Kalypso Media is quite hit or miss when it comes to their games. There was the disappointing Dark, but then there were also good games such as Anna and Sine Mora from 2012. Deep Silver may have been hit or miss this year, but Kalypso seems to have the up-and-down act down for much longer.
This publisher isn’t a stranger to strategy and simulation games as they have brilliant titles in their library like Sins of a Solar Empire, Tropico series, and so on. The developer Gaming Minds themselves had come up with Port Royale 3 and The Patrician IV before, which can be seen as previews to how they could come up with a game like Rise of Venice. But just after the travesty that was Dark, they’ve come out with this game that may give Paradox Interactive a run for their money. Even if you’re not familiar with games like Europa Universalis IV, this game could arouse your curiosity in this genre.
Rise of Venice is an economic strategy game that puts you in the shoes of a Venetian merchant who must go up against business rivals and become richer than them while dodging their attempts at taking you out of contention. You must build up from humble beginnings to a tycoon of yesteryear who commands a fleet of ships that transport goods to far-flung parts of the world for trade and a few more ships to protect them from pirates and many others. Before you get to that point though, you have to play the trading game right, and that means mastering the ins and outs of the Mediterranean city you start from and the art of Renaissance business.
Most of the gameplay is done through a gorgeous bird’s eye view of Venice. While the interface does have a few issues with usability that will take some getting used to, it does let you do whatever is needed. You then learn how to trade, becoming proficient with the subtleties and technicalities of buying low and selling high by getting a feel for the rise and fall of supply and demand. You can buy cheap from one town, then sell it at a much higher price in another price, which is something that you can also do in games like Mount&Blade: Warband. However, the difference is that trading is the biggest part of gameplay here.
Amidst all the intrigue and cutthroat business dealings, you have the backdrop of Venice and all that Mediterranean charm with matching ambient background and a pretty good musical soundtrack that works to immerse you into the Renaissance experience. Perhaps a way to complete the whole feel is to read Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince for the millionth time before playing this game. It’s not very easy to learn though as you are given the once-over in setting up automated trade routes, which may be a bit difficult at first even though it’s not exactly rocket science.
One area where this game really falters in is the naval combat. Taking control of your ships on your own is actually a bit more of a chore in this game than in Total War: Rome II with all the micromanagement that you have to do. If you’re not a real time strategy nut, then you’ll find it very fiddly and hard to play. In the end, players may not get a good feel for the naval combat in this game, which is sad since it could have been a major part of the fun to be had here.
If you’re into the whole economic simulation thing or historical gaming, then Rise of Venice should be great for you. While the strategic combat portions aren’t as good as most would hope for, it doesn’t take away from the quality of the game as a whole. It’s a lot like how the flaws in the RTS portions of Divinity: Dragon Commander isn’t enough to make the game bad overall. If you like more laid-back gaming and the rewarding feeling of “earning money”, then this game is right up your street.
Tested in PC. Final Score: 7/10