Hit the high seas!
Hit the high seas with a blend of strategy, economics and straight out warfare as the head of a major trading company in the 17th century! East India Company is one of those games that seems to be aimed at a niche market. Forgoing fast paced action, EIC is more of a cross between Civilisation and a business management sim, as you take control of an international trading company and its fleets, buying and selling around the world, and defending yourself and your ports from attack from your competitors. Firstly, the visuals vary wildly. The home port screens can look very plain, with surprisingly low res textures being used on buildings and people. The larger view of the world map can be a bit plain too, with countries looking unremarkable, and blocky models of the ports and trading areas littering the edges. However, when the game switches to battle mode, the quality of the graphics improves considerably, with beautifully rendered water and sea effects, and well defined ships. The actual meat of the game is in the management, though. From home port menus, to details on the individual ships and their cargo, everything you could possibly need to know is laid out in an easy to find and clear manner. It is also surprisingly straightforward to set up a trade route. Left click on your fleet, right click on the destination port, and you are away. The ships can then take care of themselves along the way, refuelling and trading as and when required. However, the option is always available to micro manage further, allowing the player to create quite complex route patterns to make journeys more profitable. And if you are aiming for a large, powerful fleet, profiteering is the name of the game. With ships to build, crew to hire, and towns to be fortified, you need to keep the money flowing if you are to stand a chance of coming out on top. However, the game sees fit to give you objectives to complete, such as import 20000 tonnes of tea, or capture at least 5 ports, which means going solely after the money is only really an option in the open ended game scenario. This means that I needed to be very careful about balancing my need for greed with the requirements of the company. Which leads me to the combat. Whenever you get into a standoff with another ship, you have two options: automatically resolve the situation, or fight. Automatically resolving seemed to always result in a big loss of goods and no experience for the captain, so I fought every fight myself. Actual battle can be handled in an RTS style, or actually directly controlled by the player form ship to ship. The RTS system works fine if a little simple, allowing for basic line tactics, and selection of shot type and “perks” based on the captainsī upgradeable skill sets. However, this does all become quite interesting when you have several ships of your own squaring up to a larger fleet, and can actually require some quick thinking to protect your precious cargo ships. On first play, however, I was itching to play the hardy captain, and jumped into direct control. Unfortunately, this was far less compelling than I was hoping, as the viewpoints just donīt give you that “in the thick of it” feel. I canīt help but feel that a “ships wheel” view, and a “gunner” view would have added some character tremendously. As it is, you can view the fight from a third person perspective, with a smaller camera view that helps you line up your shots correctly. The player is given the opportunity to be as hands on or off as they like with all aspects of the game, allowing you to pay more attention to the areas you enjoy the most. Actual heavy micromanagement only creates a somewhat marginal increase in profits, so you can leave your fleets to it, and focus on the fighting, improvements to your port, and building more fleets if you wish. The truth is, EIC really is built for a small market of players. It isnīt going to bring in any action gamers, or even any RTS players, as it is just a little too slow for quick thinking gamers. However, those who enjoy a more sedate pace, with some sound strategic thinking, that doesn’t require a masters in management, will find a lot to love in East India Company, with plenty of stats and menus to spend time poring over, a sturdy battle system and plenty of tweakable options for your trading routes and cargo. Those intending on making use of the streamlining options (such as the automatic resolution to battles, and the “set up and leave” system for trading), will soon find themselves bored, as there isnīt enough to do, see or unlock to keep your interest.
The Bad: Graphics veer wildly from great to poor; combat isn’t very involving; very niche title