It can often be a rough process taking a traditional PC-type game and shaping it to the console. Port Royale 4 is an intricate grand naval strategy title; part of a series that has never been on console before. However not only is this a great sequel, it’s also delivered as an excellent translation to the Xbox. This will provide hours of deep dive maritime trade management, combat, politics, and a lot of fun.
Port Royale 4 is strategy on the large-scale as players are tasked with managing fleets of convoys and coastal towns, either in campaigns or in a free play mode. At first glance it can appear intimidating, however it ends up being much simpler and more approachable than it first appears. Much of that is down to the excellent job it does of easing you into the systems through the tutorials and tooltips.
Truly the tutorial is excellent. It manages to be about forty minutes in length and teaches you nearly everything that you need to know about how to play and how the systems work. It goes through everything from mechanics of the economy, setting up trade routes, to fighting enemy ships. It’s impressive that it manages to condense an intricate game so quickly.
Learning to manage the economy is crucial and it’s a very large part of the gameplay experience. Almost everything you do contributes to supporting your funds in some way. Players begin with a small number of small sail ships, with the goal of getting much more and setting up trade routes.
Trade routes are essential as you get a huge amount of freedom in how you set up and optimize them. It’s great fun going through the locations trying to find the best material to buy and sell on your route. There’s a deeply satisfying feeling working on a web-like system of trade and seeing it being executed.
Once you have the gold rolling in, then you begin running towns, creating buildings, moving workers around, and satisfying your viceroy. The viceroy is the leader of your country, offering up crucial upgrades and ships. However in order to get them on your good side, you must complete tasks and develop your towns. I was worried initially about how fun this would be considering the obvious naval focus, but it works as a totally competent city builder. It can perhaps come across as a little simplistic, but with how complex the rest of the experience can be, that’s not a negative.
What will get in the way of your progress however are pirates and enemy nations. While you’re sailing the sea, convoys and towns can be raided and attacked by enemies. This is where the combat comes in and it’s a turn-based affair. Each ship in a fleet has a turn and you move spaces on a grid-based patch of water. It’s not terribly deep, with only a few basic moves and attacks.
There are however extra “tactics” that certain ships and captains have. Those allow some different abilities to be used during the fight and are invaluable. Honestly, through my time with Port Royale 4 I have mostly used the auto fights though, as I found the combat to be getting in the way of the more exciting strategy that unfolds. I was certainly more invested in my trade routes and towns than any fights that went down.
One of the most impressive aspects of the game though is found in the map – these massive stretches of ocean, minimized versions of the Caribbean. The scale can often feel giant, especially when zoomed all the way out.
The major problem that plagues the Xbox version however is that of the resolution. Port Royale 4 runs great but at the sacrifice of a visual drop when compared to the PC version. This is not a deal breaker and doesn’t look at all terrible, but it is a shame. It really looks night and day compared to the PC, but it runs perfectly so feels like a necessary sacrifice.
Port Royale 4 on Xbox One delivers a shockingly great time. I feel that many will skip past this title because it looks niche or too complicated, but truly this is a streamlined and swashbuckling affair that provides a good time throughout. I immediately started having fun with practically no learning curve needed, as it drew me into a system of trade routes, town management, and naval combat. It’s a unique and engaging mixture that provides hours of strategy.