Rise of Venice Review

Urge to trade rising...

Whether I'm lining up on Black Friday or I'm scrounging through the stalls at a flea market, I have no problem putting in the hard work needed to get a good deal. But Rise of Venice pushed me a little farther than I would have liked. While this trading simulation about life as a 15th-century Venetian trader has loads of appeal when exploiting the base need that we all have to shop smartly, it is much more demanding than hanging out in a shopping center parking lot all night hoping to snag a cut-rate TV. Paltry in-game help and manual documentation make it tough to come to grips with the trading system in the early hours of play, which in turn makes it tough to appreciate the good things the game has to offer on the downward slope of its learning curve. This is a game that demands a lot up front but pays off down the road as long as you stay patient when it comes to online homework and in-game experimentation.

Rise of Venice follows in the wake of developer Gaming Minds' earlier trading efforts Port Royale 3 and Patrician IV. In the single-player campaign, you take on the role of a Venetian merchant in the mid-15th century. At the beginning of the game, the elder scion of your trading family finally shuffles off this mortal coil, leaving you a vessel and a dream of schlepping wood, grapes, honey, and other goods from one port to another in about two dozen cities spread around the Mediterranean Sea. If you want to hit the waves without any story in the cargo hold, you can go for the sandbox-style free play or the more mission-oriented scoreboard match where you are presented with set victory goals like earning a certain rank, setting up a specific number of businesses, or making a set amount of cash. Online and local multiplayer free play and scoreboard games are also offered, although good luck finding a match on the servers, which might as well have the digital equivalent of tumbleweed blowing through them.

The Mediterranean was apparently a pretty busy place around 1455.

The basic conceit is just as you would expect. Your goal is to buy low and sell high. Making a profit is a snap while you are manually conducting all trade. There are easy runs up and down the Italian boot, moving fruit and pottery and the like for big bucks. Even later on, after things get more complex, the markets offer a lot of room for you to make serious money. Different regions have different specialties, so you can roam around shipping exotic goods like spices from the Levant cities back to the west, move wine from the south to the north, and so forth. The only complication early on is paying for trading licenses in neutral or allied cities, or bribing your way into the ranks of rivals in the employ of Venice's chief enemy, Genoa.

Things get trickier fast, though. After you commission a few convoys and are pressed to earn serious coin to continue progressing up the social ladder in Venice (money and things like stowage and the number of sailors under hire are used to calculate your rank, which is voted on in the senate back home), it's impossible to do manual trading. So you need to set up trade routes that automatically buy and sell goods in specific ports of call. This is not easy, at least in the beginning. While the campaign walks you through some trading mechanics, it reveals nearly nothing about the intricacies of automating trade routes. The manual is just as obtuse, with little space dedicated to trade routes, even though they form the heart of the game. I needed to trudge through forums at both Steam and publisher Kalypso for advice on how to set up trade routes, and then experiment within the game to get them working effectively.

It's a shame that Rise of Venice is hard to warm up to initially, because there is a lot to like when you get beyond the early frustrations of establishing trade routes.

It took some serious messing around with trading before I figured it out. I spent a lot of time playing with the series of sliders and buttons that govern every item individually, setting various buy and sell margins and then watching the routes in action to see if they were profitable or not. Once I got the hang of this, however, it was simple to set up routes with buy and sell margins that let me rake in seemingly unlimited amounts of cash.

Still, it shouldn't be so difficult to get to this point. You should be able to simply click a couple of buttons to tell your trade convoy captains to, for example, automatically sail between Venice and its neighbors Ragusa, Zara, and Durazzo buying low and selling high when it comes to all of the goods that the cities have on hand. The initial hurdles will undoubtedly turn people off through sheer frustration, and it's completely unnecessary. Based on the forum posts, I'm not the only dummy out there who initially had trouble with this key aspect of the game. A more detailed tutorial reviewing how the whole trading system works would be a huge help.

Setting up automated trade routes is the most difficult part of the game, although making money trading is a snap once you get going.

It's a shame that Rise of Venice is hard to warm up to initially, because there is a lot to like when you get beyond the early frustrations of establishing trade routes. The game includes an interesting political layer. Rivals in Venice try to sabotage just about everything you do. They spread rumors that get you blocked out of ports, slam your reputation, steal from your warehouses, and do just about anything else underhanded that they can think of to prevent your trading business from making money. Of course, you can pull the same dirty tricks, as long as you have the cash to hire the operatives needed to spread smears or rob enemies. You can also take on missions to curry the favor of council members.

