This is a guest review by Ludovic
The East India Companies I have to admit was something that until very recently as someone born in Quebec I basically knew nothing of until the last two Pirates of the Caribbean movies, much to my shame considering the stake they had in history. So when I was asked to review East India Company, it actually piqued my interest in finding out a bit more about them, more so that in the movies. But, in the span of this review, it is about the game that I will talk and as such it is one that gives mixed feelings, though it is a good game.Gameplay
East India Company is a rather straightforward game in its goals: You are in charge of the East India Company of one of the various European powers of the 1600's in the race to find good sea trading routes for the ever fabled Indies, lands of precious spices, tea and silks. As such, your goal could be easily summed by one simple word: profit. Still, that's far from being the whole gist of the game and in fact as the multiplayer will attest; it might even take a smaller part than you could otherwise think.
So let's start to dissect that gameplay:
First, as you start the game, you are met with the starting menu. From there, you can choose to start a new single player game, a multiplayer game, to continue a campaign or check the tutorials along with the usual options.
So, let's start with single player, you get to choose to start a single player game, a battle or a quick battle. To cover battle and quick battle right from the start, these are basically deathmatch like scenarios based on the game's tactical battles, whereas deathmatch is a battle against the computer in which you get to choose your "fleet" and the opponent's as well as some other settings. Quick Deathmatch is the same, however the settings are straightforward deathmatch style and fleets are randomly generated.
Now, however, the campaign is another deal entirely and where a lot of the game resides. Quite simply, in the campaign you choose which country's East India Company you want to manage. However, your starting nation seems to have mostly very little impact on actual gameplay that I know of, beyond your starting port.
Now, as for gameplay itself in the campaign, it is pretty straightforward. As one of the East India Companies your first and foremost goal is making profit by importing goods from the East Indies. As such, during the game, you will be faced mainly with two screens in particular. The first is the world map, which covers the various nations homeports in Europe and the various ports in Africa, the Middle East and East Indies with which you can trade or resupply at. Of the later "trading ports", there are two categories: General trade goods ports and Prime Trade Goods ports. The former are mainly useful to resupply as the goods tend to be of lesser importance, though still better than coming back home with an empty cargo hold, and as such tend to be less contested and likely to be invaded by a rival nation wanting to get a monopoly of a particular good. The later, however, are where it's at: precious goods that are high in demand and bring in great amounts of profit when brought back home. All regions of the world tend to have their own specific Prime goods, Africa has ivory and gold, the Middle East has coffee and the East Indies have tea, silks, spice and porcelain. The East Indies will often be the most important not only for profits but also for completing the various objectives set to you by your crown, such as bringing back a certain amount of a given product before a given year to avoid being closed down for being unable to meet demand.
Of course, talking about the ports is one thing, but the ports or even trade goods would be nothing were it not for the ships meant to ferry them and this is where a lot of the focus of East India Company is, in the management of the merchant fleet you are going to use to pave your way to riches.
As such, the base gameplay is rather simple. You start by building a ship in your homeport and then send it doing some bit of trading on the world map. As for trading, you can go at this in two ways. For micromanagement fanatics, you can hand-pick all of the export wares you want from your homeports, then sell them at a given port before proceeding to handpick the wares you want to bring back home to sell. For the more lazy players, you can simply automatic trade routes where your ship will constantly ferry back and forth between a chosen port and your homeport, buying and selling the best wares in both places in a continuous manner. Personally, this is the simplest and easiest way to go about it. Of course, as you proceed to make profits and such, your fleet will grow as you can add up to five ships in a single controllable fleet, each led by an unique "commander" character of varied skills which adds to your fleet's capacity (such as "skilled" negotiator which can net you some nice prices when trading).
Of course, different ships will have different statistics. Will you prefer many cheap and fast ships able to ferry rapidly small amounts of trading supplies for faster cash-ins, or lumbering fleets of larger ships for larger hauling of trade supplies and more guns for self-defence - I'll come to that soon.
These are just some of the choices you get/have to make throughout the game and the economic part does have some good level of detail. For example, if you swamp a port with one type of trade good, this will lower that good's value ... however, you can use this to your advantage by stockpiling some trade goods in your warehouses whilst waiting for prices to rise. Also, like any good imperial power of the era, you can also try to, ahem, "annex" ports as your property by invading them with fleets loaded up with marines in hope of conquering a port which gives you some bonus such as, amongst other things, permitting only you and your allies to use said port.