Live the life in the Carribeans!
The 17th century was one of the most exciting periods in History: in the Carribeans, traders, buccaneers, pirates and all other sorts of gentlemen of fortune were trying to make the best out of the endless possibilities that the new continent had to offer. Port Royale 2 does an amazing job at immersing you in that exciting environment.
As a whole, Port Royale 2 is a great experience
The first odd thing one will encounter while playing PR2 is the lack of a campaign mode, as the whole game is based on an amazingly detailed free-play mode. Sure there *is* a scenario screen, but half of them really are tutorials, and the others put the player in a situation he could easily find in the free-play mode. And that is where the fun starts.
You begin the game as a modest trader, with only one ship under your command. The main goal of the game is, of course, to make money, but it’s pretty much up to the player to decide how. One can set up trade routes – the automating of which is simple and easy – and command fleets of trading ships sailing from a city and another, buying goods were they are produced and selling them where they are in demand. With this single aspect, PR2 – which labels itself as a “trade simulation game” – does an amazing job. One could play for hours on end trying to figure out a way to maximize profits by trading with different cities and, while this is not the most adrenaline-pumping aspect of the game, it is certainly one of its most interesting. Completing the economical model, PR2 allows the player to buy, build, sell and operate different businesses in the towns, with the goal of selling its products elsewhere. While most games are limited to a few products, Port Royale 2 presents you with a realistic set from wheat to fruits to tools to wine and, while three of them are importations from Europe, you can produce all of the others, and that’s where the game lacks: there is no easy way, in the game, to know which businesses you own in which town, and which of them require which product. You have to manually go through all the towns where you own a building permit and check whether they need this or that, or if they produce too much of their own goods. When a game almost forces you to produce your own paper chart of production to avoid losing track, there is a problem. Other than that, one can get the hang of it pretty quickly and set up an impressive business in only a few years, thanks to the game slow time frame.
Speaking of profits: in PR2, war pays. Sure you can make a living with trade, but in order to get filthy rich, you have to get out there and kick some butt. The war/combat aspect of the game is particularly interesting, with four nations – England, Spain, Holland and France – episodically going to war against one another. Once you build up your reputation a little bit – for example by killing off pirates, a useful and lucrative activity – you can buy Letters of Marque from any nation, which enable you to attack ships of opposing nations in an absolute legality. Attack enough of them, and the nation will be weak enough for you to be able to attack and capture an opposing nation’s town and annex it to your nation of allegiance. It is a very fun aspect of play to strategize and build up your military power, because the game has practically no limits to the number of ships or captains you can have – in fact, the game doesn’t have limits on basically anything. You can attack ships and towns on your own, switch allegiance, buy off temporary peace, capture buccaneers and demand a ransom, all in the name of your personal wealth. Do really well with one particular nation, and the viceroy will even grant you with a town of your own. To some, this lack of of a storyline can make the game pointless, while to others it can be the very point of the adventure. PR2 is a very addictive game in that sense, because it never *really* stops: after 30 hours of play, one will have went through roughly ten years in the game, with a lot of adventures behind, and a lot of adventures ahead. The only mildly disappointing thing in all of this world is there is no way you can become a true pirate: if you attack ships indiscriminately, all of the nations turn against you and hunt you down along with your trade ships, and you can’t sell your booty anywhere.
The downside of this though, is that the game can get repetitive despite everything there is to do. For example, you can be challenged to sword fights by various people – buccaneers, ship captains, pirates – but there are only about five or six actual character looks, making you feel like you’re battling the same people over and over again. You can attack towns by land or sea, but the RTS-like simulation is simple and doesn’t hold much strategy except filling ships with sailors, muskets and sabers in order to overwhelm the town’s guards. Same goes for sea battles. When you board a ship, you don’t do anything: you just wait for the number of sailors of your adversaries to drop to zero. It would have been fun to induce a little bit more strategy in the combat aspect, instead of letting the sheer numbers do the bulk of the work.
Another great way to progress through the world is to accept missions from random people you meet at the inn, or from the governors of the towns where your reputation justifies such demands. You can go around the map endlessly looking for interesting missions, and these are varied and interesting: sinking a competitor’s ship, agreeing to protecting an individual, supplying a town with goods or on the contrary loot it, raiding a pirate’s den, finding a treasure, rescuing your wife from various abducters. This feature makes up for the repetitiveness a little, as one can hop from trading and business to warfare to accomplishing side missions without getting bored, all the while spending hours on end without noticing it.
As a whole, Port Royale 2 is a great experience despite its few shortcomings, but fans of hardcore action should steer away from this title as the combat sequences are not nearly as interesting as they should be. If however you’re interested in a very complete experience of life in this particular area and time, it’s a very good game with lots of interesting features to keep you up late!
The Bad: Combat repetitive; no easy way to keep track of all your businesses