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Rise of Venice Review

27 Sep 2013  by   Peter Parrish
Game Details
Developer: Gaming Minds
Publisher: Kalypso
Reviewed on: PC
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There was a brief moment during my time with Rise of Venice where I thought it may have the potential to be a sort of Renaissance-era Elite. Tired of my eighteen hour slog through the overly-guided, buggy and frankly rather tedious campaign, I dipped into the scoreboard mode. These are shorter, goal-focused scenarios that seem to encourage you to meet a certain target in whatever fashion you see fit. You can’t save, but there’s the tantalising promise of a leaderboard entry if you can succeed.

Selecting “From the Bottom,” I was given a lone Sloop, a handful of coins and the task of earning 150,000 gleaming gold pieces. After a bit of basic coastal trading from Venice to Zara to Ragusa and back again, I’d saved up enough to arm my crew and gear up for some piracy. This was how I’d earn my coin; through daring raids on superior shipping.

rise of venice (7)

Italy: the stiletto boot of Europe.

Pouncing on an unsuspecting lone trader (who nonetheless was larger and better equipped than my own vessel,) I eked out a gruelling victory and sent my hardy sailors to capture the now-stricken ship. Victory was mine … until it was ripped away. For reasons best known to Rise of Venice, the captured vessel did not change hands (as it usually does.) Instead I was left with a paltry pile of plunder and a large repair bill.

What should have been a reward for a deft, successful assault against a superior force in a sandbox scenario was instead a slap on the wrist and a disapproving glance from a game that clearly didn’t want me to play that way. The way that might actually have been engaging. Or exciting.

That sense of weary disappointment runs through Rise of Venice like the desire for power through a 15th Century Venetian noble. It’s a game that takes an incredibly rich, exhilarating period of history and, at almost every turn, interprets it in most mundane way possible.

rise of venice (5)

Fans of the ’90s sci-fi show Sliders will be pleased to see them well-represented here.

Rise of Venice is not-entirely-dissimilar to Gaming Mind’s previous trading sim efforts, Patrician IV and Port Royale 3. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with iterative game design. After all, FIFA gets away with it almost every year. The question is always this: is there enough on offer here to tempt me away from a previous installment?

The early signs were quite promising. Cities and world map now share the same ‘space’ instead of being separate entities. If you zoom right out, you’re effectively seeing a third or so of the world. Zoom in, and you can see city details like marketplaces, town halls and other important buildings. This makes keeping track of your trading convoys, and navigating around the world, a great deal smoother and more intuitive than in previous titles. Individual building functions can be easily accessed from high above through a radial menu, as can docked convoys. It’s a smart, unobtrusive piece of streamlining that works extremely well.

Unfortunately I’ve now pretty much run out of positive things to mention, unless you include the rival Venetian trader whose voice actor seems to be attempting a bit of a David Bowie impression (which you should, as that is indeed a positive thing.)

rise of venice (8)

It turned up beneath Crete, which in-game looks nothing like that picture at all.

The campaign started going downhill with a bugged treasure map quest that kept the actual location of the gold invisible and prevented any further progress along the linear narrative path. I’m told that the developers are aware of this bug and are fixing it (indeed, the treasure’s mysterious and sudden reappearance in my game may have been the result of a stealth Steam update,) but it’s far from alone in the list of bugs and non-triggering quest events I encountered.

Perhaps in an effort to make amends, the game then gave me thousands of trade resources completely out of the blue on two separate occasions. That was probably just another bug, but thank god it happened because these magical resources alleviated the dreadful grind of having to trade enough goods to be allowed to trade more goods.

You see, your character has a level rank and only the highest ranks get access to all 22 tradeable commodities. To rise in rank, you have to secure votes from five of Venice’s Council of Ten, and to do that, you have to keep them happy. Later in the game it’s possible to deploy a family member to exert influence, but early on your only recourse is (relatively) expensive bribes or going on missions for the Council members. The former means more grinding, while the latter is sometimes just impossible. More than once, my only Council mission option involved securing goods that I wasn’t a high enough level to trade in.

rise of venice (9)

One of those guys is my dad, so he’d better vote for me.

