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Port Royale Review
publisher: Tri Synergy
PII-450, 64MB RAM, 16MB 3D accelerator
|ESRB rating: E
release date: Jun 04, 03 (released)
|» All About Port Royale on ActionTrip|
Management strategies have been less and less prevalent over the years. Every once in a while, we'd encounter some titles in that genre, but they fail to achieve praise worldwide, and that leaves the market open for action and RTS games, which focus less on management and more on flat-out action. Things changed with the arrival of Port Royale. Interestingly, this title cannot be pigeonholed as a conventional strategy game. Instead, by combining several cool management elements with real-time 3D naval combat, this game brings a lot to the table. To put it simply, Port Royale rekindles the flame of oldies like Pirates, which comes as welcomed refreshment and a decent challenge to the mind (too many games resort to the old FPS-style shoot to kill clich').
Exploring is the key to all your success.
Hold her steady men, we'll show 'em!
Port Royale takes players way back to the ages of overseas trade convoys, exploration, piracy, and treasure hunting. You are an adventurer, a trader, and a pirate... Yep, that's the life, ya blistering barnacles! Spanning from the year 1570 all the way to the end of 1660, the game will allow you to try your trading and naval skills by joining Spanish, French, Dutch, or English forces of that time. Each age signifies the dominance of a particular nation. Still, no matter which one of these you choose to play with, you'll begin as a rookie sailor and your goal will be to become Governor.
As players commence their brave venture as a rookie privateer, a lot of things will require your constant attention, such as supplying your galleys with enough provisions to sustain your crew through those long days at sea, and cannons to fight off those who would take what you've rightfully stolen. Equipping ships costs a healthy sum, so it is advisable that you establish a stable economy before you set out on your journeys. Remember, persistence and patience are two key virtues that will be of great help when you play Port Royale. Those who remain focused on their goals will soon gain great wealth, and may see the birth of their very first fleet - every convoy can contain up to 10 ships (tops). Just imagine the potential of colonizing, treasure, and pillaging, if you assemble one huge and fully armed armada. Sweet!
Almost all of the missions in Port Royale are story-driven and they consist of piracy, trading, exploring, etc. If you should feel bored and fed up with establishing trading routes and exploring the vast sea, you can always head to your local town and receive assignments at the governor's mansion. Success in these assignments often involves a handsome reward, which will further increase your gold supply and ensure faster production and progress. The game offers alternative ways in which players can attain some serious profit. One of the most exciting and dangerous means of gaining wealth is to pillage other ships that are cruising the open sea. It may not be the safest venture and it will require subtle naval skills and good battle tactics to boot; but it proves to be very rewarding if you're persistent enough. Should this more aggressive approach tickle your fancy, you could also attempt to peruse a career in piracy - that is, if you manage to locate a convenient pirate hideout. Be warned though, many perils await adventurers who seek "easy" fame and fortune. So, before you set out on such a quest, you should consider investing into a powerful fleet, which will ensure you safe passage through the often perilous ocean.
One of the main drawbacks of Port Royale is the somewhat steep learning curve and a rather lengthy period of time it takes to increase the productivity of your nation and to assemble a reasonably powerful naval force. There's also an aspect that might bother gamers when they wish to concentrate on battles and profit. With the expansion of your cities and their trade routes, it will be quite easy to get wrapped up in numerous duties, which often seems too much to handle. Luckily, when things start to get too complex, players can assign the CPU to handle certain trade and economic issues automatically. This makes the gameplay a lot smoother and reduces the degree of micromanaging. The game also exhibits a rather straightforward method in letting the player know which resources are scarce and which are abundant - a feature that's particularly helpful in trading. While managing resources, it's usually a good idea to keep an eye on your stock. There's a number of vital goods that should always be on your mind, such as wheat, timber, fish, meat, sugar, etc. These are crucial to the overall content of your crew, and must be kept in stock if you want to remain a favored captain. Any of these resources can be gained by trading, constructing new buildings, or by sending out convoys.
Those melons you sold us were all rotten! Take that!
I wanna grow weed!
The interface may appear a tad complicated to gamers at the beginning. For that reason it is highly recommend that players consult the game tutorial, which is available before each campaign. The tutorial takes you step by step through all the rules, options, and commands. At first glance, you may start thinking there's a lot of crap you need to keep an eye on, but after an hour or so, it all becomes very easy and you won't run into any major problems or mishaps in the gameplay mechanics. During RTS style battles at sea, players don't have to worry about any obscurities in the control system. Ordering your ships is quite simple - you choose a course, set type of ammo for your cannon fire, and that's all there is to it! Of course, players can change these parameters any time they want in the midst of battle. Enemy ships are also well versed in the ways of naval combat, so you'll be facing a challenge even when you encounter weaker opponents. Also, if you have enough ships within your fleet, you can even assail hostile towns and ports (make sure you're well prepared when you attempt this, otherwise the town defenses will blow you away).
When players enter the pseudo 3D real-time sea battles, they will witness the pinnacle of Port Royale's graphics. While cruising through the vast ocean, exploring islands, visiting towns and stuff, players will be going across a huge map... something very similar to Pirates. But, like I said, the developers have obviously concentrated on those real-time battles at sea, which led to some impressive eye candy - realistic looking explosions, visible ship damage, the ship's crew running about on deck doing their business, etc. It all looks quite lovely. All in all, for a micromanaging strategy game, the visuals were very pleasing and there's no doubt players will see a lot throughout the course of the game. Unfortunately, not all things are that good. We ran into some surprisingly ugly texture patterns, which are noticeable when you zoom in on your local town. Usually it won't be necessary for players to zoom in on their towns, but when it happens, it does reduce the overall visual quality of the entire game. A pretty sloppy job after those impressively presented naval clashes. Radeon users should also bear in mind that the graphics will go haywire if by any chance you have the new Catalyst (v3.5) drivers installed.
The sound is another story. It actually stands out as one of the main technical qualities of the product. All through Port Royale players are treated to a solid range of delightful and high-quality music themes and splendid ambient noises that will vary according to season and setting.
Some of the flaws we've encountered along the way often don't reflect on the game's more addictive aspects, and so we feel players should be able to enjoy themselves throughout the entire experience without being bothered by any technical issues or particular setbacks in the gameplay. For those who prefer playing the game against "live" opponents, there's a neat multiplayer mode that allows LAN and Internet. Make no mistake; if Pirates was your favorite pastime back in the old gaming days, then Port Royale will surely reawaken those familiar sparks... Dig in.
8.1 Very Good
The longevity and addictiveness. Cool real-time pseudo 3D ship battles, excellent sounds and enjoyable music themes;
The gameplay can get a bit slow-paced at times. Somewhat of a steep learning curve. From a strictly visual standpoint, textures are ugly and unpolished when you zoom in on your town.
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