Port Royale 3: Pirates and Merchants preview

Trade and battle on the high seas

Have you ever wanted to be a ship captain in the mid-1500s buying and selling sugar, spice, and everything nice in the middle of the Caribbean? Well, neither have we. After all, it doesn't particularly sound like the most exciting gaming experience, but once we took control of our own trading vessel, stopped at a few ports, and actually started to turn a profit - we were hooked.

Port Royal 3: Pirates and Merchants sets players in command of their own ship in either a law-abiding Trader campaign or the action-heavy Adventurer campaign. Each takes a different approach to living the life of the sailor. As a Trader, you'll do just as you'd expect: trade goods, build business relationships and earn money through conducting business. The Adventurer, on the other hand, makes his money through militaristic domination, conquering cities, and raiding opposing merchant ships.

The demo started us at the beginning of the Trader campaign with a tutorial that walked us through the basics of docking at a port and analyzing trade prices. This might sound like a snooze-fest to anyone who hasn’t played a city builder or trade simulator before, but once we got the hang of the system, we completely lost ourselves sailing from port to port, buying Cuban tobacco and selling the shipment in what would be the future Florida.

Making money means buying trade items when a city supply is high and selling when the demand is high. Not only that, buying sugar at Tortuga and selling it in a city that has scarce stock of the item will increase your popularity with the city. After you earn enough money, build up a positive trade reputation, and fulfill some off-hand assignments, you’ll be able to build property. This will open even more avenues to earn gold to hire more sailors, build convoys or even manufacture your own goods.  

One of the great things about Port Royal 3 is you can play it any way you want. After earning ourselves a nice chunk of change through legitimate trade, we decided to try a different approach – piracy. In the Adventurer campaign, you’ll be able to make your fortune from looting and pillaging passing merchant ships and eventually from attacking towns.  From the nautical map you’ll see trade cities spread throughout the Caribbean and the merchant ships moving from port to port. Any ship you see on the map can be attacked, which sends you into Battle Mode.

In battle mode, you take complete control over your battle ship and attempt to overcome the opposing convoy. Much of the battle consists of maneuvering your ship to get the enemy in range of your cannons. Cannon ball barrages, explosive barrels, and chain shots can slow down victims enough so you can get close and send over a boarding party. If you’ve equipped your sailors with swords and firearms they can kill the other ship’s crew and plunder their precious cargo. Yo ho!

We’ve barely scratched the surface of Port Royal 3 and, so far, we like what we see. Port Royale 3: Pirates and Merchants will be hitting stores on September 4 in the US and is available in Europe and on Steam right now. For more information, be sure to check out our Port Royal 3 game page