The game even features a nifty mechanism that makes you play politics, because you can't progress through the ranks without winning votes in the senate. Fail to trash foes and grease palms, and you stall in gaining the levels needed to run the large numbers of convoys and access all of the goods that are traded (the 22 items in the game, ranging from raw materials to finished goods like clothing and glass, are unlocked as you progress in rank). The only drawback is that you can make money so readily through trade routes that you can simply bribe your way to winning council votes without fooling around with the dirty deeds noted above. It's not as satisfying, but it's easier to dish out cash than it is to take on missions or pay operatives to attempt reputation-damaging stunts that may or may not be successful.

More than trading is offered. Cities are built up with warehouses that expedite trade routes; various production facilities that let you produce items like salt, oils, and fruit; and homes for your workers. Big trading money comes after you start producing items for sale on your own, rather than relying on third parties. Cities offer regular missions during the campaign. These assignments generally involve moving more goods--although some jobs deal with combat and various go-fetch tasks--but they do add focus to your duties alongside the freewheeling trading. You also get random duties that advance storylines, such as working with spies and developing ongoing intrigue with the rival Genoans. Some of these duties can be drawn out and dull, though. There are too many irritating combat missions and even a treasure hunt early on that sees you pixel hunting around the map for tiny buoys marking the locations of scraps of a treasure map.

Speaking of combat, it's a hazard that needs to be dealt with while building your maritime empire. Unfortunately, it's the least thought-out aspect of the game design. Sea battles are chaotic and stupid, with ships essentially spinning around in circles firing cannons until one side or the other eventually sinks. Speed is another problem, since ships move more like Jet Skis than stately Renaissance brigs. You can barely think during battles, let alone strategize. Scraps can be simmed, but the campaign forces you to fight manually on a regular basis. You have to board enemy vessels and at times take on one enemy convoy after another in mind-numbing battles. The only plus to combat is how the very threat of it forces you to strategize. Knowing that you could be attacked by pirates at any time makes you prepare by configuring convoys with escorts, stocking cannons to sink bad guys, and adding extra sailors armed with cutlasses and pistols to deal with boarding parties.

Rise of Venice is a looker, especially for what amounts to a spreadsheet on the high seas. There is a lot of atmosphere here, largely due to rolling waves that gleam with reflected sunlight. Everything looks more postcard-like than you would expect out of a Mediterranean setting, though, with all of the sunshiny visuals making you feel like you're in the Caribbean. The cheerful setting makes the whole game more welcoming. Cities are also realistically busy, with people running all about (even if the scale is more akin to villages than the real bustling burgs of Renaissance Europe). The game is also easier to navigate than predecessors Port Royale 3 and Patrician IV. Everything takes place on the same main map screen now. To get up close and personal with a city, all you need to do is zoom in close instead of switching to a different view. This speeds up the tempo and gives the game more of an organic feel, with just about everything at your fingertips. If not for the overly complicated automated trading system, the interface would be ideal.

Thumbs soon start turning down in Venice when rival families start looking at you as a threat to their profit margins. Bribery is your best friend.

Audio effects further accentuate the nautical setting. Crashing waves surround you at all times. Bells ring whenever you sail into a port. Seagulls cry off in the distance. Incredible width spreads sounds all around you, giving the impression that the cranky noise of those seagulls might be coming from the next room and not the speaker on your desktop. Music is just as striking, mainly due to the forlorn notes that it hits. There isn't anything specifically nautical about the soundtrack, although the lonely horns and echoing drums evoke the somewhat depressing majesty of a life at sea.

Stay the course, and you will get a lot out of Rise of Venice. That doesn't excuse the bad first impression provided by the confusing trade routes, but this is one of those games where patient players reap rewards. Keep at it, and you might just learn a few things about making a deal for yourself when Black Friday next rolls around. OK, you won't. But you will learn something about how to sell exotic spices in the 15th-century Mediterranean, which might be a little more intriguing than queuing up for another cheapie television.

The Good
Hunting for good deals syncs up with the bargain shopper gene in all of us
Busy cities and authentic rolling seas present a pleasant Mediterranean backdrop
Intriguing intrigue with your Venetian rivals
Atmospheric sound effects and a lonely yet majestic soundtrack
The Bad
Initial learning curve is pretty steep when setting up automated trade routes
Chaotic manual combat is a whole lot like herding cats
7
Good
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Brett Todd thinks only suckers pay retail, although he doesn’'t mind paying a few bucks for a good economic sim. He sailed the high seas buying low and selling high for about 25 hours for the purposes of this review.

Discussion

19 comments
jjleshko90
jjleshko90

...Intriguing intrigue? Are you seriously serious, Todd?

BradBurns
BradBurns

This game reminded me of something weird. 


As a history buff, I'm very confused as to why Americans during Columbus day seem to imply that he was Italian. 


