East India Company: Privateer PC
Published by: Paradox Interactive
Developed by: Nitro Games
Not long ago we had a look at East India Company, a game that had you sailing the seas in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in search of exotic goods from Africa and India. Whilst it was a decent enough game, it was one of those games that could have been much better and in truth it didn't compare favourably, and seemed rather limited when placed alongside older titles such as Patrician III and Port Royale. East India Company: Privateer is an expansion for East India Company that adds a few twists and improvements to the formula and generally makes it a better experience but it's not without problems.
East India Company: Privateer adds two twenty year campaigns (1630-1650 & 1700-1720) and a sandbox campaign that spans one hundred and twenty years (1630-1750). Whichever campaign you opt for, the basic idea is the same. Your goal is to amass as much wealth as you possibly can. Whilst you can choose to trade your way to riches, you can also earn plenty of money by completing Privateer and Merchant missions. You're not tied to a single nation in Privateer and you're free to win the favour and fall out of favour with any nation you choose in your pursuit of wealth.
At any time during the game you'll notice European nations offering Privateer and Merchant missions. Privateer missions involve locate and capture, locate and destroy, locate and kidnap and smuggle a spy into or out of a specific port missions. You'll also be asked to destroy ports from time to time. Merchant missions on the other hand require you to smuggle or transport goods. Missions have to be completed by a specific date but they do pay rather well and can earn you money at a quicker rate than simple trading. By completing missions for any given nation you'll earn their favour and in the process you'll lose favour with other nations who don't like you for working with their rivals. Winning favour is something you have to consider for several reasons. One of the main reasons is that you'll need to be on good terms with a nation to purchase new trade ships and on friendly terms for them to build warships for you.
When being a privateer, you're going to need to take risks. Whether you choose to smuggle goods out of an Indian port or a European nation is asking you to smuggle one of their spies into a port, there's always a risk that things can go wrong. If you're caught then your fleet will be sent to jail for up to twelve months. You can pay a hefty fine to avoid the prison sentence but still, it can be annoying when an attempt goes awry. Thankfully you will be told what your chances of success are before attempting to smuggle goods or spies. Bizarrely however, you're not told what the odds of your success will be for a smuggling mission before you accept it. It can be annoying to take on a mission and arrive in your destination port only to be told that your chances of success are minimal at best.
There are things you can do to enhance your chances of success when it comes to smuggling (and other tasks for that matter). Your fleet commanders initially have one skill slot available (as they level-up they will have up to ten skill slots) and you can allocate one of over thirty skills to these slots. One of these skills is called Smuggle and this skill gives your fleet commander a +33% chance of smuggling success. Fleet commanders can also recruit one of around a dozen specialists. The Infiltrator specialist increases your chance of sneaking into a port (that you're not allowed to enter) by +33%. Other specialists include Gunners, Carpenters, Cooks and Constables.
Thankfully, the game no longer wastes time entering a port. Previously, you had to endure loading times whilst you waited for the 3D view of the port to load. This is no longer the case and the port menus are bought up instantaneously allowing the game to flow much more quickly. You're still playing on the same map however in the single-player campaigns and there are no new ships which would have helped to make things a little more interesting. Thankfully the game is still as deaf gamer friendly as before meaning you'll have no problem playing Privateer.
If you enjoyed East India Company then East India Company: Privateer is definitely worth the small asking price of £7.99. You're getting a good alternate way of playing the game and it feels less restrictive than the original game because you have the ability to choose whom you trade with rather than being forced to return to a single home port all of the time. You could criticise the expansion for not providing a new campaign map (a smaller more focused map may have been interesting) or new ships and that would be a fair complaint but for the asking price it does a good job of enhancing the original game. Don't get me wrong, East India Company still isn't up to the standard of games such as Patrician III or Port Royale but it's certainly a more enjoyable experience with the Privateer expansion and that has to be a good thing.