Venice, a city built on political power struggles, trade and the picturesque, Ventian Lagoon. All of these important factors are a part of your conquest of the trading world in Rise of Venice and it’s DLC expansion, Beyond the Sea from Kalypso Media.
You begin the game as Giacomo Da Narni, a young man who has promised his dying father that he will make something of himself by becoming a merchant and becoming the most influential trader in the Mediterranean. The story begins in the port of Venezia where you receive your first trading galley and not much else. Without much of an introduction to controls or mechanics, you learn slowly but surely how to sail the seas and navigate more dangerous waters in a city where political influence and titles are everything.
You may start as a lowly merchant, travelling from your home city to places where stock is sold cheaply and there’s easy money to be made but when you are first introduced to the Council of Ten, the upper echelons of the much larger Great Council of Venice, who can raise you from humble beginnings to the lofty title of doge, a place of high respect in society.
Rise of Venice isn’t just a trading game, it’s a game of social interaction too. As you become more powerful and wealthy, the council will vote on whether you are good enough to be promoted through the ranks. It adds a little more tactical depth to the game and makes all the lengthy voyages into rough waters all the more worthwhile. Each Council member has their own personality and each need to be appeased in order to secure the yay vote for promotion. While unable to please them all, you can swing a majority vote by completing missions for them or just handing over an unhealthy amount of cash in the form of a bribe.
Setting up your trade routes can sometimes be confusing, yet with a little bit of research and sitting with paper and pen, you can carve out some nice little earners on your journey. This is your main task, to make as much money out of trading while pleasing the Council. You’ll sail from home to find markets selling cheaply so that you can pick up stock and find a buyer who will pay top florin for your cargo. Prices fluctuate depending on supply and demand, while you have to keep on your toes to find new trade routes to keep things fresh and bringing in the coin. It’s difficult to work out at first but a little patience and you’ll be making money in no time.
You’ll find cities in crisis that may need a supply that they lack, sending you on a search for low priced commodities that may help them in their time of need. This sometimes isn’t good for the purse but is great for gaining influence with a new city. Buying will become cheaper, a council member may have a need to be friendly with said city and you can trade with better efficiency there too.
It’s not as cut and dry as you’d expect either. Just as in everyday life, people forget and one day, you’ll find a city that you saved from starvation not bowing to your every whim and so it all begins again. It’s a nice touch that adds to the reality of 15th century trading and keeps the challenges flowing.
On your voyages, you may come across pirates which lead to naval battles to defend your precious cargo. They are amazingly fiddly and sometimes far too lengthy. Broadsiding a ship into splinter can take a lifetime and that’s where the auto-battle option comes into play, you’ll be using this quite a lot unless you have some sort of obsessive need to see your enemy drown in salty spray and cracked wood. Building a small fleet to protect you is a must.
In the Expansion DLC, Beyond the Sea, an extra 13 cities are added to the original host of 25, giving a more robust selection of areas to visit and trade with and adding an extra element of danger, cutting through the drink to lands unexplored. There’s also residence missions which allow you to show your love for your family in similar fashion to appeasing the council… As if real life wasn’t hard enough eh? Completing these mission help to build your family tree and adds a great way to pass the time when you don’t fancy spending your time on the sea or with the increasingly hard to please Council.
Speaking of the Council, there’s some new Doge missions that will have you struggling with rivals to keep alliances, fend off threats from other traders and have Venice stay almighty within the world of business. It’s a nice little pack that contains everything you need to lengthen the experience.
Graphically, Rise of Venice isn’t a wonder. That, however, doesn’t really matter, as it’s the gameplay that holds the game aloft. It can be pretty, sure, but with such titles as Crusader Kings II and Civilization V not being overly sparkly, it sits well among the RTS and 4x games on your shelves.
Sound is spectacularly fitting, offering Renaissance music and trumpeting fanfares when required. A nice list of classical pieces that will keep you calm, even if the waters you sail may not be.
I’ll be very honest here, as fitting of a review… I hated the game in the first couple of hours. It was a grind to find out what I was doing, where I was going and how the hell to please the po-faced Council members. After the initial shock of the sheer amount of requirements demanded of me, I finally settled in and it’s been a pleasing experience since. If you don’t have the time to sit and work out calculations, check markets almost every time you set sail or just hate games without obvious tutorials, then you may not like Rise of Venice and Beyond the Sea.
Being a review of two parts, sort of, I must say that Beyond the Sea, at £14.99 ($19.99) is maybe asking a little too much, but it does add depth to an already potentially bottomless experience and the inclusion of residence missions are a great way to pass the time. If you’re a fan of the base game, then you’ll probably welcome the additional content.
In the end, a game I hate at the start that can bring me round, is always a better buy than a game you love at the beginning and deteriorates rapidly midway and Rise of Venice delivers the former in spades. If you like other titles similar, then you should enjoy RoV. Just remember that pen and paper… You’ll possibly need a whole pad.
You can purchase Rise of Venice on Steam for £29.99 (If you’re quick, you can grab it in the Autumn Sale for £14.99) and Beyond the Sea for £14.99.