Set in The Caribbean during the 17th Century, Porte Royale 4 is an incredibly comprehensive trading simulator with a few added twists. If you’re a gamer who needs instant gratification from what you play then Porte Royal 4 might not be the best fit for you. If you’re the sort who likes to plan, organise and play the long game then you may have met your perfect match.
The game offers 4 campaigns to play through, each one putting you in control of a different European nation. You start off as Spain and your aim is quite simple: make a tonne of cash and keep your Viceroy (he’s the boss of the area) happy by completing the tasks he sets you. As you progress you’ll not only be trading, you’ll end up managing more and more settlements, chasing down pirates and taking part in naval combat.
Making money is relatively simple on the surface, you buy items cheaply from one town and sell them at a profit at the next. The problem, however, is that there are sixty different settlements to trade with and they all make and want different things. Thankfully you can set up trade routes to automate a lot of this but as with most things in Port Royale, they are not especially user friendly until you get to grips with them. To aid the newer player there is an auto setting for what to buy and sell at each town. This will suffice early on in the game but has the potential to cripple you later on.
To trade with a different town you need to buy a licence, the same if you want to build in a given town too. These licences get increasingly expensive as the game progresses but as they are necessary you’ll have to foot the bill sooner or later.
As you slowly build your empire you will gradually accrue fame points, think of these as experience points that can be spent on upgrades. These upgrades range from hiring captains for your warships or allowing you to build new businesses in towns. Fame builds up frustratingly slowly and is crucial to completing the missions given out by the Viceroy. If you fail any mission by the allotted time it’s game over.
I found that I needed to restart my game a few times in order to adapt where I spent my points as I knew what was coming ahead. This feels a bit harsh in my opinion as I was six hours into a campaign at one point only to have it fall apart at the last minute. I’d built a massive fortune by this point and it might be an idea to add a feature where you can pay the Viceroy to get more time.
A new addition to Port Royale 4 is naval combat. This offers quite a change of pace to the game and changes things up nicely. Combat is turn-based and set over a gridded play area. You’ll need to make the most of each of your turns to try and use both of your broadsides to dish out the maximum damage. There are also special abilities that you can collect throughout the game which will have a massive impact on the outcome. Early on in the game the AI isn’t too smart and gives you every opportunity to win. Later on, you’ll be facing much tougher opponents equipped with much more powerful fleets.
Looks-wise, Port Royale 4 is pretty basic but the colour scheme is pleasing to look at and in fairness, this isn’t a game about flashy graphics. The music is awful and I set that to zero within minutes but once again it’s far from being a game-breaker.
The thing that could be a game-breaker for some people is the complexity of the game combined with an awful user interface. There are often far too many steps to be taken in order to carry out a relatively simple task and despite the reasonable tutorial, there is an awful lot to take on board from the start. For me, this led to lots of attempts abandoned early on until I managed to figure things out for myself. Despite these niggles, once I got up and running I was hooked.
As I said at the start, Port Royale 4 isn’t for everyone. I would recommend it if you like to plan and strategise and don’t mind the challenge of learning the very deep mechanics of the game. I’d also suggest playing the game on PC if you’re able to as the thought of playing this game with a controller makes me want to run away crying.
Port Royale 4 was reviewed using a digital code provided by the publisher.
Publisher: Kalypso Media Developer: Gaming Minds Studios Release Date: 25th September 2020 Reviewed On: PC Also Available On: Xbox One, PS4 and Nintendo Switch