Review – Port Royale 4

I’m still waiting for the definitive pirate experience on consoles. We haven’t had a memorable pirate gaming experience on consoles ever since the release of the masterpiece known as Sid Meier’s Pirates way back in 2004. Sea of Thieves tried (well, it’s still trying), but it just doesn’t have the same level of charm as that title from sixteen years ago. Assassin’s Creed IV is also a memorable contender, but it’s an Assassin’s Creed game first, pirate simulator second. Not to mention the fact that Ubisoft’s Skull & Bones has seemingly vanished, with nobody talking about it for the past two years. Does Gaming Minds’ and Kalypso Media’s Port Royale 4 have what it takes to fill in this void?

Port Royale 4

Shout out to the American guy trying really hard to sound like a pirate from the tutorial mode.

Here’s the catch, Port Royale 4 is set in the Caribbean, has the same playable civilizations as the ones from Sid Meier’s Pirates, features treasure hunting, it occasionally makes you fight against a pirate vessel, but in reality, this is not quite a pirating game. This is more of a trade simulator than anything else. It’s closer to Rise of Industry than it is to Assassin’s Creed: Rogue, but that’s not a bad thing. So long as you’re playing it on one specific platform, that is.

Sure, you can try to dedicate your career as a conqueror or someone who hell-bent on chasing down pirates, but you can definitely notice this is not the game’s main focus. Once you jump into your first combat section, you’ll realize how much of an afterthought it is. It’s a simple turn-based tactics battle system that doesn’t offer a lot of depth (just like the Caribbean Sea, I suppose), quickly becoming a game of clicking and waiting until every single enemy ship is destroyed.

No, the real meat of the game is in trading. Go from town to town, buying goods for low and selling them for a big profit whenever there’s a larger demand for that certain kind of product. It’s an absolute slog at first, as you’ll only have one convoy of ships. You will lose money, as it’s hard to predict when a town’s supply and demand modifiers will change. More often than not, I’d buy goods for cheap at a local harbor, analyze the price of a faraway town’s demand for the same product, sail there, and find out I’d make a much smaller profit than before, simply because it takes way too long for a convoy to sail to another island on the other side of the Caribbean.

Port Royale 4

It’s a cute map, even if you’re just looking at it at a distance.

Trial and error is the name of the game. Start buying smaller chunks of goods and begin trading through nearby islands. Use said money to invest on crew members, repairs, and a small ship every now and then. Things are ridiculously slow-paced when you only have one convoy, but with a bit of perseverance, you’ll start owning more than one fleet at a time. This is when Port Royale 4 becomes a lot more interesting. You can also invest in the construction of buildings on your hometown, but honestly, it wasn’t very interesting. If I wanted to play god with a Caribbean town, I’d be playing Kalypso’s own Tropico 6.

You’ll spend a lot of time navigating through menus and slowly moving your cursor from one town to another in Port Royale 4. The controls are fine, but let’s face it, this is not meant for consoles. The folks at Gaming Minds tried their best at coming up with a decent control scheme on the Dualshock 4 (and shout out to the lengthy but interesting tutorial), but this was meant to be played with a mouse and keyboard. This is the kind of relaxing game to be enjoyed on a computer, not a console.

Port Royale 4

This just makes me want to replay Tropico 6. Nice marketing strategy, Kalypso.

In terms of presentation, Port Royale 4 is decent, but then again, it’s decent for a simulator. You’ll mostly be looking at miniaturized towns, a zoomed out world map, and menus. Lots and lots of menus. It’s decent for what it offers, being really colorful, with nice water effects, but it’s just not epic enough, like the rest of the game. The framerate also takes a toll whenever you zoom in order to actually appreciate something other than a zoomed out map.

Port Royale 4

Yo, do you like menus and charts? Then I got a game for you…

The sound department is actually the game’s biggest highlight. The soundtrack is what you would expect from any kind of naval game released after 2003. It sounds like Hans Zimmer’s work in Pirates of the Caribbean, and that’s not a bad thing at all. Sadly, it might actually be too good for a game devoid of adventure like Port Royale 4. The game also features a significant amount of voice acting, especially in its lengthy tutorial. It’s not bad, but you’ll be mostly listening to what I can only describe as an American dude trying to sound like an Irish pirate.

Port Royale 4

The combat mechanics are as shallow as the Caribbean Sea itself.

Port Royale 4 is not a bad game by any means, as it does what it advertises with honors, but maybe I expected a bit more from a game centered around the golden age of piracy. This is actually a relaxing experience, but you can clearly notice it wasn’t created with consoles in mind. It is a PC game, first and foremost. I appreciate the fact the developers went out of their way to provide console players with a port released alongside the PC version, but if you really want to give this one a go, play it there, not on a PS4. This was meant to be played with a mouse and keyboard, while listening to your favorite podcast.


Graphics: 6.5

The towns are simplistic, but cute, and the blue sea is gorgeous to look at. But for most of the time, you’ll be looking at a zoomed out map or menus. The framerate also drops significantly whenever you zoom in too closely on a town, or when you engage in battle.

Gameplay: 6.0

It’s not exactly complicated to learn as long as you jump right into its tutorial mode. While the controls are functional, this game wasn’t meant to be played on a controller.

Sound: 7.5

Port Royale 4 features an epic soundtrack. Maybe a bit too epic for a naval trade simulator, actually. It also features a lot of voice acting, especially in its lengthy tutorial. It’s not bad, but you’re basically listening to an American trying to act as a buccaneer.

Fun Factor: 6.0

It’s a fine trade simulator coupled with a below average turn-based strategy combat mode. It can be quite relaxing, but this is definitely best enjoyed on a computer, not a console.

Final Verdict: 6.5

Port Royale 4 is available now on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

Reviewed on PS4.

A copy of Port Royale 4 was provided by the publisher.