I don't think that there's any real evidence of that, other than an old will that turned out to be a fake. I assume that he was a Spaniard. That's what an American professor said after researching it. 


While everyone is making stuff up, I propose that John Smith was actually from Persian.

shenhua1337
shenhua1337

... Oh and btw if you ever wondered. As much as having your own opinion is all fine and dandy. A gaming site should refrain from becoming OPINIONATED and instead try to fairly review games so that both reviews and scores are easily compared.

I have been observing what's happening on GS for a while now and I find it childish at most. This website has obviously some kind of identity crisis. I don't see Tom's Hardware having problems with being objective in their articles. Without the unnecessary attention whoring of an adolescent.

If I am coming back from work, after say, a month break from any gaming I couldn't care less about what who at Gamespot thinks. I need an honest comparison to know what title is worth my attention. That's what the reviews and scores are for.

But you guys keep provoking those flame wars as much as you want. It's so childish that your website looks as if you're aiming at juvenile brats. Not at serious people who simply want to learn about a new game.

kristijanH
kristijanH

Is this an actual review or another troll review from Gamespot? I want to know before I even bother to read it :(

nicolasetespqr
nicolasetespqr

@BradBurns 


As with many other stuff in history... no one really knows for certain.


Some say he was genoese, some say he was spanish... well, and in the end the only thing that matters is whose ships and crew he used to get to America (Spanish king and queen's),



That said -word of a spaniard, btw- i always found weird that he went for the king of portugal before to the spanish kings to ask financial aid for his journey. What native spaniard would do that? Then again, in that particular period, the spanish kings were more concerned about finishing the reconquista (only Granada remained) so it's quite understanable. In fact, they gave him what he asked for almost immediatly after they conquered the city (actually, the surrender of Granada and the royal leave for colombus to sail were both signed at the very town where the kings were encamped outside the city, which henceforth was called "Santa Fé").


I remember that they were making DNA test with his remains some years ago, but i hav eheard no further news about it... I guess we'll never know ^^ (and even if we did... the damage is done, we spaniards took all the credit for it and just tell me how many native italian speakers can you find in america now for every spanish speaker you count).

Apastron
Apastron

@BradBurns It's pretty much accepted that he was born in Italy, but whether or not it was Genoa is where the main bone of contention lies.

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

@shenhua1337 No--a gaming site should not refrain from being opinionated. If you're reading a review and hoping to avoid an opinion, well--wait a minute. Why are you reading a review again?

dutchgamer83
dutchgamer83

@kristijanH I'm not entirely sure how this review would be a troll review? It scores a 7/10 that is a good score. And when you read it you read a few good things about the game, and a few things the reviewer didn't like, like the steep learning curve and not much of a tutorial explaining you how to deal with that. Is this a bad thing? Maybe, maybe not, but he has to mention it. I would say there is nothing wrong with finding things out outside the game. I got plenty of games i had no clue about how to play when i bought them and done the tutorials. But then i started to watch let's plays on youtube and figured it all out how the mechanics of the games worked. To me that is not a bad thing. But for many it is, so it was his job to mention it that he needed help from outside the game.

adunoakenshield
adunoakenshield

@kristijanH Go ahead and read it and try to form your own opinion! It's hard, I know, but in the end it's really worthwile to say "Hey, I have an opinion of my own and I don't follow the cool kids that say Gamespot reviews suck even though I will stay here instead of leaving."  

BradBurns
BradBurns

@Apastron @BradBurns 

It's accepted but the evidence is almost non existent. There's as much evidence that he's Galician and even more that he's Catalan than there is for Italy.

It's possible since Spain owned Italy at the time..but the evidence isn't really there.

His shipmates for example, never referred to him as Italian though when Magellan served Spain he was always referred to as Portuguese. It's a myth popularized by the Italian-American communities during the 19th Century.

dutchgamer83
dutchgamer83

@Kevin-V @shenhua1337 As long as they aren't biased though. And that is a problem we see a bit to much these days with the game press. Nothing wrong with having your own opinion. But some games with certain big titles score insane high scores while they are full of mistakes too. Where other lesser title games in the same genre get less points cause of the AI not being smart enough, doesn't improve the genre, etc, etc, where the big title game has the same flaws but doesn't ever gets punished for those flaws. Then its not just a opinion then its way to biased towards the big title. For example CoD. How come that game gets away with the AI it has? When you die you will see a pattern, you can predict what the AI is gonna do. This is never mentioned where other lesser title shooters often get the comment "Weak AI". CoD also doesn't innovate. Really the stuff they do where already in games long before CoD, still every review is super positive and gives a 9 where other games have to innovate the shooter genre. I would say a game that comes out every year with such a huge budget should be the one to innovate the genre, not a shooter that has a much lesser budget. And for some reason its wildly accepted that they charge big money for map packs and only give you a few maps for the MP to start with. This also never is a minor point where in other shooters it would. You pay big money and only get a 4 to 5 hour singleplayer campaign and a handful of MP maps for 70 euro's.....but a lesser budget title with a lower price gets fired down for it.  That is just being to biased towards a game, cause that game can't do much wrong while it has the same flaws as many others in the genre. And this should be dealt with. As reviewer you also have the task to be journalistic about it, look further then your own opinion. 

