a few changes to Gaming Mind’s regular formula. Sure, you still have ships that trade and fight and the core experience is very similar indeed. Yet there is marked push towards trading while moving away from building. Fans will be spending much more time on the campaign map, and much less time in town compared to Patrician or Port Royale. In fact, you’re not able to go ‘into’ a town at all. If you want to build, you will have to do that from a radial(ish) dial menu that pops up when you click on a town name which shows the various options you have in that location. From here you can order production facilities that are similar in scope to what you are used to from Patrician and Port Royale, but you’re not placing them yourself.
To accommodate the above and make the process of building go a little smoother, the in-game camera has been made a little more flexible and dynamic. It still won’t pan left or right but you can zoom in to such an extent that you can make out and interact with individual buildings from the campaign map. It allows for a fair bit of additional graphical detail though I’m not fully sure if it makes up for the lack of being in control of where to build.
That same level of detail is found in other places as well. The map is fully 3D and brimming with all kinds of objects such as trees, forts and even forest fires. And having the Mediterranean as your stage also means you will see iconic buildings such as the Pyramids in Egypt and the Acropolis in Athens.
Lastly, advancement is no longer fully tied to your wealth and success as a trader. The senate in Venice decides who ranks up, and keeping them happy during the early stages of the game is important if you want to gain access to new trading goods and ships, or to be allowed to form multiple fleets. Your standing with the various members of the senate improves or degrades depending on your actions. Fortunately you can directly influence your standing with any that you complete a mission for.
The more things change
I could spend another two pages on everything that Rise of Venice does differently from its older siblings, but then this will quickly turn into a review. The changes mentioned above are by far the most significant. Some of them are “instant wins” but I have yet to make up my mind on what I think about the changes to setting up new buildings. With nearly three more weeks of playtime available to make up my mind, I’ll let you know which side the coin has dropped in our review when the game is officially released.