Ports of Call (Second Review)

Title           Ports of Call (Second Review)
Game Type       Action Strategy
Players         1-4
HD Installable  Yes
Compatibility   All
Submission      Joachim Froholt Profiled Reviewer

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

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

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.

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