Cause sometimes opinions can be a major factor in the score and make it unfair. For example the Mafia 2 review on Eurogamer. It scored a 4 out of 10, for the simple reason that the reviewer didn't liked the fact that the game was story driven but offered you a open city to drive around in. The story had you drive from A to B and often over the road they designated for you. He said it should have been like GTA and let you do your own things. But that wasn't what Mafia 2 was about, it was story driven but yeah when there is driving involved you aren't gonna make just one road people can drive on right? Cause if they done that they would also been given a low score for making linear roads. In this case the opinion of the reviewer was to biased towards GTA that the reviewer forgot to judge Mafia 2 for the game what is was, and not for being the game the reviewer wanted it to be, namely a 30's version of GTA.


But reviews will always be full of opinions cause that is what they are. Just don't forget to be journalistic, opinion is only a part of the review, there are other factors to keep in mind as well. I mean in my opinion the Dynasty warrior games are great, but i can reason behind the lower scores. But so should it be the other way around, sometimes a reviewer should know that he/she might be a bit to much of a fan of a certain series and there for being a bit biased towards it and perhaps even punishes other games in the genre cause they keep comparing it to their personal favorite.


@shenhua1337 what exactly is wrong about this review that you find it opinionated? I read the review and the reviewer had a problem with getting into the game cause of the steep learning curve. But it scores a 7 and that in my books is a good score. He mentioned some other issues, and i guess you can see that as a opinion but how else should they have been addressed?

shenhua1337
shenhua1337

@adunoakenshield Vigilante much? If you're so smart why don't you get off your own bandwagon? I guess it's hard indeed, to walk the walk.

kristijanH
kristijanH

@adunoakenshield Actually you are correct. I'm off to reading reviews on OTHER sites which do not post ridiculous reviews. Thanks for the tip ;)

dutchgamer83
dutchgamer83

@shenhua1337 @dutchgamer83 Well think of it this way, he is a quaker and striker, a FPS player. And still a trading sim gets a 7 out of 10 from him. I would say that is pretty impresive if he is only into shooters, cause Venice is everything but fast action paced right? :)


What i see on gamersgate is someone who bought the game and left a reply behind. He is not pleased with the game, saying there is a lot of content removed that was is the older games.


What i can advice you is watching some let's plays on youtube and see if you like what you see. In my opinion let's plays show me way more if i like a game or not. For example from Pewpewchewchew. Most let's players (atleast the serious ones) will talk about the game while playing it and tell you their likes and dislikes. 


ps. sorry for writing much, once im going im like a train.

shenhua1337
shenhua1337

@dutchgamer83 (sorry I missed my "edit" time so I will reply to myself)
For example, reading about what happened in Zimbabwe, I want to know the facts. Not what side the reported is cheering. When reading about CPUs I want to know how they perform, not if the jornalist prefers Intel or AMD. When reading about games I want to learn if it's worth my time, not to see if the writer is in the Quake or CS camp.

shenhua1337
shenhua1337

Oh and also, It's sad to see how much you've written. It could be useful to read your comment, but I doubt that any of the editors of this Game-Tabloid care anymore... (I've been reading Gamespot for years, since I got my first internet connection). It was the alternative to the "Game magazines" that I collected back then. Those days are over. I guess soon Gamespot will degrade to a twitter channel (or whatever the Twatters call it, not using that myself) at least there their attitude would fit.

shenhua1337
shenhua1337

@dutchgamer83 I didn't read the review when I posted that comment. I was replying to the vigilante style response to another comment and commenting on the general situation on Game-Missed-The-Spot. I usually read comments first out of curiosity to see what ppl say about it before I move to the article itself. Same with other websites be it hardware or politics. I read those precious "opinions" in the blogs and comments section, while articles I read for serious and hopefully more balanced substance. If you want opinionated review of the kind I was talking about check out the Bioshock Infinite fiasco.

Rise of Venice More Info

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  • First Released
    • PC
    Rise of Venice drops you in the Renaissance era, where you start out as a young merchant, looking to make your mark and build a trading empire.
    6.6
    Average User RatingOut of 23 User Ratings
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    Developed by:
    Kalypso,
    Published by:
    Kalypso, 5pb
    Genres:
    Strategy