Port Royale 4 Review
You play in Spanish, English, French or Dutch. Besides the free game with a lot of settings, there is a campaign for each of the four nations, which alone should keep you busy for dozens of hours. In the Spanish campaign (which we strongly recommend to Port Royale beginners even after the tutorial before they start a free game) you have to supply the many but widely scattered cities, among other things.
But the competition doesn’t sleep, many AI dealers of the four nations want to make a profit. The respective Viceroy provides you with basic tasks like “build a big shipyard in Seville” or “finish off Pirate XY”. The biggest difference between Free Play and the campaigns In the campaigns you have to fulfill the orders of the vice-chief until the deadline, in the free game you can complete them – or not.
Port Royale 4 is a feast for efficiency wrenches! Hard-bitten players even deactivate the useful red-green level indicators that mark shortages and surpluses in the trade, and instead keep price lists on the side to get the maximum profit. The best way to do this is with paper and pencil, just like at Hanse!
Port Royale 4 plays on a very large Caribbean map. Very nice: You can zoom out infinitely far to keep track of your and other convoys – zooming out far also speeds up the time. And you can zoom far in, very close to single ships, cities, storms, a lot of Caribbean flair included.
The biggest playful change is in the naval battles that you fight against pirates or enemy convoys. The replacement of the previous real-time battles with turn-based battles has caused a lot of discussion among Port Royale veterans, to put it mildly. But that’s really a matter of taste – those who generally prefer real-time rather than turn-based combat will find the new combat system worse per se.
Port Royale 4 is really good, because it offers a lot of tactical possibilities. For example, each ship can fire two broadsides per turn. But only one per starboard and port side. So you should move and maneuver so that you can attack one enemy ship on each side. There are also classic maneuvers like stray fire to decimate the enemy crew and board their ship.
But Port Royale 4 offers even more tactics. Each ship type has its own special tactics – a corvette can reload quickly, i.e. fire twice, a galleon can fire grenades with area damage, a war galleon can push away enemy ships and generally fire two fields away. The more ships with the same tactic you have in a convoy, the more often you can use this tactic.
Even the convoy captain, which is mandatory for warship units, brings tactics like “repair 25 percent of hitpoints” or “more movement points” – provided we have collected them beforehand through quests, delivery orders and so on as a reward (more on this in a moment).
The more ships with the same tactic you have in a convoy, the more often you can use that tactic. This, combined with the Captain’s skills, allows you to create very specialized convoys. So if you like to tinker with the perfect war fleet, as you do with trade prices, you’ll be happy here! And if you don’t like to fight at all, the outcome will be calculated automatically – but then you risk much higher losses than in a self-inflicted battle.
The search for and the hunt for Pirates is quite exciting. However, as in the predecessor, the game only gives us simple text messages where we have to search for something. For example “In the area of Martinique”. If we have not yet discovered the city indicated, we either have to dig out our old Pirates! map – or use Google Maps.
Why buy what you can also produce yourself? According to this motto, you can set up up to seven different production facilities in one city – either on your own or pushed by your viceroy’s wish. Because Port Royale 4 also contains a good bit of building game. But also a bit of German bureaucracy under the Caribbean sun: First we need a trading license (costs money), then a building permit. That also costs a bundle, but we only get it when we have achieved 100 percent awareness in the city. We achieve this in turn through constant deliveries of goods.
You are not allowed to build all production facilities in every city – you also need the corresponding deposits or fertile soil, such as coal or soil suitable for sugar cane. Ideally, a city will allow you to build all parts of a production chain: sugar cane plantation + sawmill + rum distillery = cheers! If you also build these buildings next to each other, you’ll get a nice production bonus on top.
Why shop when you can also annex yourself? Instead of waving expensive trading licenses and building permits, we can take over cities completely. Provided our country is at war with the nation of the coveted city. Such wars break out from time to time – we have no influence on them. But we can shamelessly exploit the situation: Attacks on enemy convoys or even city sieges are legal in case of war as long as we have a letter of marque from the viceroy in our coat pocket.
Port Royale 4 is a beautiful simulation that makes complex trading strategies seem easy. Although the accumulation of money almost happens by itself, the urge to try out more and more differentiated trade routes and to ensure the economic upswing of one’s own nation remains and provides long-term motivation. It is easy to spend a small to medium-sized fortune on the expansion of a city. It’s worth taking the trade into your own hands, but the AI doesn’t mess around, so Port Royale 4 should be suitable for veterans as well as newcomers to the strategy genre. The glory system ensures that even in free play, you will have fun getting tasks done.
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