Shipping Out and Shaping Up
Port Royale 4 is not a game that I would typically consider to be “within my wheelhouse.” I don’t really know much about the Caribbean, History was never my favorite subject, and my grasp on economics is probably worse than it should be for someone my age. So, what better person to preview a game such as this than myself? Now, now, no need to get angry. I’m not speaking in a satirical manner, here. Or, at least, not entirely. Despite not being within the “target demographic” for a game such as Port Royal 4, I do feel as though I have something to offer; an outsider’s perspective. It’s always nice when a series, especially—one that’s been around for a while—can continue to exert pulling power despite already having built up a fanbase. After all, that’s how you grow a series! And, fortunately, what I’ve seen of this game thus far appears to have exactly the kind of pulling power that I was talking about.
A Trader in our Midst
Looking at it in the most basic way possible, Port Royale 4 is about three primary things; trading stuff in order to make money, keeping your cities happy and wealthy, and sailing around. Easy, right? Well, no, not so much. Port Royale 4 is, as most economic simulators tend to be, very complex and filled with nuances. For better or worse (and I would probably lean toward “better” in this case), nearly everything within this game requires the player, should they really want to get into things, to micromanage every facet of their trade process. While the most fundamental part of this trade process centers on the goods themselves—ensuring that, as always, “supply and demand” reigns supreme—this game gives players (or, at least, skillful players) the chance to control the market as best they can by shaping their cities to best suit their own financial gain; something which, I assure you, is definitely in the best interest of the people who live there.
As much as I try to keep the subjective and the objective parts of my mind balanced with one another during reviews, I couldn’t help but feel a though the divide between the two was especially noticeable (for me, anyway), during my brief stint with this game. Objectively, I think that things thus far are looking great—and I’m not just talking about the graphics. Not only does this game expect a lot from its players, but it also gives them a lot to work with. The fact that Port Royale 4 gives players the ability to build and shape their cities (so long as they have the permit for it, anyway) has the ability to more effectively impact players as they begin trading, and the fact that you actually need to watch over those under your care (both figuratively and literally) not only provides an extra layer of gameplay but adds in more immersion too.
Subjectively, however, it was a lot. Don’t get me wrong. I knew that it would be. Simulators are basically “a lot” by their very nature. And, as I’ve already said, I’m not the core audience here. However, I feel as though it says something about a game when a game already starts to wear you out a bit after simply having completed the tutorial.
Smooth Sailing (And Also Pirates)
Gathering products and getting ready to trade might be a lot of work, but trading itself is much more straightforward… at least when things are going well. Generally speaking, once again, there are two things you need to focus on when trading. The first thing, of course, is the market itself. I mean, it would get kind of boring if supply and demand didn’t actually change. Because of that, you always need to be on the lookout for what other people are on the lookout for (or things that you might need) and buy and sell accordingly. Second, are the trade routes themselves. Taking place in the 1500s and all, the ships you’ll be using aren’t exactly what you’d call “technologically advanced.” Because of that, you’ll need to pay attention to the wind. While you can set up routes in any way that you’d like, doing so in accordance with which way the wind is blowing can lead to much faster trips (which means more money for you!).
Port Royale 4 also features naval combat. This was something that I expected from the game. What I did not expect, however, was how it handled said combat. Rather than featuring real-time combat—something which would have fit in well given the overall sense of realism in this game—battles are turn-based and take place on a grid. Being the RPG fan that I am, I’ll admit that I was pretty into it. Ship battles—at least the ones that I’ve been in—rely a lot on positioning, meaning that you can’t just go in cannons blazing. Rather, the game expects you to carefully plan out each assault—from where you’ll be attacking to what kind of attack you’ll be unleashing—as well make use of your captains’ skills when applicable. Of course, naval battles aren’t the central focus of this game, and some of these battles can get kind of lengthy. Because of that, Port Roayle 4 lets players finish battles early (essentially auto-battling) by calculating their chances of victory based upon their current position. The better the player’s current position, the better chance of automatically winning. And, if you don’t like what the game tells you, you can always go back and finish things yourself!
A Treasure Trove of Potential
So, how is Port Royale 4 shaping up so far? Well, I’ll be honest; if you’re going into this with little experience (which was my case), there’s a good chance that you might be in over your head. Honestly, I don’t know that I would have put in as much time as I did, had I not been doing a preview. However, I can honestly say that, for all of you pre-existing fans out there, things are definitely looking incredible. If trading sims are your thing, then Port Royale 4 is absolutely one to watch out for.