Port Royale 2
In two months time, Sid Meier's Pirates! will be returning to the high seas after a decade long exile. This is bad news for the developer of Port Royale 2, because while Ascaron has done a consistent job of creating trading games set during the golden age of sail (through games like The Patrician), over the past ten years it hasn't so much mounted a challenge to the captain's chair as kept it warm for Sid's eventual return.
Effectively then, Port Royale is a Pirates! tribute, with the focus shifted away from adventure and excitement. Here, your objective is to foster a corporate fortune by trading with the four major powers and building industrial centres across 60 towns in and around the Caribbean. Producing goods cheaply, ferrying them around and selling them on to whoever offers the highest price is about the gist of it. There is some combat, but it doesn't feel as dramatic or as central to the game as it should - the 1600s were relatively lawless times, after all.
One new feature is land-based combat, where you can disembark your troops outside of a town and make an assault. Soldiers are automatically grouped into a mass of rifle or cutlass and you simply point-and-click at the enemy blobs. The only problem is it's effectively a numbers game, and looks and plays dreadfully.
Much better is the ship combat, which again is directed RTS style. In it, you control one ship at a time - and as unrealistic as it sounds, the method is surprisingly effective, making it easier to access the firepower of your entire fleet.
As with its predecessor, trading is well done, as prices fluctuate in response to the various convoys zipping across the tropical waters. Setting up trade routes is a relatively easy affair, and with some investment in warehouses, plantations and workers huts (no mention of slaves, you'll notice), it isn't long before you have a thriving business empire stretching from Florida to Havana. Better yet, you can also secure permission from local governments to build your own towns from scratch.
Although improvements to the original game aren't immediately obvious, they are there. A set of tutorial missions is designed to break in the newcomer, while a giant open-ended game is available if you prefer to dive in at the deep end, with missions to conquer towns, pirates and trade routes. And, of course, no pirate game would be complete without a treasure map.
However, as solid as Port Royale 2 is, few people can afford to have more than one seafaring adventure in their collection. With Sid Meier's Pirates! due in port very soon, we reckon you should hold fire on this one. While Sid's new game certainly won't be as deep, we'll wager it will be more action-packed. If you've been waiting patiently for ten years, we're sure you can hold out a little longer...
Download Port Royale 2
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP