Port Royale

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Port Royale on GoG.com

MSRP: $5.99

Platform: Windows

Release: 6/4/03

The GoG.com sale led to me having quite a spendy week.  I spent just over $50, and managed to add 29 games to my library (I’m including in that the three free games you got from racking up sale XP, but not the System Shock 2 giveaway at the beginning).  I felt a little guilty, until I did the math – in the end, it comes in just under $1.75 per game, and that’s with the big ol’ splurge on Grim Dawn.  Moreover, it’s taken me on a wonderful ride down nostalgia highway, and I suspect I’m most excited over the strategy games I picked up.  Economic strategy has always been a weakness of mine, which is why I was absolutely delighted to be able to pick up a working copy of Port Royale for a song.

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The game runs without issue full screen in Windows 8 – however, trying to get it to run in a window so I could take screenshots was a bit of a challenge. In windowed mode, the window will tend to resize itself at random, making things not only really ugly, but almost impossible to play since the game is no longer detecting the mouse at the same point it shows on the screen.  So if you’re going to play it, play it full screen; it’s a little pixelated, but not bad for a game of its age.

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Port Royal doesn’t actually have a campaign – when you start a new single player game, you choose from a few options, customize your trader, and the game begins, meaning that – for the most part – you have to figure out how to get to where you want to be on your own. There’s a tutorial level (which after awhile turns into a single player scenario with no further help), which I highly recommend, even if you’re familiar with later games in the series.

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Port Royale is often criticized for being a “shallow” trading game, and maybe it was going in with low expectations, but I found it actually pretty robust.  Yes, the basic premise is buy low sell high, but good prices fluctuate in real time – if you buy too much of a single trade good, the price will go up as the quantity in the warehouses goes down.  In your home port, you have a storehouse where you can store extra goods if the price falls past what you want to sell for, and you can set up orders for your storehouse master to start selling off excess goods.  You can even invest in businesses of your own to create products that are scarce.

Or if you prefer, you can expand your fleet, and acquire your goods from other, weaker traders.  Piracy is a reality in Port Royale, and even if you don’t decide to live the pirate life, care must be taken to defend yourself.  If you’re not a big fan of high seas combat, the game gives you the option to keep it simple, but it’s definitely something that needs to be on your mind, regardless.

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Strategy games with a focus on economics and trade have always been something of a niche market, and many folks are likely to find them dull. For those drawn to the genre, but who lack experience with it, Port Royale is a pretty solid starting point – the tutorial will give you a good handle on all the relevant systems and options, and the price is right to check out if the play style is something you enjoy.

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