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Port Royale 2: Cartels, Construction & Conquest
Port Royale 2
Publisher:Cinemaware Marquee
Genre:Real-Time Strategy
Release Date:May 2006*
Article Posted:June 2006
System Requirements

*As part of Buccaneer's Bounty
  Original release in 2004.

A nervous aide walks into your office to deliver the news. Your tobacco plantation in Santa Domingo is out of raw materials. The plantation workers are completely idle, unable to perform their jobs. You order to aide to load one of your convoys with the required materials and urgently send a shipment to Santa Domingo. Then you return to the report in front of you.

One of your convoys was attacked by pirates on the way back from Belize. Your brave sailors valiantly fought against the pirate fleet and won the battle. In fact, the captain of your convoy won a duel against the pirate captain and managed to capture an enemy ship. You are relieved that most of your sailors survived and the goods were delivered safely. An extra ship will also be most certainly useful. But the battle left your convoy heavily damaged. It will be another ten days before the ships can sail again. You know that the loss of trade during those ten days will be far more than the cost of the repairs. With a sigh you quickly glance over the rest of your convoys.

Your eyes drift to the date of the report. You vividly remember your recent meeting with the French Viceroy. He asked you to personally help in the war against Spain. You had eagerly agreed to annex a town on behalf of your nation. You only had fifteen days to complete the mission. It was going to be difficult to put together a fleet of battleships strong enough to stand against the town’s defenses. But you could not afford to disappoint the Viceroy. If you succeeded in annexing a town, you knew he was going to give you a plot of land. You could only imagine how much you could accomplish with your own town.

Things were not running as smoothly as you would like. You seemed to encounter countless problems at every turn. But looking out to the sea from your office window, you felt proud of you accomplishments. Just a few years ago you had started with a single ship and a small sum of gold. Now you owned an impressive fleet, a number of plantations, and your business continued to grow. Life in the Caribbean was always challenging. Yet you knew you would make a name for yourself. Your success over the past few years was only the beginning.

If you are looking for a challenging seafaring strategy game that offers great game play variety, you will be in for a treat with Port Royale 2. Combining successfully developed elements from their other games, Ascaron has put together a rather remarkable game. With Port Royale 2, players are offered a chance to engage in trade, town development, and intensive tactical sea battles all in one game. Port Royale 2 can be enjoyed in many different ways, appealing to the styles of different kinds of players.

In Port Royale 2, you will be playing as a business owner in the Caribbean. It is the early years of the 17th century. Many towns have already been established by England, France, Netherlands, and Spain along the sunny shores of the Caribbean. While larger towns are flourishing with thousands of colonists and many opportunities, smaller ones are struggling. As nations go to war for control of the colonies, pirates are terrorizing the seas. It is a dangerous and difficult time. But it is also a time of great opportunity. For a determined businessman and a brave sailor, there can be no end of success.

Port Royale 2 has been designed to give players a chance to experience many aspects f an aspiring seafaring merchant’s life in the colonial Caribbean. The game features eight single-player scenarios. The first four of these scenarios are fairly short and introduce players to different aspects of the game. The second set of scenarios take significantly more time to complete and build upon the concepts introduced during the tutorial levels. As you go through each scenario, the game will provide you with a series of objectives gradually leading to an ultimate goal. If you fail to accomplish any of the objectives, you lose the scenario.

Since the game has a large number of distinct features and takes a long time to master, having completing the eight missions will certainly help you learn how to play Port Royale 2. However, the true highlight of the game is the free play mode. This is where you bring together all the features covered during the scenarios and operate your business to your liking. While you will have to pay attention to the trading aspects, you will also be able to build up a town, hunt down pirates, or complete special missions assigned by governors.

Unless you are playing one of the scenarios focused on sea battles, you will start the game with a fairly humble amount of gold and a single convoy. In order to establish a successful business and amass significant wealth, you need to transfer goods between various cities. Port Royale 2 features a wide variety of trade items divided into various categories. Each town requires a good supply of essential items such as grains, fruit, wood, and bricks. The next category includes the raw materials used to produce finished goods. Sugar canes, cotton, hemp, and corn constitute the raw materials. These are used to produce rum, clothing, meat, and rope. There are also colonial goods such as coffee grains, cocoa, dyes, and tobacco. The governor towns are frequently visited by ships from Europe. Since the European convoys are looking to purchase colonial goods, these items are always in high demand in governor towns.

