• Rise of Venice review

    Rise of Venice

    Pretty…familiar

    I've loved and played Patrician IV to death, and it’s the best trading game I’ve played by far. Thus, I was so happy to hear the same developers were making The Rise of Venice, a naval trading game based on trading in the Mediterranean in the early Renaissance era.

    For some humor....-venicefarshot-jpg

    The graphics are just great, the water and ocean effects are very credible, and just looking at the game made me want to play even more. While I certainly expected similarities to Venice and Patrician, time and again I was frustrated by a game that was so similar, and yet so inferior, to its predecessor.

    The basic premise of the game casts you as a lowly merchant, with but one ship and some money, ready to go forth into the trading world and make profits by buying low and selling high. You begin in the wealthy city of Venice, where you generally are going to buy the products that are produced there, like salt or glass. As a lowly merchant, you can’t yet purchase glass, but you’re allowed to buy salt. You buy as much as you can (the price rises as you buy more, the key feature of the game), and take it to another city, like Athens, a particularly good choice since it produces meat (and thereby needs your salt). Of course, to trade in a new city, you’ll need to buy a trading license…there are always expenses.
    Eventually you make enough money to rise in the ranks, so you go to the Senate in Venice, and ask them to vote you up. This is the first real change from Patrician, as each family will love or hate you based on your actions; you can do special missions for them (generally, transporting goods) in exchange for their favor, or simply flat out bribe them. They’re quite capable of making life difficult for you (shutting you out of cities or slandering your name), but that seems independent of your actions, truth be told.

    As you gain ranks, the game opens up. You can operate more than one fleet of ships, but this is where the game begins to fail. In Patrician, it was a simple matter to automate a fleet, making it go from city to city, buying low and selling high, but if anything the ‘automation’ here is more trouble than it’s worth. A YouTube video explains how it’s done (the tutorial campaign leaves out way too much), but you’ll get “a fleet is inefficient” messages at regular intervals until you kind of figure it out—if one set of settings is the best setting for a general trading fleet, it shouldn’t take some 100 clicks to set it up, but that’s the option here. For the most part, automation is only somewhat decent between cities where you have a warehouse.

    Warehouses? Yep, just like in Patrician, you can purchase a license for a warehouse in a city and for the right to build businesses (as well as hospitals and schools). It’s been deeply dumbed down, however…if you have supplies in the city, and the money, it’s done with a click (I sure wish trading had been made this easy). I rather miss the fun of building up a city; cities now don’t really build up, which is a big loss of satisfaction.

    For some humor....-venicesenate-jpg

    If you have businesses, they’ll often need resources to operate (e.g., if you have a butcher, you’ll need salt)…try as I might, I cannot figure out what settings would let my steward buy necessary resources even when available in the city. Again, the game gives constant warnings to let you know you’re screwing up, but you can always micromanage every resource you need in every city every few months to avoid this problem.

    As trade increases, pirates start to spring up; naval combat, the weakest part of Patrician, is no better here. It’s just a little bit easier to get a large enough crew to fight off pirates, but the rewards for doing so are pretty minimal, usually.

    For higher ranks, you’ll need to have more ships and workers in your factories; setting up trade routes is so annoying that I just let the ships rot in the harbor. Money pours in quickly enough as it is.

    The beautiful graphics are wasted; yes, there is beautiful detail in the oceans your ships travel and much to find there, but the whole game is best played as zoomed out as possible, the better to see what city/warehouse needs management.

    What hurts so much in this game are all the things that are missing. In Patrician, you had the joy of sending ships out to find new trading cities…that’s gone here. One quick pass around the Med and you’ll find all there is to see. In Patrician, you could research new technologies….that’s gone too. In Patrician, you had the joy of founding new cities, building them from the ground up, making sure the walls were defended well…that’s gone, too. Patrician also let you discover land routes…gone. You could make cities wealthy enough that they would build statues to you…gone.

    Replacing all that is lost is the Senate, but that’s pretty weak stuff…bribe them, do their missions, and you’re set. You can work to become Doge, but the rewards (easier trade and a free fleet of warships to hunt pirates) are so minimal for that stage of the game that it pales in comparison to being able to found a new city.

    I really want to like this game, and a counter lets me know I’ve spent more than 30 hours on it, so I guess it’s worth the play time; it’s possible there is much I just happen to miss…maybe I’m being premature, but I’m finding it awful hard to set up a new game and see if it’s more fun the second time around, like in Patrician.

    Overall, the beautiful graphics just can’t overcome the fact that I’ve played the same game before, just a better and deeper version.