Take to the high seas and build your fortune as you dive into trade, industry, and piracy.
Genre: Simulation, Strategy
Developer: Gaming Minds
Publisher: Kalypso Media
Release date: 25 Sept, 2020
Economy-based games may not be everyone’s cup of tea, especially when many of them lack the depth and staying power that’s needed to keep titles in the genre interesting. The trading subgenre, in particular, requires a number of skillfully interlocking systems that continually adapt to keep the experience fresh from start to finish.
Port Royale 4 manages to pull off being a great trading sim by combining important elements such as supply and demand, resource production and manufacturing, company advancement, and naval combat. Although I cam into the experience having little experience with trade sims, this title drew me in and opened my eyes to how enjoyable they can be when done well.
Buy Low, Sell High
Port Royale 4 is all about making a profit. When you first found your company, buying goods cheaply and selling them at a higher price is the only way you’ll be able to make a reliable profit. Your starting funds will allow you to purchase your first batch of goods and the licenses to trade in a nearby settlement or two.
Goods are kept interesting by each settlement having four new resources that are viable to be produced there, such as corn, fruit, or coal. These require the proper buildings, some of which are likely to exist already, others that will need to be built to take advantage of the location’s natural capabilities.
Alternatively, workshops consume resources to produce more valuable goods that tend to have a higher demand due to their lower availability. Beer (from grain), clothing (from fabric which is itself from cotton), and pastries (grain and sugar) are but a few of the many goods that will be produced on the islands. A nice touch here is that there are dozens of goods available and you’ll continually be swapping what’s in your hold as you pick up goods where they are produced and sell them where they are most needed.
From a Simple Ship to a Great Merchant Fleet
As your wealth increases, you’ll invest it back into the company in the form of additional ships and buildings. To assist in managing your ever-growing fleet of merchant ships, you can set up automated trade routes that will purchase and sell goods on a path that you determine. It’s a simple process that allows you to focus on other matters at hand as your trade routes intelligently make trading decisions without needing your constant attention.
Getting involved in industry itself can be expensive and requires not only a trading license in a settlement but also building permissions, neither of which are cheap. Once you’ve acquired these, there’s a great opportunity for fattening up your coffers though. Settlements can only ever produce six goods themselves, including both raw and manufactured varieties. Your industries will have to pay their workers, but if they’re planned according to the circumstances that surround them, they’ll bring in plenty of wealth by producing goods at a fraction of the price that you’d acquire them for elsewhere.
Playing Politics for Profit
Outside of your everyday business, you’ll be requested to complete optional tasks that offer a variety of rewards, not the least of which is fame. Fame offers another separate form of progression outside of wealth accumulation, including permits for new building types, passive bonuses to your fleets and settlements, and opportunities to become the administrator of such towns.
Administration is truly a rich man’s game as it involves the construction of civil buildings, such as residential neighbourhoods, hospitals, churches, and parks, all of which don’t directly boost your income like the other methods that your company has taken by this point. What it does provide is an increase in the infrastructure that supports your industries as well as an increased population that will increase the demands for your goods. A very profitable method for improving your stranglehold over the Caribbean economy, just make sure that you keep the areas that you’re in charge of administrating well supplied and working at full efficiency.
Ready the Cannons!
For better or worse, your interactions won’t always be limited to the realm of legitimate business. Pirates roam the seas, and if you so choose, you just might be one of them. Piracy has plenty of political ramifications, though no one would suggest that it doesn’t have some very profitable benefits.
Battles play out in a turn-based tactical system where different ships have varying capabilities, most noticeably via their unique activated abilities. Compared to others in the genre, these battles are surprisingly deep and thrilling, though I wouldn’t get much enjoyment out of a title that was centered around this particular system. They add some spice to the simulation, and fortunately, how much of it you run into is often based on how much of it you go looking for. It’s never a bad idea to have military ships accompanying your convoys though.
Port Royale 4 is an excellent trading simulation and likely the best that I’ve played even if I can’t claim to be as experienced in the genre as some. As much as sailing around and trading goods didn’t jump out at me at first, I was hooked within minutes of selling my first hold full of goods. If you like economy and trading sims, this is a no-brainer and I highly recommend that you get your hands on Port Royale 4. Perhaps an even higher form of praise, as long as you’re not entirely opposed to the concept, I would at least try this title on a sale. You very well may be surprised by how much you end up enjoying it. I enjoyed it enough that I’m already hoping that there will be some DLC coming our way in the future. More goods to trade, ships to build, and lands to explore, perhaps?