The 17th century brought to the world exotic goods and competition between eight companies supported by their respective nations. East India Company: Designer’s Cut, published by Paradox Interactive, and developed by Nitro Games and brings to life what it was like to be that trading company. The Director’s Cut version is actually an upgrade to the original game and makes some improvements. When installing the game, it will ask if you want to upgrade. I’m not a really big fan of naval games, though I have tried a few in the past. This one caught my eye due to its different game style.
As the governor general of the English East India Company, you are one of eight companies vying for the riches of the African and Indian continents. Your home base is England, which isn’t a bad location. It supports a choke point where naval battles between you and warring companies can occur. The Grand Campaign and the other three scenarios start you as neutral. The sandbox version basically lets do as you want, but the Grand Campaign has you set goals and offers missions to complete by a given year. The main objective of East India Company is to control the 10 ports of India by 1750. Since you start in 1600, you have 150 years to accomplish this. Turns are monthly in a real-time strategy format. Turns can be slowed by a timer or sped up as need be.
The majority of the time you are trading between London and various ports of call in Africa and India. These ports support various buildings, such as garrisons, shipyards, trading posts and forts. By upgrading them you can reap benefits at that port of call. Of course, you must control them first. Purchasing goods at a port is actually quite simple. You click on what you want to purchase from the available items and fill up your hold, then off you go. Prices are set, and profits are posted at the different ports versus what London desires, which is really helpful.
What is unfortunate is that you can’t trade between the other seven companies home ports. The only way this occurs is when a home port offers to supply an item in exchange for cash. Most foreign ports — other than the eight home countries — are levels one or two. The highest you can upgrade a port is to level four, and that is based upon the fort. These ports can be quite expensive to maintain as you must pay to upgrade and then pay a yearly maintenance fee as well. Unless you have a couple of million pounds in the bank, you’ll be straining to meet the upkeep.
You have two different types of ships that you can purchase: war ships and traders. What I found out historically is the different types of ships were used for different purposes. Traders had bigger capacity but fewer guns versus the war ships that carried military and had more guns. There are 11 different ships — from cutters to ships of the line. Some of these require unlocking at various years during the length of the game.
One thing you’ll discover later in the game is that micromanaging your fleets can be a hassle. Setting up automatic trade routes becomes a function that is simple to implement. This way, you can concentrate on other things &mash; like waging war on your enemies or meeting the goals set by the game. One problem, though, is that these trade routes will only take the main item, and you can flood the market back in London, lowering the profit you will get for selling it.
Fleets can be made up of one to five ships. I recommend that your trading fleets have one or two warships as escorts since they are able to carry more cannons. Don’t mix and match smaller and larger ships, as the slowest ship dictates how fast they will move. Trade ships, such as a brig, can carry enough guns to protect themselves against smaller or equal-strength ships, but compared to a frigate carrying 40 guns, they will be hard-pressed to defend themselves.
Combat on the main screen is a matter of chasing down your opponent and then having the game loading a new area where you’ll actually battle between ships. You can also let the game resolve the battle or slug it out yourself. I prefer battling the opposing ships versus the auto-resolving since East India Company seems to favor the opponent, and you get no experience or gold if you win with the auto-resolve. The area where you’ll be dueling each other is highly detailed with wind gauging, flags streaming in the direction the wind is blowing, sea waves, crews and weather changes as well as day and night scenes.
There are two different types of scenes: islands and the open sea. I prefer the open sea since tactical maneuvering is easier. One thing I have noticed is that in island combat, the AI dumbs down by running the opposing ships into the islands, causing them to sink before the actual battle begins. You have to be careful as well, as I accidently maneuvered two of my ships into each other and caused hull damage. At times, your ships will fire on farther targets compared to the closer targets. The captains who man the flagships have various active and passive skills, which you select as they gain levels. The passive skills usually reflect on the whole fleet, but the active skills just involve the flagship.
There are two forms of combat in East India Company: the RTS mode and direct command. In direct command mode, you control the ship you have clicked on, and the viewpoint changes to one of actually seeing over the railing of your ship. You must use the WASD keys when in this mode for movement. I preferred the RTS mode, in which I was able to make decisions for the entire fleet.
The captains basically don’t differentiate much other than the skills that you select. One thing that personally annoyed me was having the captain retire or die from some illness after getting him to a high enough level. Ship combat is visually pleasing with shredding sails, falling masts, crews yelling, spouts of water when your canon fire misses, among a few details. Ships will also try to flee when crew morale goes down if the outcome is going badly. You can click drag select all your ships so they can go into ship of the line formation as well. You can board enemy vessels, but I had a hard time getting close enough without my ship enthusiastically blowing it out of the water. The best way for me was to decimate the crew with grape shot so that they surrendered.
Diplomacy is a very simple process in which everyone starts neutral and you just click to make offers of war or alliances or peace. The opposition will make offers as well. By excepting or declining these offers, you will change how they look at you. War is mainly one part capturing an enemy port or destroying the enemies’ ships. You can have an enemy retire from the game by destroying all his ships and capturing his foreign ports. The main game requires you to capture 10 Indian ports and, depending on the scenario, holding them for 10 years.
Statics sheets are few and easy to understand. The main ones being used are the diplomacy and stats screens. The diplomacy is clear and concise, and the stat screen shows what you bought and sold, plus maintenance. The graph screen shows your profit and losses plus who is ahead in wealth and strength.
The graphics in East India Company were thought out well. I especially like the combat sequences as they were very detailed. Music was appropriate for the period and was pleasing. Gameplay was easy and not very hard to learn. There wasn’t much in the way of glitches for my system, but then I’m using the recommended requirements. The most I can say was the repetitive nature of East India Company had me playing it in spurts. I’m enjoying playing East India Company and recommend it for the naval enthusiast or anyone looking for something a little different in the RTS genre.
My knowledge of the industry mostly evolves around beta testing games, such as Earth & Beyond from EA, Saga of Ryzom, and companies like MSN and Acolade. Self taught web design is another interest I have. Family life is entertaining at times. It also can get weird as well, after you have been married 31 years.