Port Royale 2 from Ascaron Entertainment is an ambitious title that promises adventure, empire building, trading, and other economic ventures to all aspiring sea dogs. The follow up to last year’s Port Royale, Port Royale 2 seeks to improve upon the things that turned off many players from the original. In a game that focuses so much on commercial and economic strategies, it is quite a task to make it all accessible and fun to anyone other than the most hardcore of enthusiasts. Port Royale 2 reaches high and manages to come down with all the ingredients to make it an enjoyable and lasting experience.
Part of the reason the original Port Royale was overlooked, despite being a solid game, was due to the fact that it was highly inaccessible. Ascaron Entertainment has gone to considerable lengths this time around to make sure that doesn’t happen again by including an extensive collection of training missions to ease players into all that Port Royale 2 has to offer. While these training missions are a welcome addition, because the game is so incredibly complex, the only true way to learn is to readily jump in and get your hands dirty.
Port Royale 2 allows every aspiring businessman and swash buckler-to-be to build up his/her empire by creating successful cities. To do so, the player must engage in trade and commerce with other islands and towns throughout the Atlantic and Caribbean. Through successful ?wheeling and dealing’ the player acquires wealth and power. Gameplay allows the player to wander freely from port to port and accomplish his various mission objectives. There is no campaign per say, only the vast ocean and all of its untapped wealth for the player to explore and acquire. There are approximately two dozen different commodities that the player must manage. From tobacco to cotton to perishable goods, depending on the ebb and flow of supply and demand, the player will have to determine which goods to sell and whom to sell them to. Port Royale 2 caters to that entrepreneurial spirit that is inside each one of us.
The level of control the player has over his empire is staggering; the amount of intricate details and specifics that must be attended to are quite daunting. Only those looking for the most serious of empire building/trading simulations need apply here. If pouring over numbers determining where to get the most ?bang for your buck’ is your thing, then Port Royale 2 is all that you’re looking for and more. Managing trade routes, building fleets and erecting settlements all encompass the grand scope of this simulation. Players must be prepared to deal with the unexpected, seeing as storms, other aspiring ?businessmen’ (read: pirates), and numerous other occurrences can wreak havoc with your carefully laid business ventures.
The trading aspect of Port Royale 2 is just that – only one aspect. There are other missions that the player must complete in order to advance in rank and popularity with the game’s various factions. Complete these missions and you will be rewarded appropriately. They do much to break the tedium of checking town after town to find just the right price to unload your cotton supplies. Open up a business, escort a Royal fleet, defend your settlements from pirates, or even become a pirate yourself. The amount of things to do in Port Royale 2 is extensive, and will certainly keep those who give it a chance busy for a long time.
While the vast majority of the game is a trading/business simulation, Ascaron has felt it necessary to toss naval and hand-to-hand battles into the mix. While it should make sense that there would be conflict on the high seas circa 16th century, the implementation is less than satisfying. Sword fights are simple click-fest affairs that seem to just get in the way, if nothing more. Your success in naval combat seems to depend more upon the amount of ships in your fleet and the quality of your armament more than anything else. While not as easily dismissed as the sword fights, the battles on the high seas do little to thrill the player. The idea behind many of the ship battles is actually well conceived – defeat your opponent and sell his ships to boost your own coffers. While it is an interesting way to make money, it is a shame that the combat isn’t as enjoyable as it could be. They don’t bring down the game in any way, but most players will want them to be over quickly so that they can get back to assigning captains to their fleets, planning their trade routes, or running some mission for a town’s governor.
The interface in Port Royale 2 has lots of things to click on. Maybe that’s not the most articulate way to describe it, but it sure is the most accurate. With so many different things to do, Ascaron would be hard pressed to streamline the interface more than they have. Again, although daunting at first, the devoted player will soon learn where everything is, where to click and when.
Port Royale 2 is a colorful game at best. While the graphics are serviceable, they do nothing to advance the genre. Although the game allows for different levels of zoom on the isometric map, when using any mode other than the default, all of the 2D models quickly become pixilated. Despite these shortcomings, Port Royale 2 is all about depth and breadth through gameplay, the average graphics don’t hurt its overall presentation. The sound, on the other hand, is very appropriate with a first rate musical score.
Port Royale 2 is an incredibly deep empire/trade simulation made with fans of the genre in mind. While Ascaron has attempted to address many of the complaints of the first game in the series, there’s only so much that can be done to make things more accessible with such a complex game. Players who enjoy this type of management/simulation gameplay will likely become sucked into Port Royale 2’s game world. However, the fact still remains that in this heavily ?twitch-based’ market, many players will lack the required patience and overlook a polished and deep simulation deserving of higher recognition than it will likely receive.