Basic supply and demand economics controls prices in Port Royale 2. If a certain good is available in large quantities at a given town, its price will be relatively low. On the other hand, scarce goods that are in high demand will be very expensive. In order to earn money from trading, you need to sock up on the goods where they are low in place and sell them in towns where they are in high demand. However, the prices and supplies do not stay constant as you engage in trade. As you buy trading goods, their prices will start going up as the town’s supplies are depleted. Similarly, as you sell goods, you will increase the available quantity in town, which will reduce prices. Over time, as each town continues to produce goods, the prices will change again. Furthermore, other traders will influence the market. It will take some time for players to get used to the market dynamics and choose the best trade options.

Each town produces five different kinds of goods. The items are typically available in large quantities and at cheaper prices in the towns that produce them. As a merchant, if you have good relations with a given town, you can apply for a building permit. The permit allows you to construct buildings. Each building requires a certain amount of gold to cover the construction costs. You also have to supply the bricks and wood that serve as the building materials. If you do not have enough wood or bricks in your warehouse, you can buy them from the town. If the town does not have enough either, you will have to obtain the supplies from a different town.

You can construct general buildings such as a hospital or a school to improve the quality of life in the town. But where you will truly want to focus your energies is the construction of facilities that will allow you to produce goods. The production facilities are a great way of obtaining trade goods at a good price. If you can maintain low upkeep costs, the facilities will provide you a steady supply of items to sell. Some of your plants will require a supply of raw materials before they can produce goods. For instance, you will not be able to produce rum without sugar canes available at your warehouse. You will have to obtain the raw materials at a low price in order to bring down production costs and sell your finished goods with a good profit margin.

Each production plant requires a certain number of workers to operate at full capacity. Colonists traveling from Europe regularly arrive at governor towns. If your buildings are at a non-governor town, you can transfer the colonists using your trade convoys. Whenever you deliver them to a town with available jobs, colonists will pay you for providing passage. Each of the workers at your production facilities will have a family. You will have to construct residential areas to make sure your workers and their families have a place to stay.

Trading and constructing buildings are hardly the only aspects of Port Royale 2. Players can also engage in sea battles. As you progress through the game, pirates will appear across the Caribbean. You can equip your ships with cannons to fight against these pirate ships. In each convoy you can designate up to five ships as escort ships. Only the ships designated as escorts will be able to participate in sea battles. Your ships can carry three types of ammunition that specifically damage the hull, the sailors, or the sails of an enemy ship. If you are trying to sink your opponent, attacking the hull is the best approach. However, if you are intending to capture the ship, you will want to go against its crew. If you have significantly more sailors than the enemy, you can attempt to board your opponent’s ship. If your sailors manage to overpower the enemy, you will be able to add the vessel to your convoy.

As you hunt down pirates, you will eventually be able to follow them to their secret hideouts. If you catch a spot where the pirate ships seem to approach the shore and disappear, you are probably very close to the hideout. By lingering around the location and keeping an eye out for pirate vessels, you will eventually discover their base. You can then attack the base with your convoy. If you manage to destroy the cannon towers defending the base, you can annihilate the entire pirate gang and claim their treasure.

In addition to fighting pirates, you can also attack convoys belonging to other nations. The countries colonizing the Caribbean will frequently go to war against one another. When a war is in progress, you can obtain a letter of Marquee from one nation to hunt down the vessels belonging to another. If you destroy enough of the enemy nation’s military convoys, you can tip the way in favor of your nation. You can also donate convoys to strengthen your nation’s fleet. When the balance of power is sufficiently in favor of one nation, you can visit their Viceroy to obtain a mission to annex a town.

In order to annex a town, you will need to attack it with your convoy. You can attempt to tear through the town’s defenses in two ways. By attacking from the sea, you can pit your ships against the town’s cannon towers. These powerful towers will inflict heavy damage on your ships. But if you manage to defeat all of the towers, you will win the battle and have an opportunity to claim the town for your nation. Alternatively, you can hire a large crew and equip them with swords and guns. If you have more equipped sailors than the town’s local military force, you can consider attacking from the land. The land battles play a simplified real-time strategy game. You simply need to lead your troops through the map and engage the enemy. As long as you have the stronger military force, you will easily win the battle.

The biggest benefit of annexing towns is the opportunity to gain your own plot of land. By giving your nation more territory, you will impress the Viceroy and convince him to grant you a small area where you can construct your own town. You will then use the building interface of the game to turn your plot of land into a prospering colony. By maintaining a steady supply of goods, creating businesses, and transferring colonists, you can increase the town’s population, make the citizens happy, and encourage other merchants to trade at your town.

In addition to the complex trade and battle interfaces, Port Royale 2 also features a duel system. Occasionally, the captain of your convoy may be challenged by an enemy captain to participate in a duel. These fights use a very simple interface. By clicking on the enemy with the left mouse button, you will instruct your captain to attack. A right click will block your opponent’s attacks. When you make a sufficient number of successful attacks, the enemy will give up and accept defeat.

