I’m not a huge fan of strategy or management games being developed for console. Typically, the mouse and keyboard control combo is simply far more suited to effectively navigating your way through complex menus and selecting and controlling small units, but I have to admit, Port Royale 3 has been fairly well ported, and is actually pretty playable on Xbox 360.
Port Royale 3 sticks you in the boots of a 17th century trading mogul. The core gameplay mechanics are based around basic capitalist principles, i.e. buy low and sell high. In the trader campaign you will spend a lot of time buying certain goods at one town, and then selling them for profit at another town. Each town typically has a few select goods of which they will have a surplus, and it obviously makes sense to alleviate them of this excess and sell them to another town which is in short supply of said product. This buying and selling process is made quite simple by the fact that the game gives the player an indication of the average prices of each item.
The economic model is fairly complex, but at the same time, it’s pretty easy to get a handle on it. For example, you might identify a town that is unable to produce enough rum because it is in short supply of sugar. If you can find a good sugar supplier, you can sell it to that town for profit, and then wait for them to produce excess rum, before once again buying from them and then looking to sell high somewhere else.
The game also consists of a few fairly limited exploration elements. At the outset of each game you are given a few discovered towns, but by exploring various coast lines you are able to discover new towns and therefore, new trading possibilities. You will also come across pirate bases, pirate ships, shipwrecked survivors and other random goodies. Most of these discoveries are fairly novel additions to the gameplay experience that don’t do much to shake things up, but do make the entire experience a little more interesting. You can control your ships manually, or you can set up trade routes, which you can customize. Having said that, the AI seems incapable of consistently raking in the profits that you can achieve if you control these affairs manually – this is probably a deliberate feature designed to incentivise players to take a more hands-on approach.
In Port Royale 3 you will also have a chance to take part in some naval combat. The adventure campaign is separate from the trading campaign, and focuses on ship-to-ship and ship-to-town combat. I was surprised at the tactical depth on offer here, and although the combat is a slow-paced affair, it is fairly enjoyable. You can choose which cannon ammunition to use, board and take over enemy ships, and steal other captains’ goods.
Port Royale 3 is a decent naval management simulator, with some interesting combat and exploration elements. The control scheme is surprisingly well designed for console, and if you’re a fan of the genre but don’t have a PC to game on, then it’s probably worth trying out. It remains quite a menu intensive game, however, so I would imagine the experience to be a lot more comfortable on PC. My biggest problem with the game is that it inevitably gets a little slow and boring at certain parts. The pacing is deliberately slow, although it can also be a very rewarding experience at times.
At the end of the day, I would only recommend this to staunch fans of the genre.