Set in 1455, Rise of Venice tells the tale of a young man who’s suddenly given a change of career in his life from that of a mercenary to a trader. Requested that he do so by dying words of his grandfather the young man takes a liking to the life of a trader and seeks to gain ultimate wealth, and this is where our game begins.
I took Rise of Venice to be a game about greed, status, and power. Each of the game’s elements and goals motivate its gameplay as well as fuelling the player’s ego. The title is described as a trade and economic simulation game and everything that it asks from you and teaches you is precisely that. The game requires patience, thinking, and has somewhat of a learning curve to it. Although these requirements seem like negatives at first they are far from it. In one word Rise of Venice is best described as fun, as the hours that you’ll easily put into it pass so quickly thanks to its terrific handling of player ranking and advancement. But the amount of depth and well thought out methods of keeping the player fully involved in the game is one not to be underestimated either.
The main menu opens up three main single-player modes as well as a multi-player mode. The single player options consist of a campaign, free to play, and scoreboard match. Campaign mode introduces you to the elements of the game and what it’s going to entail once you start making your decisions and going about your own goals. It does this by letting you pick your own character and playing a short film that presents the game and character’s back story. Free to play operates in a similar manner accept it does so without the tutorials and hand-holding that the campaign gives you, and it’s customisable to a certain extend. It’s the mode you’re expected to be playing once you have become familiar with the campaign. Lastly, scoreboard match gives you a checklist of specific goals and conditions in order to rank a certain score.
The heart of Rise of Venice lies in the campaign. Starting off with nothing but coins and a ship to your name you work your way up through the ranks of a merchant trader and as you do so, the city becomes aware of your status and thus your reputation rises. This is done by exporting and buying goods from different cities in the land and selling them across different locations. Buying items that are produced from one city and transporting them to another where they are needed will earn you more money and advance your public status. Doing this also increases the reputation of Venice and the way in which other towns and public figures interact with you. Making your way up through the ranks and becoming more publicly known allows you to discover new cities within the Mediterranean, and thanks to your grandfather’s public awareness and wealth, your focus on greed and rising to power becomes your own personal motivation in the game.
The gameplay mechanics are quite simple in contrast to the nature of the game. Where I initially expected a cluster-truck of controls that I would be double checking and re-assigning every five minutes or so, I was very surprised. Playing the game from an observational point of view as you look down on the lands, navigating and giving orders is a simple click and go feature with a fair set of keyboard commands. The game does well to explain what’s currently happening as you browse and discover new things taking place in each of the different cities, and as they’re constantly changing due to trading and their own reputation, no visit or business trade which you make there is ever the same.
The player’s interactions within the world are what keep the game breathing, and while the game continues to go on whether or not you’re taking part, your absence from gameplay still has an effect on what goes on. The missions and goals which you’ll find yourself involved in aren’t just limited to buying in one location and selling in the other. Public elections, hiring captains and crew members and helping out the schools are all gameplay elements that you must take part in. In doing so you feel more immersed in this world as new opportunities are opened up.
Combat also plays a role in the game in the form of naval battles with pirates. I must admit I wasn’t particularly fond of these sections of the game but the gameplay approach in which combat takes is fairly straight forward. Combat involves a lot of tactics and co-ordination and was simply an acquired taste and while I can see why one might enjoy it, my concentration on getting rich quick simply outweighed my enjoyment for the combat sections of the game.
Rise of Venice attempts at incorporating a story based plot for its reasoning behind the gameplay. Although this isn’t a bad thing it simply wasn’t needed. No real back story is set up or expanded upon for your chosen character, and the game only touches upon the character’s background with a minimal approach. Had the game simply introduced itself, spoke on Venice and told me to enter a name for my existence in the game I would have been just as pleased with it. The focus that’s placed upon what you’re doing in the game such as buying wood, cotton, fruits, and other assortments in the game is enough to take your concentration away from who your character actually is.
While your character does have an actual role and place in the world, as shown in your family tree and the position and rank you hold alongside other people in the public eye. I can’t help but think that it would have been just as enjoyable without the actual existence of a background created character. Your obsession with greed and trading stocks, not to mention your feeling of a win when you con other cities for their goods, completely holds your concentration in the game.
The towns and cities themselves are a masterpiece to watch in action. The simulation that drives the game is truly immersive and impressive to look at. This really is a living and breathing world. Ships sail on and go about their business, NPC’s wonder the land trying to look busy, and the waves of the sea carry their own sense of life as they reflect light and crash against the shores. All of this works as one to further immerse you into the game. There’s alot of small and fine details within this game that have had careful attention placed upon it and it’s just astonishing to watch it play out. You have to place your attention on the world as a whole and not just the current location in which you’re stationed at. While examining the progress and reputation of Venice I became too preoccupied that I failed to notice a small house on fire on the outskirts of the city. It’s the small details like this that make the game more impressive and a joy to play.
The main story of the game sets you out with a list of missions that you complete one after the other. This helps you become familiar with the game and allows you to become more confident and skilled at making your own decisions for buying produce and trading items within other cities and helping to advance your own. Although the game does a fair job of not making this feel like a long and boring tutorial, I do feel it could have done a better job of explaining itself to help newcomers. Aside from this minor hiccup the game has a refreshing appeal to it and presents itself with a laid back approach.
An interesting implementation that Rise of Venice portrays is the movement of time. Being able to fast forward time simply at the hold of the space bar is handy and is something you’ll be doing alot. As the world is fully alive and constantly changing, waiting on planned events to take place or a city to advance is made easier with the power of time control. This can also be adjusted to how quick you would like time to pass as the in-game date works in the form of days to years. This can all be observed on the right portion of the screen where your ranking, money, and cargo items are displayed alongside a mini-map.
With so much interaction in this world the need for amazing visuals is not one that concerned me nor was I immediately gripped by it. It was the amazing opening scene at the start of the game that introduced me to the game’s setting and gameplay. Nevertheless the visuals in the game is not something that’s easily missed. Looking down on the game from above you get to see the game in all of its beautiful integrity. Rise of Venice looks amazing the glistening sea with its vibrance colours of fluid animations complement the luscious greens of the forest that surrounds it.
The town buildings are colourful and textures look great. This isn’t a graphically intense game nor is it mind blowing. It runs smoothly, doesn’t have steep requirements, and is just down right gorgeous to look at. The game audio is both unique and accurate in accordance to the setting of the game, and the sound effects of the environmental assets are as noticeable as they are pleasing to hear. There are a lot of small touches in the game that are admirable and enjoyable to observe. Everything from the crashing of the waves to the wind blowing across the land portrays a remarkable sense of life thanks to its amazing sound design.
Rise of Venice is an addictive game with hours of enjoyment that I would recommend everybody give a chance. Whether or not it falls into a genre that you’re used to playing, the refreshing experience that the game delivers is relaxing, satisfying, and is just a down right blast to play.
This game was reviewed on the PC.