Trials of the Steam sale victims
I am sucker for cheap games. Steam, of course is ideal for this thanks to their generous sales. In one these Port Royale 2 found it's way to my cart and ever growing library. Still (foolishly) imagining to play all of these games one day.
Port Royale 2 is Pirates themed business simulator. Not too different to the excellent Pirates! game which some of the older geezers might remember from the C64 days. Not that there were much wrong with the remakes such Sid Meir's Pirate for Xbox/Wii/PSP. Port Royale 2 is more of the same just with some additions/improvements. Its been 20 years since I played the original Pirates so I might not remember everything on it, but I remember it was complex. Maybe not as complex as this 2004 title.
Port Royale 2 has two modes. The free-to-play mode which is the basically the sandbox mode and naturally the main thing here. It is just an endless open world game. The other mode act as more of an campaign, which is more like the tutorial to show the ropes. This is spread into 6 different missions that introduce different aspects of the game. This is your traditional tutorial either. You can easily spend 10h on going through the different abilities. In other words, learning curve is steep.
Game is released in 2004 and already back then got bit critique for the visuals. The blue seas of Caribbean with sandstone buildings portray the timely look/feel well enough. Port Royale 2 looks pretty enough for me. The towns have decent amount of details. Although I did experience some strange water effects, which could be because of the more modern OS (and/or shitty netbook). Overall functional graphics, even on todays standards. Slightly blurry text on the highest resolution. And fixed resolution that games from these times had.
Gameplay, as mentioned is business simulator. What this actually means is that there is no real story. You start as a simple ship boy(?) and one ship. Game has lots of focus on the trading aspect which means buying goods cheap and travelling around Caribbean's and selling these for a higher price. The interesting factor comes in the town building aspect. Once player establish good relations with a town it is possible to buy building permits. This can be used to build residential areas which again allows workers to be used in various industrial buildings (that also need to be build). These industrial buildings are limited to four to five different types of goods. Such as pineapple or cotton that can be collected only in certain town. This can be directly sold as raw goods or further shipped to another location that has ability to use the cotton to weave clothing. Clothing being of course more valued item than pure raw material. Together with the trading aspect one could categorize this as glorified spreadsheet game. The pirates theme here brings up more complexity to gameplay. Trade routes can be harassed by pirates or enemy countries. Meaning the convoys need to be protected. Player can also incorporate similar more forward point of view to the gameplay by taking the career choice of an Pirate. Or player can focus on expanding the Spanish (or other power nation) might over Caribbean. Or combination of all three if one wishes.
The more direct gameplay(combat) can be broken down to three different battle types. Seafarer, land battles and fencing. The battle mechanism, all three of them fall bit short. Especially the sea battling, which is where player spends most time. You might have a big fleet, but still you are facing enemies ship unfairly. All of them against your one ship. If you manage loose your ship you can use the other ships in your fleet. Somewhat frustrating mechanism. The land battle is simple RTS-esque where the outcome relies only on the number of opposition faced. The best of these battle types is fencing which also is closed to the original Pirates series. This is simple one to one action with handful moves and blocks. There is no complaints about this other than it is very easy.
For whatever few spacebucks that this game tends to go for during Steam sales this is definitely worth it. Pirate themed games are far and between, especially good ones that lend so much from The Pirates! Port Royale 2 still manages to have some own ideas. This being mostly the city building/trading part that keeps the gameplay interesting.