It takes a certain kind of skill to make a game that allows you to be a pirate and plunder what you wish so deathly dull. Many die hard supporters of the newest in the Port Royale series have dismissed reviewers as gamers with short attention spans, and that they should all return to COD or Halo. Well, as a purveyor of the Civilisation games, as well as countless other RTS, I can safely say that Port Royale 3 is still hideously dull.
The game sells its self as a swashbuckling romp across the 17th century Caribbean allowing you to find your place between the 4 empires of the French, Dutch, Spanish and English empires (though, for much of the time period the game takes place, there really wasn’t an English empire to speak of but the far more well known British Empire.) There are two paths open to you, one as an adventurer and the other as a trader , though both require the same tutorial to run through which, to all but the most ardent Port Royale fans or economic buffs, is essential to even have a vague understand of what you are doing. Both manage to involve some love interest that you are sent to save/ shower with gold and both manage to be deathly boring. At least a stab at a plot would have given the whole game more context, the drive for the main character is non-existent, which is pretty much how you will feel by the first few hours of the game.
The trading system seems to be competently created but almost unapproachable without hours and hours of deep playthroughs with limited or know payoff; games that require a huge difficulty curve need to provide a decent ‘carrot’ or experience at the end or along the way to make the time invested even vaguely worth it something which Port Royale 3 fails on both counts. The buying and selling mechanic is talked about vaguely and it takes a huge amount of trial and error to learn that the only way you can trade efficiently is to trade in small amounts to ensure demand and prices go in your favour. Somehow, in the life of a privateer or pirate, the popularity of ones exploits is very important , and is directly tied to the assets you buy and sell. This is not the Sims, nor am I running for office, so why would I, a pirate or hugely rich trader, give a damn about what the many islands seem to think of me and why on earth is it linked you to your success in the game?
Even combat and exploration is rubbish and unsatisfying with a large amount of it coming down to cut scenes and events you have no control over, with statistics taking any and all control out of the fate of your ships making you feel helpless and a bit useless at the same time. The combat system isn’t explained in the trader campaign either meaning that they you essentially be screwed over later on in the game when the pirates attack if you haven’t experienced the other cumbersome tutorial.
You spend most of your time staring at the one screen that allows you to travel from port to port in some of the most maddening ways with little or no way to collate your fleet or travel efficiently from place to place. Every location manages to look exactly the same and wouldn’t look out of place in any of the last generations consoles, voice work is wooden, other graphics are below par, cutscenes are literally just a pan of a still life drawing and combat looks completely naff.
There is a multiplayer feature as well, though good luck finding anybody in the vast expanse of Xbox Live to play with you; online community seems to be completely zero which does not bode well for its continual maintenance later down the line.
Despite how deep or difficult a game is, there is usually a gateway or starting point where the toil and effort that is put in feels satisfying as you get a larger grip on it as a whole; Port Royale 3 throws rookies at the deep end and leaves them to drown in the ridiculous amounts of menus, a frankly poor tutorial and boring game play. The amount of time you would have to put in to master all the games poorly mapped out nuances is far too much in comparison to the sheer boredom you will feel manually taking one ship to one port for 3 bits of coffee (there is an automated way of doing this but it seemed preferable to play the game rather than treat it as an Excel document). For your pirating needs, go back to Sid Meiers Pirates, whilst avoiding this and the previously reviewed Risen 2 as there is no plunder to be found here!