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East India Company Review

July 31st, 2009 by Troy Goodfellow · 10 Comments · Crispy Gamer, Paradox, Review

I have to stop letting myself get excited by preview builds and slick presentations by Finnish charmers.

East India Company demos very well. The core gameplay of sailing to the Indies and making a fortune is solid both in principle and execution. And when someone dangles the idea of bigger ships and naval wars in front of you, how can a history nut like me not get enthused?

So it’s a real shame the whole thing doesn’t really hold together after a couple of hours of play. Read the review at Crispy Gamer.

In some ways, it’s a little like Dawn of Discovery in that you will be doing the same thing over and over again. But where DoD gives you very good tools to manage your trading empire (if not well documented), EIC gives you very few of the basic things a trading game needs. Waypoints, variable cargo loads, minimum stores, automatic warehousing options…

The game still looks great. I would do a map entry on it if it had come out last year. The map art and style are emblematic of the idea that a game map should immediately communicate what the game is about. The ports are exaggerated in size and most of the map is empty of anything besides forests and the occasional building. After all, who cares about Rome if they aren’t selling anything I want?

But the aesthetics are so clean that it is easy to imagine a more efficient display of information. There is lots of room on screen for a unit price for a major trade good beside the port of call. Why not put a number above each European home port that reflects relative strength? It’s not that this information is hard to find, but it’s such important information – in some cases the only information you need – that there is no reason not to stick it up front.

Add in how limited the interface is and how dreary the naval battles are (Seriously – can anyone make the age of sail fun?) and you have a game that is good for what it is but what it is is not enough.


10 Comments so far ↓

  • Hudson

    But how do those naval battles compare to the Dawn of Discovery naval battles? Exactly, at least it is in there.

    I don’t know, DoD bored the hell out of me. But I would be curious as to the combat comparisons (even though yes I know they are not combat games)

  • Troy

    If you want real time naval combat, your only real options are EIC and Empire: Total War. I think Empire does it better – even if the battles are unwieldy, they are at least interesting. EIC’s naval battles are slow and unclear. Oh, and if you want to capture an enemy ship with cargo, don’t autoresolve EIC’s battles – automated admirals want to sink everything.

  • Rob Zacny

    A very good review, Troy. I especially enjoyed the introduction, which really got at the heart of why this game was able to capture so many imaginations when we first heard about it.

    I don’t understand what the hell has happened to age of sail combat modeling. I remember playing “Age of Sail” years ago and it basically worked. Aside from tragically idiotic AI, AoS II also worked. Squadron command was easy. All the information I wanted and needed was right there on the interface or just a click away. There was plenty of tense maneuvering, racing to bring guns to bear, preparing to be boarded… good stuff all around.

    But it’s been nothing but disastrous attempts at reinventing the wheel since then. Maybe because it’s always being included as a feature rather than making naval combat the main event?

  • Troy

    Yeah, the Age of Sail is trouble for reasons we touched on in a podcast a few weeks ago. You need to keep it engaging, but you also need to be somewhat realistic. Make wind too important and people get frustrated, not important enough and you might as well use steamships. Boarding operations and shot varieties and the fact that one wood and cloth warship isn’t that different from another and your tactics get too complicated despite the symmetry.

    At Julian’s urging, we’re probably going to devote an entire episode of TMA to how naval things get short shrift in every game – RTSes, grand strategy games, and even wargames. For every Midway there are twelve Battles of the Bulge, for every Trafalgar a dozen more Waterloos and no one does Salamis at all.

  • Scott R. Krol

    [QUOTE]and no one does Salamis at all.[/QUOTE]

    Hey now, Galley Battles will cover Salamis. Unfortunately the one man developer has been concentrating too much on getting his advanced degrees rather than wargame work. As if a higher education will take you more places than indie strategy gaming!

  • frags

    The game is too simple to constitute prolonged campaign. For a trading game it is important that your successes somehow affects the environment. In Capitalism, your businesses affect the economy of the city plus the pricing of your competitiors.

    In Partrician, success often meant investing in building structures that further develop a port in a more ‘non generic way’ than just labelling it town house level 6. You ‘saw’ your trading empire grow.

    There is no feedback on how well you are doing or how your actions are affecting others.

  • Troy

    I did an interview with the developer of Galley battles in the first year of this blog, Scott. I had no idea it was still being developed.

  • Tom Grant

    You can certainly create an exciting narrative about Age of Sail naval battles. The problem is that the mechanics of these games don’t create that narrative. It’s as if C.S. Forester decided to kill all dramatic effect through a dry recitation of which ship moved where, and how fast, and which way the wind is blowing. (Though sometimes the technical details in these sorts of novels do drain some of the readability out of the prose.)

    Perhaps a different interface for the fleet admiral or squadron commander could evoke a different narrative. Alternately, taking the captain’s point of view, from the deck of his own ship, would change the picture significantly.

  • Troy


    I’d buy that game if you built it.

  • Scott R. Krol

    “Alternately, taking the captain’s point of view, from the deck of his own ship, would change the picture significantly.”

    You guys don’t remember Man Of War?