Port Royale 4

Game review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
Port Royale 4 Game Poster Image
Historical simulation may help kids learn about trade.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Educational Value

Kids will learn the basics of trade commerce as well as a little about how the Caribbean was colonized by Europe hundreds of years ago. Players take in concepts such as production, supply and demand, and shipping as they create businesses that produce goods and then move them to be sold in places where they're needed. This is done within a simulation of the Caribbean during the age of colonialism and pirates.

Positive Messages

Players are encouraged to strategize and think ahead as they engage in competitive trade. Themes of capitalism, colonialism, and piracy run throughout.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Viceroys are both nationalistic and hedonistic. Hirable captains show a range of skills, including various military tactics, which they aren't shy to employ to enrich themselves and their company.

Ease of Play

About an hour's worth of interactive tutorials lead players through everything they need to know, and the campaigns start off slowly, allowing players to practice what they've learned before adding real challenge. But players will need to fully understand the game's economy to successfully complete later goals.

Violence

Players make their ships attack enemy vessels in turn-based combat set on a watery grid. Ships can be boarded or sunk with cannon fire, but physical combat between sailors isn't shown..

Sex
Language

Light, very occasional profanity, including the word "bastard" in text.

Consumerism

This is the latest chapter in the Port Royale franchise.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Players cultivate, produce, and trade alcohol and tobacco products of the era, including beer and cigars.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Port Royale 4 is a historical simulation of naval trade in the Caribbean during the age of European colonization and pirates. Players work to create trade routes between towns to ensure they have everything they need to prosper and be happy while taking care to defend themselves from opportunistic enemies on the high seas. Combat's only a small part of the game -- players see nothing worse than cannons fired and ships sunk -- with the focus set squarely on developing resources, producing goods, and running a profitable trading enterprise. Themes of capitalism and colonialism run strongly throughout. Parents should be aware that a big part of the era's trade involved alcohol and tobacco products, and that players will need to go into business producing, buying, and selling these wares in order to succeed.

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What's it about?

PORT ROYALE 4 drops players into the middle of the potentially prosperous but often dangerous world of naval trade during the colonial era in the Caribbean. After playing through multiple tutorials that teach the game's basic mechanics, players can either begin playing freely in a big Caribbean sandbox or take on one of several campaigns as the operator of a trade empire under the viceroy of a specific European nation with the aim of using naval trade to support and grow various settlements. Players can set up trade routes between multiple settlements so that ship convoys can start to move resources and products fabricated in one town to others that need them, aiming to buy low and sell high in order to maximize profits. As the game progresses, players will also be able to establish businesses in these towns to help them grow and meet demands as they arise. As colonies grow, so, too, does competition. You'll need to be on the lookout for rivals looking to attack your convoys, and prepared to defend them in short, turn-based naval battles should cannon balls begin to fly. With success comes fame, which will allow you to negotiate with your nation's viceroy to receive permission to start new types of businesses and perhaps even engage in a bit of piracy yourself. What to do is largely up to you as you navigate the treacherous waters of the Caribbean.

Is it any good?

It grows a little repetitive after a while, but this historical simulation ought to scratch an itch for players who relish the idea of establishing and fostering a thriving trade empire. Port Royale 4 nails the commerce portion of the experience, providing a wonderfully in-depth simulation of what it must have been like to run a naval trade business in the colonial era. You'll have control over just about everything, from buying ships, creating convoys, and hiring crew and captains to creating efficient routes based on avoiding enemy patrols while taking advantage of prevailing winds to shorten journeys so you can deliver more goods in less time. And since you can establish your own businesses in home territory, you can strategically plan to meet demands as they come up, ensuring adequate supply while taking advantage of shortages when opportunity presents itself. Bonus: The whole thing looks lovely, especially the details that reveal themselves when quickly scrolling from the world map into towns. You'll feel like you have control of a satellite camera with super zoom.

The trading eventually grows a bit repetitive as tricks for success begin to reveal themselves over extended play, but such is the case for most business simulation games. Slightly more concerning is that the combat and town development elements of the experience are a bit underdeveloped. Turn-based naval battles are short, but aside from a handful of special tactical abilities -- such as repairing ship damage or extending your turn -- there's not much to sink your teeth into beyond clicking to attack. And while it's rewarding to watch towns grow and thrive as you augment them with businesses and warehouses, you ought to have more control over their look and development. Players hoping for something akin to a true city building experience will be disappointed. But if all you really want to do is indulge your capitalistic urges and create a massive naval trade empire, Port Royale 4 is the game for you.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about screen time. Port Royale 4 is the sort of game that can lure players into marathon play sessions without as one objective naturally leads into another, so how do you set time limits to keep from becoming fixated on your favorite games?

  • What happened to the people who already lived here when Europeans began sending ships to colonize the Americas? What responsibilities do the countries that subsequently formed from these colonies have to modern aboriginal people?

Game details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love history

Themes & Topics

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