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Port Royale 3 Review
Just when I thought there was no hope for a Sid Meier’s Pirates 2 it looks like someone came up with a better idea. Port Royale 3 combines the fleet building and combat of Sid Meier’s Pirates with exploration, trading, and town simulation. Kalypso has published a game that combines a huge variety of things to do into a single strategy game.
Port Royale 3 has two different campaigns that really act more as large tutorial levels. Players learn in the Adventurer campaign how to create a naval army. It goes through the basics of making ships, arming them, picking up a crew, and using them. The Trader campaign teaches players how to abuse the market place, set up automatic trade routes, do material quests for cities, and build structures in different towns. Neither of the campaigns have a good storyline, but they do function as a great way to teach people how to play in an easy and straightforward way. Once you have the basics down it’s easy to start a new match and play the game using either strategy or a combination of the two.
The graphics in Port Royale 3 are much better than I expected. It’s nice to see a developer sink so much time into improving the graphics for a strategy/simulation game. The graphics are especially good for a game being released at $39.99. Seeing the world map with all of the ships sailing around makes the game feel populated even if it’s just you and NPCs. The combat is exciting and even the looped town graphics look good.
The trading system in Port Royale 3 is the epitome of simplicity. Every town buys and sells the same 24 goods. Every town also produces five of the goods on the list. So they are always in demand of the same items. You go to town, but whatever is cheap, and go to the next town to dump it all off. Even though the trading mechanics are basic it sets the game up so automatic trading works wonderfully. I can’t remember a game that setting up trade routes was easier to do, or worked better in. You pick the towns you wish for the fleet in question to visit, and then pick how you want them to trade. Maybe you want them to maximize profits, or pick up materials for your factories at home. In literally 15 seconds I made a trade route that sold the cotton I was producing in town at the same time as picking up materials needed for my ale factory. You can micro manage everything or never touch those ships again.
The multiplayer in Port Royale 3 is another great feature. You set the parameters of the game yourself. You can focus on fighting, trading, building, or a combination of all three. It also allows players to set a time limit on the game by picking how players will win. In an interview with the developers they stated that “you can play games of 30 minutes up to 30 hours with up to four players.”
While the game combines so many great aspects of strategy games together, it fails to give players a point. I spent six hours trading, setting up trade routes, fighting pirates and doing little quests. But at the end I felt like I had accomplished nothing. What is the point of gaining lots of money if the only thing to do is buy more ships and buildings to make more money? I understand that developers wanted to make a free world game, but it gives me no reason to continue playing. Maybe if there was a good storyline, or an actual campaign. But if the point of the game is to continue doing mindless busy work then the game will only stay fun for about 10 hours.
My other problem is the lack of obstacles. Once I started gaining money nothing really set me back. I only picked fights that I knew I could win. None of my goods were perishable and if I bought too much of something there were always enough towns to buy the whole lot ten times over and still flip a profit. Countries might not favor you but it’s as simple as giving them materials they need to get back into their good books. The only other obstacle I encountered was the rare hurricane which was three times slower than your ship and easy to outrun. A game that has no hardship is a game that is no fun.
All in all it was a great idea for a game even if it wasn’t a great game itself. The mechanics might be simple, but it makes the game easy to learn and micro manage. It’s a game worth checking out if you like simulation, strategy, or pirate games. While it’s not worth the price of a new release, the $39.99 price tag is defiantly worth it for the right players. I had a really great time playing it, but it only lasted for a couple of hours. If an expansion pack came out that gave it more direction or purpose than I would totally be willing to shell out the $20 for it. Until then Port Royale will stay untouched in my Steam library.