If all of this is not enough to keep you busy, you can also complete missions assigned by governors, look for treasure across the Caribbean, rescue shipwrecked sailors, take loans from town councils, have your crew blessed by the local church to improve their morale, or try your luck by gambling at inns. Port Royale 2 has enough content to keep you occupied for many hours. The large number of features gives players an opportunity to experience Port Royale 2 in several distinct ways.

Unfortunately, Port Royale 2 is not without its problems. The biggest issue is the tremendous learning curve. The wide variety of features offered makes Port Royale 2 rather complex game. The game’s interface includes numerous buttons and menus spread throughout the screen. Learning how to access all the relevant information and where you can find each command will take you some time. Initially, you might feel overwhelmed by the number of menus and different commands you will need to learn. You also have access to good deal of statistical information. You will have to identify which pieces are most relevant to the game play and learn to digest the information quickly.

Before you can make significant gains from trading, you will have to get a feel for the prices of different goods. Without understanding what might be a good buying and selling price for a category of trade items, you are sure to lose money. You will also have to start observing trends in the prices and pay attention to which towns are urgently in need of certain goods. In addition, your ships will gradually wear out as you sail the seas. You will need to make sure they receive repairs at regular intervals. You also need to keep an eye on the morale of your crew.

In order to win sea battles, you need to get accustomed to the manually controlling your ships. You need to pay attention to the direction of the wind and learn to get the enemy ships to follow you from an angle where you can attack them without getting hit. Learning how to fire your cannons effectively will take some practice. In addition, you will need to make sure your convoys are equipped with enough cannons and ammunition to participate in sea battles. If you want to board enemy ships or discourage your opponents from boarding yours, you will have to make sure you have enough sailors. However, these sailors will require significant amounts of gold each day, making it difficult to run a profitable business while keeping a full crew on each convoy.

If you want to annex towns for a nation, you will need to learn how to systematically diminish the military power of the enemy while strengthening the fleet of the nation you are supporting. In order to become eligible for building permits, you’ll need to improve your relationship with towns by providing them the goods they desperately need. Engaging in any aspect of the game involves a certain learning curve. Before you can effectively run your business and amass riches, you will need to spend a number of hours just trying to understand how everything works.

Fortunately, the scenarios of Port Royale 2 are designed in a way to familiarize players with each aspect of the game. You will start by learning the basic controls and the trade dynamics. Then the game will give you a chance to construct a few buildings and try a number of sea battles. As such, it is highly recommended to try the scenarios before getting into the free play mode. However, despite all the help the game provides, players should still expect to spend a fair amount of time learning how to play Port Royale 2.

It is worth noting that players can also diminish the amount of time required to learn Port Royale 2 by trying other simpler titles from Ascaron. If you re buying Port Royale 2 as part of Cinemaware Marquee’s Buccaneer’s Bounty collection, the other games in the collection will familiarize you with the two core aspects of Port Royale 2. While Patirican III will help you get comfortable with the trade elements, Tortuga will give you a good feel for the sea battles.

The game could have also benefited from a few additional scenarios. Players who prefer a more structured gaming experience than what the free play mode offers may not be fully satisfied with the available scenarios. An overall storyline tying all the individual scenarios together would have also been nice. The dueling and land battle features could have been developed a little further since they are rather simplistic. However, the different game play dynamics offered in Port Royale 2 makes for a rich experience that more than makes up for these minor concerns.

Overall, Port Royale 2 is an engaging game that can keep you occupied for countless hours. Players will be required to put in a fair amount of time in order to learn the game. Getting accustomed to the trade interface, learning how to control ships during a battle, and understanding the economics that dictate the prices will require players to have a certain amount of patience before they can truly enjoy Port Royale 2. However, once you get your trade business off the ground, purchase a few convoys and construct a few production facilities, Port Royale 2 starts really working its charms on you. Between hunting down pirates, annexing towns, and making the most profitable transactions, Port Royale 2 manages to create an immersive and enjoyable atmosphere. If the idea of creating a trade empire in the Caribbean during the colonial times appeals to you, don’t miss Port Royale 2. Sailing among the beautiful islands, many strategy gamers may find something to enjoy.

The final grade is 85/100.

Port Royale 2 is part of the Buccaneer's Bounty collection. To read about the other games that are part of the compilation, click here.


PC System Requirements:
Windows® 98 SE/ME/2000/XP
Pentium® II 450 MHz
DirectX® Compatible 16 MB video card
DirectX® Compatible Soundcard