Having Kalypso got a strong tailwind in their sails, or do they need the coastguard to recuse save from the doldrums? There's more bad maritime metaphors where they came from in our Rise of Venice review.
Published on Oct 4, 2013
Games seem to be tussling through a torrid love affair with all things Italian. A renaissance, if you will. Just shy of 2K Games announcing a neo noir Dolmio puppet crime thriller, if it's Italian and faintly historically significant, there's probably been a game about it.
Contrary to popular belief, it's not all about Rome, or a city you know the name of purely because there's a pizza, salad or pasta dish named after it. This is the story of the Rise of Venice. Well, sort of. It's more about mercantile capitalism during the renaissance, based out of Venice and roaming all over the Mediterranean, but you get the idea.
There's a streak of serenity softly stroking at Rise of Venice's heart. Simply gazing at this game is a delight, the seas a rich velvet teal stretching in all directions, calm and inviting to sailors of all abilities.
Every city is topped with identical terracotta roofs, each can easily be mistaken for the last, but that's okay because the whole thing is rather pretty. Switching the contrast to overdrive makes for a attractive landscape on which to hawk your wares, even approaching the heady heights of Total War: Rome II or even Civilization V.
But Rise of Venice is far simpler beast, plumping for market forces above all, with a slice of naval warfare on the side.
Each city produces 5 commodities faintly tied to a region, but are largely arbitrary. Athens is known for its grain and wine whilst Naples produces vast quantities of rope and honey, perhaps in an attempt to escape to North Africa, we're not sure. Commodities produced in a city are typically abundant, driving prices down. Simple economics.
The difficulty lies in observing the market, spotting trends and, well... capitalising on them.
It isn't just buying low and selling high either, because consumer can come producer; this is a game of efficiency. There's more, purchasing too much of a product will drive citizens of a settlement to grow loathsome of you, although why they hate you over the idiot selling all of their prized lemons is beyond us.
Equally, bringing in a more sought after commodity, demand affected by global events like fires and disease, puts a great big smile all over your mate the big Doge. Produce is varied and vast, becoming more available as you progress. Trading quickly becomes compulsive, but never too easy, especially when meddling with automated shipping routes, compounded further by production and resource refinement.
Progression is also directly linked to your approval by the fearfully named Council of Ten, who've gotten bored with normal politics and now decide the fates of sea merchants for fun, or perhaps a new format for ITV. After fulfilling the requisite criteria, your progression gets put to a vote. An interesting take on standard levelling-up, but it's little more than padding.
Once you've traversed several stages of Italy's latest commerce-based reality show, Mediterranean pirates spring from every orifice imaginable, occasionally instigating Rise of Venice's lengthy and tedious naval combat.
Ships are controlled individually, and only one at a time, the rest left to fend for themselves in automated purgatory. Conquest is through either cannon fire or boarding party, but grinding away at a ship's vast health with broad-side potshots takes so long that you'll be thankful for the auto resolve button.
It allows you to trade as simply or complex as you wish, catering for the bumbling port to port oil salesman as much as the monolithic VeniCorp multinational.
It's gleefully unambitious, and clearly never aspired to set the world alight, which is probably a good thing given how much timber we've been stashing in the hold.
It's a playful excursion into basic mercantile capitalism, striking the same tones as games like Euro Truck Simulator, turning the apparently mundane into tangible entertainment. Built upon sturdy foundations, and executed effectively, Rise of Venice is a simple game with simple core, but enjoyable all the same.
Version Tested: PC
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6.5 / 10
A worthy education in Venetian trade and ample addition to the economic strategy genre.