Port Royale 2 is very deep and challenging strategy game that all but hardcore strategy fans may have a hard time getting into. Port Royale 2 is definitely not a game you will master quickly, in fact, about 8 hours into the game you'll still find things you haven't seen before. At its core, this game is an economic sim. Most of the time you will find yourself building trade convoys, setting up trade routes, and searching for the best prices on goods, but this is far from everything you'll be doing in Port Royale 2. You can build your own towns and businesses, do battle with pirates, or even become a pirate yourself. Before you get to these features, however, you will spend a lot of time just learning how to play the game.
The first thing you'll want to do after installing is go straight to the scenarios, which are more training missions rather than actual scenarios. You'll find 8 different scenarios, each of which can take over an hour. That is about 8 hours of training! However, many of the last scenarios are more real scenarios, but are still designed to teach you various aspects of the game. This can be very good as you should have a very good grasp on the many different features and you will be justly rewarded in free-play, the only other play mode. Through your training, you will be able to learn the differences in all the towns and how to develop effective trade routes. All this learning that is required to really enjoy the game can be discouraging but those who stick it out will find a very deep and enjoyable experience.
No matter what else you may be doing in addition, you will always find yourself trading. Luckily, trading is the high point of the game. You will send your convoys to the various Caribbean port towns, to buy and trade goods in according to supply and demand. As you play, you will slowly learn what each town is producing and always short of, enabling you to set up profitable trade routes between the towns producing the goods, and the towns that always seem to need them. With around 50 cities, this will require a lot of trial and error but can really pay off in gold. Ascaron was even kind enough to include a map with the manual that has all the towns and the goods they tend to produce and need. This comes in very handy and is one of the few games I have ever used the map for. The trading itself is fairly intuitive and easy to manage. After your ship arrives at a port, simply right click to bring up the trading spreadsheet. The spreadsheet is simple, and will tell you everything you need to know. Buying or selling is as simple as dragging a bar underneath one of the 19 various good, and tells you the unit price it is going to sell/buy for and how much gold you will gain/lose. The developers did an excellent job of keeping this very important feature easy to use in a game that can be very complicated.
Once you have the basics of trading down, you can move into the deep world of Port Royale 2. In the towns, you can pray at the churches and even take quests at the governor's house. You will find an inn for gambling and hiring new captains for you convoys. Later, you will even be able to build your own towns and start your own businesses. Outside the town, you will find trade ships getting ravaged by storms or pirates. You can even fight back against the would-be pirates. If you so choose, you may even hunt down the infamous Blackbeard, or become his pirate competition. As you continue to become better at trading and gain more and more gold, you will discover more things you can do. This is why, if you can get past the rather large learning curve, there is a very deep and enjoyable experience to be found.
The graphics of Port Royale 2 leave much to be desired. It definitely doesn't improve on any other economic sims. While everything is fairly well laid out, nothing can really be considered beautiful. The world map, where you will spend a lot of time, is fairly colorful but nothing really special. The sound, too, is nothing notable. The score sounds like your generic sim or strategy game, but does seem to fit the feel of the game. The sound effects are practically non-existent and when they are there, nothing ever really stands out. This is unfortunate, but not entirely unexpected, as economic sims never tend to impress your eyes and ears.
Port Royale 2 can take a lot of work to get into, but if you are willing to put forth the effort, you can find a deeply rewarding experience. The trading system, that the game relies so heavily on, is very well done. The beauty of Port Royal is that it is more than just an economic sim, it adds piracy and town building and various other things that give the game a surprising amount of depth. If you think you can deal with the rather large learning curve, and are looking for a good strategy/sim game, Port Royale 2 definitely deserves a look.