Are you an old-school PC gamer who has moved on to consoles but still pines for some of the classic genres, like strategy, tactical RPG, or even economic simulation? If that's the case, Kalypso Media has you square in its sights with the upcoming Port Royale 3, a combination economic sim, city builder and pirate game all bundled into one friendly package — and it's not just on PC, it's coming to PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Will it be worth pulling up anchor, sailing away from Call of Duty and giving it a shot? Let's tell you more, and let you decide.
Port Royale 3 is the latest in a fairly distinguished line of PC simulation games that has you building a seafaring empire. In Port Royale 3, you'll be offered three ways to play instead of simply sticking to the "economic genius" format. In an effort to make it friendly and interesting to both PC and console gamers, you'll now be offered two campaigns: one as the "Merchant" style of play and one as the "Adventurer." When you fire up the game in sandbox mode, you can mix styles if you like.
As a Merchant player, you focus on economics, building a merchant fleet, trading goods between cities, and taking over towns through commerce, diplomacy or warfare. As a merchant, warfare is always a drain on resources, so you'll rarely choose that route. The Merchant campaign is where you constantly watch the prices of goods shift, and it's great for aspiring 17th century Trumps who enjoy sailing between ports, trading goods, doing a bit of city building, etc.
If you decide to play the more action-oriented Adventurer campaign, you'll start off with a ship, and where you decide to go is up to you. You can play as a pirate, a brigand or a privateer, and enjoy capturing those sissy merchants' ships to plunder them. The Adventurer campaign focuses on more action, less sim, and as such, offers something that the modern console gamer can enjoy.
If this all sounds way too crunchy and over-simmy for your liking, don't worry, the game offers tons of options to automate the heavy lifting so you can just sail around and blow up bad guys — or become one. Don't want to continually manage multiple fleets of ships? Just create a few automatic trade routes with simple directives like "Make Money" (seriously, it's that simple), and the AI will take over, shuttling ships around a specific route, doing their best to buy low and sell high. If you want more control over trade routes, that's always an option, of course. You can even automate battles, but who'd want to do that? After all, that's the sexy part of the game's action.
Speaking of sexy, Port Royale 3's graphics engine won't disappoint. All too often, sim games tend to focus on the gameplay and forget that sometimes, we like a little "pretty." Not so in Port Royale 3, where the ships, cities, and even the map are all lovingly detailed. The cut scenes feature a sort of Renaissance oil-painting style that works well with the game.
Port Royale 3 is a game that has so much incredible depth that it's impossible to cover in a single preview. One member of the development team called it, "Sid Meier's Pirates!, but on an Eve Online scale." I've seen the game twice, and both times, in an hour-long demo, I've been shown an increasing amount of detail. However, the developers are doing their best to make it the kind of game where if you don't care to see that detail, you can hide it and focus on being a swashbuckling adventurer. This is the kind of game that's almost unheard of on consoles, but it can certainly take off if done right. Kalypso's hoping it'll spearhead the genre's birth on consoles.
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