Rise of Venice – Gamescom Preview

Title   Rise of Venice
Developer  Gaming Minds
Publisher  Kalypso Media
Platform  Windows PC
Genre  Strategy / Trading Simluation
Release Date  September 27th, 2013

For the past twenty minutes Venice has been producing salt. The prices, which had been near astronomical when it began production in its first salt mine, have been dropping steadily, to the point where the last few convoys that departed have returned with only the barest of profits. Over-production has meant that all the places Venice has trading rights with have stocked up with enough salt to last them a decade, and are no longer in need of any. Not only that, but the ability to cure meat effectively has meant that its production has slowed to a near crawl, driving its prices through the roof. Now would be the time for Venice to start selling meat but, because they’ve been so focused on producing salt, they have simply been importing all of their foodstuffs from their trading partners.  The Ten are unhappy with the situation, and the head of the family which controls many of the salt mines is quickly falling from favour. Unless he can do something to change his fortunes – and soon – or it will be game over for him.

In reality, this is a scenario that is not very likely to take place. What it does with distinction, however, is show you some of what is possible within the realms of Gaming Minds’ newest creation. Rise of Venice is a trading simulator that wears its colours proudly on its sleeve and is exclusively about building Renaissance Venice up to a trading powerhouse, ensuring that you grow in power alongside its rise. To do so you must prove yourself to be a trader of note, building up your reputation and popularity not only within Venice, but also with trading centres throughout the Mediterranean.

That’s where the trading system truly comes into play. The crux of the gameplay is that you are not the only trader in the world, and even as you are making decisions as to what to buy, sell, produce and distribute, the world continues to turn, and the Mediterranean continues to trade. In fact, should you do nothing at all – simply cease to give the game instructions – all trading around you will continue, although it would likely be quickly disturbed by the inevitable ‘game over’ but Rise of Venice does a spectacularly good job of allowing you to influence the world.

Starting the game as a lowly trader with only a single ship, your goal is to become one of the Ten, a group of the most influential families in Venice. Actually making money requires only the simplest of tenets: buy low, sell high and, thankfully, actually doing so is no more complex.  Each commodity that can be sold is represented by a set of four bars which run from green to red, depending on how much that item can be sold for. The more bars that are green, the higher the selling price. However, as the world is constantly changing according to the supplies available, you can’t necessarily do the same run twice. Just because salt is selling for a high price this trip doesn’t mean that it would be next time.

In order to trade with other cities on the map, you have to earn a trading pass from them, which signifies that you are trusted enough to deal with them, and if you manage to extend that trust, you can be granted a production pass, which allows you to produce materials within that city. An element of delegation then comes into play here, as you can assign foremen to ensure that everything goes smoothly while your attention is focused on more important matters.

The actual business of trading is conducted in two ways: individual trips and trading routes. Individual trips are just as they sound – a single trip to one destination. Trading routes, on the other hand, take a convoy to multiple towns before finally returning to Venice, allowing for more profits, but they also take more time, and in Venice, time is money. There is a simple mode for trading routes, but there is also a more complex method which allows you to micro-manage whatever supplies will be taken or sold.  Because the rest of the world’s AI is trading while you are managing your own mini empire, it can be very difficult to keep on top of prices and availability. For this reason it is possible to take the game speed down to zero while you are thinking, allowing you to consider your moves and set up trips with no outside interference. Holding the space bar will then fast forward the timer until you release it, to skip the tedium of waiting.

When your influence grows, both within Venice and outwith, and you feel that you could benefit from a change in social stature, you can approach the Ten to ask for what is essentially a promotion. In order for them to grant this, you must first have the support of five members of the Ten. This can be obtained by performing favours, both literally and monetarily. Bribes are the simpler method, but these quickly use up a vast portion of your available money whereas favours, while more irritating and, honestly, a bit of a ballache, at least mean that you still have a bit of money lying around.

As you become more influential and travel more of the map, you will discover that you are not the only influence on the world. Random events – such as  volcanic eruptions and earthquakes – can take place at any time, and just as when you flood the market with a single item, the damage caused can change prices and even how much of a commodity there is in the game world.  Equally, there are other random events that are beneficial for the player, such as the discovery of treasure lying beneath the ocean, or a black market trader that cuts deals for good prices, but entire games can pass by before one of these appears.

Your growing influence will also require more ships, which you can choose to either build or purchase, depending on the state of affairs. A ship without a captain is simply a hunk of floating wood, so unless they are assigned to a convoy with a captain, or are just given a captain to take charge, they cannot be used. Each captain gains his own personal experience points, and if they have enough then they can be spent in exchange for further specialisation.  If, by this point, things are starting to sound a little complex – I certainly felt somewhat overwhelmed – then the help system will probably be a balm. It’s totally voluntary, so those who know what they’re doing can completely ignore it, but it’s always there in the background, waiting to help out at a moment’s notice, and is pleasantly unobtrusive, but surprisingly comprehensive when called upon.

Rise of Venice’s multiple game modes are truly the icing on the cake. Not only do you have a free-play mode where you can influence the starting and ending decisions, but there is also a full campaign story mode, complete with betrayals, politics and pirates. This should take around twelve hours to complete, and essentially sets you up for the meat of the free-play modes. In fact, you can continue a free-play game, following on from the end of the campaign if you so desire. Last, but not least, there are score-attack matches, where you are given certain start and ending conditions, and are ranked on how quickly and effectively you completed those objectives. If you do well (and are online), your score is then placed on a leaderboard.

With multiplayer, you have the option to play both the free-play and score-attack modes. There are dozens of options to choose from within the free-play mode, each with differing win conditions that include time, objectives and score. Games can be up to thirty hours long, with the ability to save and return to your game later on – something which is seldom done well, but it could mean that this is one of those games that gets played online for the next decade. They just have to make sure they get it right.

What makes Rise of Venice so incredibly interesting is that, in a way that is incredibly difficult to describe, it feels as though you are taking part in a world that is living, breathing, and growing alongside you. Not only that, however, but there’s a sense that the world continues turning when you log off. People continue trading, workers keep working, and shit happens. You may be influencing it in a dozen different ways, but that world is still alive; still breathing. It’s brilliant, and certainly worth keeping an eye on.

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One Comment

  1. Lorna Lorna says:

    I actually quite like the sound of this one. It reminds of stuff like Patrician and Anno. If they throw in some decent town building and naval combat it may be worth picking up.

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