Title Ports of Call (Second Review) Game Type Action Strategy Players 1-4 HD Installable Yes Compatibility All Submission Joachim Froholt Profiled Reviewer Review In Ports of Call, you are the owner of a company specializing in tramp shipping. And what is that, I hear you ask. Well, I dunno, but the name is cool, I hear myself say....but then I come to my senses and give you a proper answer: Most of the cargo traffic at sea is organized in accordance with international agreements and contracts between individual countries. About 80% of the goods transported between two countries is handled by ships registered under the flags of these two countries, while the remaining 20% are open to all ships. These ships are called tramp ships, and are usually prepared to transport all kinds of goods. So, as the owner of such a company, it is your job to keep the company afloat (he, he) financially. First of all, you must get some ships, so that you'll be able to start making money. There's a variety of ships to buy. There's three classes: Low cost ships (what Angus referred to as rustbuckets in his review), Pre owned ships and High Tech Ships. The High Tech ships are the best, but also the most expensive. In addition, the ships vary in size (small, medium, large and HUGE). You may just as well forget about getting the biggest of the high tech ships until far into the game. After you have purchased a ship or two, you will have to decide where the ship is going to sail, what it is going to carry, etc. What happens is that you'll receive a list of goods that needs to be exported from the port you're currently in, and a list of ports which you can transport these goods to (you can't sail anywhere from any port). After you have selected the type of goods and the destination, you will see how much money you will be offered for the transport. How much you get will obviously depend on both the destination port and the goods you choose to load the ship with. Also, the size and quality of a ship will determine how much you'll be offered for the transport. It can be a little difficult finding good routes until you've played the game for a while, so you'll probably go bankrupt a few times before you get your first successful company. In addition to getting lucrative contracts, you've got to see to it that your ships have enough fuel (running out of fuel is a stupid way to loose a lot of money) and are in good condition. You won't get any money until you've delivered the goods, so you can't fill the fuel tanks with the payment for the current contract. You'll also need to keep an eye on your office (checking your office regularily will prevent theft - so it is probably a good idea to enter the office at regular intervals even if you have nothing much to do in there, something which I dislike about Ports of Call). Then there's the arcade sequences. When you're in an arcade sequence, you assume the control of the ship. The action is seen from a very high flying birds eye. The goal of these sequences vary: Sometimes, the tugs which usually help your ship to dock or leave port are on strike, so you'll have to navigate by hand (you must also do this if you can't afford paying the tugboats). Every dock is different, and while some are quite easy, some are nightmares. Especially if you've got a big ship. You'll also be expected to deal with icebergs, reefs etc. These sequences are quite good, really. I don't know how realistic the controls are, but they are easy to learn while at the same time you'll need plenty of experience to succeed in the more difficult ports. The downside is that if you play Ports of Call a lot, you'll get tired of these sequences and there's no option to turn them off. Also, if there's more than one player in the game, it can be pretty boring to wait for your opponent to steer his ship out of a difficult port, especially if he's one of those super-careful captains. Ports of Call is a great little game. It won't last so long in 1 player mode (where there are no real goals to work towards), but if you're playing together with a friend, it can be really fun. The downside is that there's no real competition between the players. There's not much you can do to hurt or help the other player, which is a bit boring. In The Patrician (a similar but deeper (and IMHO better) game) there's plenty of ways to influence the other players, and I wish Ports of Call had some of these options. The economic model in Ports of Call is okay. Prices will fluctuate based on supply and demand, and sometimes it can be very hard to make money. But again, Ports of Call is beaten by The Patrician. In TP, there's "visible" reasons for everything, and it is possible to predict what will happen (if the player knows enough about the situation). In Ports of Call, the prices just seem to go up and down, then up and down again and so on. The graphics are good. The game uses colour cycling to achieve a realistic animated sea, and there's some nice animations which makes the game more exciting. The sound effects are also good (especially during the arcade sequences, where listening to the pitch of the ship's motor will help you navigate), but there's no real music to speak of. So, my conclusion has to be that Ports of Call is a good game, but it is not the best of it's genre. Ports of Call is easy to get into, and well presented. While it isn't so interesting in one player, it's quite fun in two player mode. I think you should buy this game if you can find it.