When East India Company released earlier this year, strategy fans were offered something slightly different than the usual fare. Although sadly let down a bit by a clumsy interface and repetitive gameplay, EIC combined economic strategy with RTS naval warfare to provide a reasonably fun and engaging experience.
Developer Nitro has followed up on the original release with East India Company: Privateer, the first real expansion after the quasi-patch slash expansion, Pirate Bay. After promising to extend the swashbuckling flavour that was established with PB, can Privateer reinvigorate the title, or is it doomed to sit at the bottom of the ocean?
First off, those of you who didn’t enjoy East India Company are probably not going to find much that’s lucrative in Privateer. Almost 90% of the game operates in the same way, down to the opening menu screen. How you control the game, including how it looks, runs and so forth, has not changed. Although this is probably not a surprise to anyone reading this review, I figured I’d save you $10 if you thought it may offer a different kind of experience.
That’s not to say that it’s completely identical, however. Privateer‘s main draw card is its addition of a new campaign, unsurprisingly called “Privateer”, which puts you in charge of a mercenary “faction” that has no allegiance to any other of the European nations. In this mode, you’re offered two types of missions given by numerous nations, Merchant and Privateer, that provide specific objectives, such as smuggling goods or destroying ports, in return for cash.
While the standard trading modes are still available, it’s obvious that the emphasis has been pushed almost exclusively towards the mission-based objectives. Thankfully, unlike the original, failing objectives does not end the game, rather, they cause factional distaste towards your private enterprise, and can damage your ability to complete missions later on.
As a result, it’s important to be careful which missions you choose, since your actions can also damage relationships with specific nations, and remove your ability to utilize resources in certain ports. Trading is still possible, but in most cases it involves “smuggling”, which requires experience points.
Along with the new campaign, there are a couple of new multiplayer maps that incorporate a few new skills, like hiring specialists, and a host of new bug fixes and general UI improvements. It’s much simpler to manage your trading fleets: loading times have been drastically ramped down, and switching between port and strategic views is almost instantaneous.
Fixing some of the more critical glitches seems to have, unfortunately, made the game unstable. It crashed on me while saving, loading, and for no reason at all, during general play. I found issues with AI ships finding themselves stuck during combat, or, in some cases, simply not fighting at all, thus providing me with an easy kill.
Gamers who enjoy a reasonably linear set of predetermined, objective-based missions will be the ones who will get the most out of this expansion. Most of the choices on offer are the standard “take out this ship and grab the cargo”, or “destroy this port”. While the addition of playable fort battles adds a new layer of strategy on top of the standard ship-to-ship engagements, they only occur within certain engagements.
It makes me wonder why Paradox didn’t just wait to create a single pack with both (PB and Pri) game modes included. $20 seems like a fairly large amount to fork out for two types of campaign that should have been in the original release, and even though the UI improvements are very welcome, the expansion seems to be even more unstable then the original.
I’ve been, admittedly, pretty brutal, but expansion packs that simply include alternate ways to play the same system, rather than a complete overhaul of mechanics, feel more like modifications than an evolution of gameplay. If nothing changes other than the mission system, it’s a tough call to ask punters to pay extra for bug fixes and a new campaign.
In the end, it’s only a $10 purchase, which is more than reasonable for what the expansion offers. If you’re looking for a new way to play EIC, then you’re not going to be disappointed. But if you’re hoping for a host of new ships, skills, and maps to go along with your new career, Privateer may not be worth the outlay.
UI Improvements, bug and glitch fixes are replaced with fairly severe and frequent crashes.
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Privateer's objective based gameplay provides a unique twist to the formula, but the variety in missions tends to be fairly thin.
Just like the original, the sound is nothing to write home about.
There are a limited amount of objectives to complete, and it's unlikely you're going to want to do them more then once.
For $10, it's difficult to complain with what is on offer with EIC:P, but the unexcusable issues regarding performance make this a cautionary purchase.