Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Developer: Nitro Games
Release Date: Q3 2009
If you make a list of "most underrepresented genres," colonial naval strategy sims would likely be near the top of the list. For all our fixation on tanks, planes and missiles, we seem to forget all about those boats that sailed the high seas years ago, risking life and limb to bring valuable goods to port and enrich the nations they represented. That's why I'm happy to see that Nitro Games has taken on the task of telling their tale with East India Company, a title which has potential to be very, very interesting.
The best way to describe East India Company to those unfamiliar is to liken it to Sid Meier's Pirates!, only with less emphasis on the individual and more on the nation you're representing. Players begin the game by choosing one of eight nationalities (Denmark, England, France, Holland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden or the Holy Roman Empire) and set out to make their country the richest and most powerful of them all.
In order to do this, aspiring sailors will need to manage trade and conflict, making sure the right resources get to the right port all while protecting shipping lanes and remaining on guard for the ever-present threat of war. Diplomacy plays a rather large role in the game, allowing players to arrange the trading of resources either through mutually beneficial transactions or the outright threat of war. Be careful about throwing your weight around too much, though, as coerced nations have long memory spans, and future interactions will be made increasingly more difficult every time you bring out the stick rather than the carrot.
Of course, nations with big egos will always eventually come to blows, and combat in East India Company can be approached in a couple of different ways. For the tactician, you can use an RTS-style mode to issue commands and watch the battle from afar, while more hands-on gamers can directly control ships in their fleet. Direct control puts the camera on the deck and then it's up to you to move into position and fire on opposing vessels. All the while, you have to contend with ocean swells (waves get pretty gnarly, especially if you're fighting during a storm) as well as the general chaos of having fireballs crash into your ship at lethal speed. While Pirates! kept you fairly far away from the action, this title puts you right in the thick of it.
East India Company also features other bells and whistles, such as the ability to assign certain ships to certain trade routes, thus reducing micromanaging, as well as ports and specialists, who can improve the attributes of your fleet. This is one we can't wait to get our hands on, and in preparation, we've been brushing up on our sea shanties and loading barrels full of limes. All other salty sea dogs are advised to do the same.
More articles about East India Company