East India Company is best described as a ship RTS economic game. As the name suggests you get to be at the helm of your own "company" from various locations across Europe as they make their way to Africa and India to acquire and trade exotic goods and even fighting rival companies and pirates along the way. EIC is the flagship game of small Finnish company Nitro games.
Getting your sea-legs
Per usual, I thought I would at least go over the tutorial to get a good feeling of the menus and control of the game. I chose to go through each tutorial at the menu screen. Well, sadly the tutorial is wrought with problems. I have no problem reading messages in games (I'm a big fan of old CRPGs where you do a lot of reading) but when the dialogue box is covering menu items you need to get to, it becomes bothersome. Yes you can minimize the dialogue box, but that's just one extra step in trying to learn how the game is played. I eventually got frustrated with the tutorial due to the terrible design and layout thinking the tutorial missions would be actual missions. Personally, I learn best actually doing, so I decided to start an actual campaign . To my relief when you start the mission you can leave the "tip dialogue " on. The tip dialogue does a much better job than the tutorial portion of the game. Just do yourself a favor and skip the tutorial and play a free game with the tips on to get your sea legs.
Set sail for..paperwork?
After playing Dawn of Discovery, I was given East India Company to review as given the fact they would seem similar on the surface level. The only similarities is that both games have ships and can trade and the similarities end there. Where Dawn of Discovery had me playing for hours on end establishing colonies on uninhabited islands trading goods between them, EIC on the other hand I played for a total of three hours. EIC places you at a specific port somewhere in Europe depending on the nation you chose at the beginning of the campaign. You have plenty of nations to choose from. Great Britain, France, Sweden, Holy Roman Empire to name a few. Initially, I'm thinking there might be some bonuses to certain nations (Britain having a bonus to ship building, France diplomacy) but as I could tell from the manual and anything in game there is no game play advantage to the nation you choose other than their locations at the start of the game. There are several campaign modes that give you a specific objective to reach by a given year. Some modes such as having all trading ports in India by a given date, acquiring a certain level of wealth and even free play that gives you one-hundred-and-fifty years along with mission objectives given to you by your country. The game play it self is where this game sinks. Your primary objective is to trade goods from your home port (called Main Trade Items or MTIs) to other ports around Europe, Africa and India. Certain MTIs are worth more in certain ports. So you're constantly checking the market places to see where your fleets need to go to make the most profit due to simple economics of supply and demand. Supply goes up in a port (such as tea that once caught a high price) well eventually go down over time the more tea you bring into port and with any other good. The more money you get, the more ships you can unlock further on. Where in Dawn of Discovery, you were limited to two ships (two combat, two trade), you literally have eleven ships to choose from in EIC. You also get to outfit your ships with specific cargo, marines and even set a commander for your fleet. Commanders are hired on sometime in their twenties and retire somewhere in there fifties. As the commanders level up through combat, they give their fleets stat bonuses. Each ship has stats such as speed, attack power, cargo capacity, hit points and marine storage. What I found irritating the most is having to go back and forth between the over world view, to port view. Each time you want to check out a port you own, you're treated to a loading screen when you go back and forth. It's a minor frustration, but a frustration none the less.
War and Peace
There's also a diplomacy portion of the game, but all it boils down to is giving potential allies pacts, money, and land to go to war with other nations. Not much to the diplomacy portion of the game at all just more you give them, the more likely they'll align themselves with you. Thinking the combat portion of the game may be its saving grace, alas it is not. The ship to ship combat is very awkward and the controls are wonky at best. Moving the cursor at the edge of the screen moves it very slow. If you want to scroll fast you have to hold down the shift key. The perspective is first person. Why they chose this perspective has left me baffled. I think the ideal perspective for combat for this game would be something similar as seen in Pirates!. Thinking the land combat portion would be different, it's nothing more than a number game. You're also given a bar to indicate the probability of who's going to win. If you have more than enough marines in your fleet to take over a port, you win. There is no strategy. Purely numbers. I was hoping for some kind of map of the port where I could move my marines in a turned based combat mode, but alas I was wrong. When you do attack a port, you're given cut scene of marines shooting at the opposing force, and you're given the victory outcome. Needless to say, I wasn't having much fun with the combat portion.
Flat exotic vistas ahoy!
I've never been one to blam games for having sub-par graphics due to the fact that impressive graphics are nice, but that's the last thing I look for when it comes to a game. While in port, everything seems a bit flat, even on the highest video settings. The over world view looks fine for what's supposed to be going on since you're focused on trade routers and sinking any would be competitors trade ships. What I found odd was that there are videos in the shipyard menu of your ports where you can watch a pre-rendered video of the ship in question. Why the developers felt the need to do this is rather strange since it doesn't add anything to the game play.