Effectively, the campaign mode is an eighteen hour tutorial on the fundamentals of the game. It is astonishingly drawn out and full of more dubious padding than a cheap mattress. It alternates between sending the player out on wild goose chases and setting mundane, tedious tasks to eat up more of your precious time. What it does teach you often isn’t even a very good idea. The first trade route it taught me to set up was unprofitable, and the first production chain it encouraged me to build hemorrhaged money until I just gave up and demolished it.

Automated convoy routes, so crucial to the flow of goods, seem to be quite dysfunctional. The theory is this: you develop a settlement by constructing production buildings (for grain, wood, hemp and the like) and housing for the workers, sell any excess goods to the port for a profit and shuttle the rest to other settlements that require the raw materials. The campaign/tutorial has you set up a chain whereby wood and metal go downstream to be made into tools. You then set up an automated trade route for a convoy to load up the raw materials, offload them at the tool factory and pick up any produced tools for sale at other ports.

Except what actually happened is the designated AI captain picked up the raw materials and then sailed around with them in his hold forever like an idiot. No amount of “unload raw materials” options being checked at the required port would make him let go of his cargo, even when said port was literally crying out for them.

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  1. Fabian
    0

    Disappointing score…

    I like it anyway ;)

    For more information on this game you can visit
    http://riseofvenice-fansite.de

    September 27, 2013 at 9:22 am

  2. Kodes
    -5

    You really should rate these stinkers with steaming turds out of ten.

    September 27, 2013 at 12:26 pm
  3. Avatar of
    nasarius
    +3

    I was so hoping for a good sequel to Patrician 4, which wasn’t half bad.

    Think I’ll just wait for X Rebirth to get my build-a-trading-empire fix.

    September 27, 2013 at 2:39 pm

  4. Falconer
    0

    I’ve been playing Rise of Venice for two weeks for my own review and have not experienced any bugs at all after the patch that was released on the 26th (there still may be, but I’ve not seen any).

    You should have checked the stability of the game on the release date and not write your REVIEW on PREVIEW code.

    In the final version, the trade system works fabulous. Also, even in the preview version, fog of war is NOT crippling at all. It does what it is supposed to do. Check your screen settings. Lastly, the interface is more than capable (I’m the first to complain about interfaces).

    http://www.hookedgamers.com/pc/rise_of_venice/review/article-1128.html

    September 28, 2013 at 8:25 am

    1. Jancelot
      +6

      I’m sorry but you gave Total War Rome 2 an 8.5… Which is one of the most broken and unplayable games ever. How can I can I take your opinion on other games serious?

      September 29, 2013 at 1:15 pm

      1. Falconer
        +1

        That was a different reviewer, not me personally, but if you’ve read the review you will have seen that it was written after patches came out that largely stabilized the game. That lifted the score to a degree it would not have otherwise been able to reach. It’s a shame that CA decided to release the game in such a buggy state though, it was unnecessary.

        As for scoring, HG scores based on how much fun we’ve had with the game. We care little for things like graphics and other production values. In the end, all that matters is whether a game is enjoyable or not. Obviously William enjoyed the game quite a bit when the patches fixed it.

        September 29, 2013 at 9:54 pm
    2. Avatar of
      Peter Parrish
      +1

      This review was based on code provided by the publisher Kalypso and deemed suitable for review. Your review went up on the same day as ours, so I’m pretty sure you played exactly the same build.

      I imagine some of the bugs have been fixed post-release, but presumably the game still has an exceptionally tedious trade model, dreadful naval battles, atrocious campaign plot pacing and a paper-thin political layer. The interface (outside of naval fights) is pretty fine though, so I think we agree on that!

      You liked the game. I didn’t, at all – and explained why. It’s almost as if game reviews should be a matter of opinion.

      September 29, 2013 at 11:29 pm

  5. Napoleon1066

    “Unload Raw Materials” only unloads cargo at a friendly storehouse where they can be used to make some other good. I think the option to make your automated convoys sell goods is, I believe, “Sell Goods” or “Sell Cargo” or something.

    October 4, 2013 at 9:04 pm
  6. Avatar of
    Peter Parrish

    Yeah, I was trying to use “unload raw materials” to drop off some metal/wood at a friendly warehouse that was (supposedly) making tools from those materials. My captain wasn’t having any of it.

    October 4, 2013 at 10:18 pm

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