Buy, sell and do favours in the fifteenth century.
Empire building games come in a variety of different flavours, and all appeal to the power-hungry megalomaniac inside all of us. The most exciting way to build an empire is surely through aggressive conquest, wiping out all that oppose us. Kalypso Media’s Rise of Venice is not that sort of game. It challenges the player to build a trade empire and become the Alan Sugar of 15th century Venice. Whilst this may be the more sedate route to building an empire, it is not without its excitement.
Developed by Gaming Minds, who were behind such recent games as Port Royale 3 and Patrician IV, fans of the developer may well know what to expect from this latest title. And they wouldn’t be wrong for the most part, as the game takes the same core components, settles them with 15th century Venice at the centre, and throws in a few new features. It is not a massive jump from previous games and veteran players will know their way around fairly quickly.
That being said, the tutorial will fill in any gaps in the gaming knowledge, or at least it will try to. There are a few areas in the game that are a bit vague and best worked out through trial and error. Otherwise, Rise of Venice is fairly easy to play.
But that doesn’t mean it is an easy game. The simple concept of running a fleet of ships from one port to another for a quick profit is hobbled by a few things, not the least of which is Venice’s issues with Genoa. As a rival to Venice, Genoa demands that certain ports loyal to them on the map will not trade with you. This essentially prevents taking advantage of certain ports’ wants and needs, without paying out exorbitant bribes. There are other ways that this rivalry between the two city states affects the game, such as offering to harass Genoa through blockades or piracy, but in the early game this limitation has the most effect.
Leveling up your captain is made much more important in Rise of Venice, and will affect the making of money all through the game. When the player begins, they are limited to what they can buy and sell, and the player will unlock new goods as they level up. Even the leveling up itself will cause players to step away from their money making schemes as they have to gain favour with at least half of the Senate before they can advance, meaning side missions and bribery. The goal, besides making money, is to get a place on that Senate and eventually rise to ruler.
Life in Venice is a family affair though, and the player will not only have to deal with powerful families where the Senate is concerned, but they will also have rival families also building up their own trade empire. Underhand tactics can be employed, such as theft, piracy and misinformation to besmirch the other family names, to get the advantage. The players own family gets involved to, with members being placed into positions such as captains, or sent to deal with other problems.
The game map is simply stunning, with a really impressive level of detail. The ports in Rise of Venice are all displayed on the main map now, with the player being able to zoom in and actually select the buildings that they need to visit without opening a new window, or they can right click on the town to bring up a menu of what is available.
As the player progresses through the levels by winning over more than half of the representatives, they will be allowed to control more convoys and thus build their empire, setting trade routes and watching the money roll in. Another hindrance to domination comes with the player only being able to trade in a couple of ports from the beginning. Further ports, besides the ones loyal to Genoa, will only be open once the player acquires a trading license, the cost of which will depend on their standing with that port.
When things get messy out at sea, the arcadey naval combat from Port Royale 3 returns and allows players to maneuver their little ships around to remove any threat. The naval combat is perhaps the weakest point in the game, but considering that the game is much more focused on being a trading sim than a naval combat sim, with only a few instances when manual naval combat is actually required, it is unlikely that most players will notice.
Rise of Venice is a game that fans of the genre will enjoy. It could be argued that the changes over previous titles are too few and that it is a missed opportunity for Gaming Minds to evolve their trading sims. But the changes and new additions are enough to make Rise of Venice feel different and worth playing, and the core game is as solid as ever.