Port Royale 4: Buccaneers (PC/Switch)

Port Royale 4, releasing late last year, is the latest in the long running series that focuses on trade during the golden era of seafaring. Buccaneers is an expansion that released for the game recently which takes those ideas and mixes things up a little by offering the player independence – possibly even piracy. Sink or swim? Lets take a look.

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Port Royale 4 takes place in the Caribbean during the 17th Century, as the colonial powers of Spain, England, France and the Netherlands fight for supremacy via the means of trade and naval dominance. Each nation has it’s set of scenarios for the player to take on, which not only offers plenty of game time to get through, but also a great way to build your confidence ahead of tackling the free mode.

Free mode is likely where you’ll end up sooner or later as it does away with scenarios to offer the player a freer experience, tho you are still trading at the behest of a colonial power (unless playing Buccaneer mode) of your choosing. That can be a good thing given the size of the game world, with over 60 towns & settlements to see, as it’ll likely overwhelm a newcomer if trying to go it alone.

One aspect of the game that was surprising to me was the level of detail it had. I’m sure previous entries used a more stylised look, but here it seems to have gone the other way. The islands are lush with green foliage as the sheen of the blue sea shimmers in the Caribbean sun. With a camera that allows you to zoom right down to ground level almost, you can check out the little details in your colonies. The small details on buildings and ships id great as the game lavishes sharp textures on everything, tho you likely won’t be viewing the game hat way for the most part – it’s easier to manage colonies when fully pulled back.

There’s some decent voice acting and fitting music for the BGM, but to be honest the audio side of the game didn’t really stick out too much for me – does it’s job well enough. Performance was unsurprisingly rock solid at 4K/60 with my system (R51600/16GB/RTX 2080ti) and was smooth to play without any issue really. The same couldn’t be said for my laptop (Core i7/16GB/R9 M270X) which I usually test on for lower end hardware, as everything was ok aside from GPU being below minimum. This meant reducing a lot with settings, but performance was still spotty – luckily you can get by without a locked framerate on strategy games but its not ideal. I guess you could say it was a ‘Switch’ experience.

SWITCH – Having been initially excited to be able to take a title like Port Royale 4 on the go, especially after being in love with Port Royale 3 I was practically seasick with this port within 5 minutes. The frame rate was completely erratic, especially when zooming closely into the lands, ports, and fleets.

Controls weren’t the best but passable, I understand this is a game that would suit a keyboard and mouse set up more but selecting stuff felt finicky and I would find myself fighting the controls far too much.

Visually, Port Royale 4 on the Nintendo Switch is a mess on both docked and handheld, I remember 3 having a cartoony look and think this may have benefited this version as it’s just rough with jaggies and performance issues making it quite a pain to play sadly. As a fan of Port Royale 3 I was looking forward to go the go trading but looks like I’ll be picking it up on Steam in the future.

IF you’re new to the game then be sure to hit the tutorial first, it’s really a pick up and play kinda game. Once done you can bask in what would a pretty decent trading simulator. The aim of the game is to trade and trade to build wealth and power for the colonial power of your choice, whilst dealing with external factors like pirates to keep money flowing. You may have to fight to keep those trade routes safe, and Port Royale offers a competent turn based battle system for ships that can see several go toe-to-toe. It sounds simple enough, but there’s plenty to managing each aspect that will keep occupied as without careful planning it can lead to odd situations like trading fleets costing more to maintain than a town.

The main crux of this review tho was to take a look at the Buccaneers expansion recently released for Port Royale 4, which offers the player a chance to be an independent trader or pirate amongst the colonial powers. This is actually a pretty neat idea, but you should be warned beforehand that it means you are on your own. If struggling at all to get to grips with the game when backed by a powerful allies, there’s no such luxury here as a safety net of sorts. You’ll find some new scenarios to play as well, but its really the other additions around it that sells the idea. Having your own pirate crew, complete with a new soundtrack of jaunties, that you build up alongside your own territory gives you the most freedom in the game. It can be tough starting from the bottom, but its a challenge that bests the base games scenarios.

Whilst Port Royale 4 was a bit hit & miss for me, the Buccaneers expansion is a real treat if you are at all interested in pirates. It takes the base game and adds on an extra layer of freedom, which also ups the challenge, with several different ways to tackle the Caribbean depending on how you want to play. Unfortunately the base game didn’t really click with me though, and it could potentially put off newcomers with the amount of depth that isn’t always apparent. Still if you’re a fan of the series or put in the time, there’s plenty of enjoyment that can be had for hours on end.



Smooth seas when anchored at port with PC, but can hit some rough waters when heading out to the open sea with Nintys handheld.

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Geoffrey Wright

Rocking the world of gaming since the Atari 2600, has now settled down to bask in the warmth of moe. Moe is life for a moe connoisseur.

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