East India Company is another hybrid trading and strategy game from the stables of Paradox Interactive and Nitro Games. It’s actually the predecessor of Commander: Conquest of the Americas and as such you’ll notice that the combat engine is very, very similar. Surprisingly, given that this game came before Commander, we actually found a few positive things in East India Company that we felt lacking in Commander.
East India Company Setting
In East India Company, you assume the role of Governor Director of a Company in the 17th century with the aim to transport precious cargo from exotic lands to your homeport to amass a vast amount of money. This money can then be used to buy bigger, better and stronger ships – build upgrades in your colonies and, well… you get the idea.
The usual countries are present: England, The Netherlands, The Empire, France, Spain, Portugal, Denmark and Sweden. For historic revenge, we recommend taking the role of The Netherlands with the personal aim of eliminating the French and Spanish opposition!
The game is pretty similar to Commander with a few large differences. First, this whole, sail to homeport malarkey which we didn’t like is not present in East India Company. You can follow all your ships from port to port, which is far more interesting. You start the game with a small fleet – ready to sail to to far away lands. In the campaign you get a few goals which guide you through the game pretty well. The concept is pretty simply: sail you fleet to a port in Africa, the Middle East, India or Indonesia, and buy a lot of valuable trade goods such as spices or silk. Then sail back to your home port and make a massive profit. Buy some goods your own citizens are hardly interested in – sail back to the foreign port and sell those for profit. Rinse and repeat.
Of course this would be no fun if there wasn’t some sort of risk. Companies can, and will, attack each other and pirates also enter the fray to ruin your good fortune. Luckily this is ‘easily’ resolved with a simple rule: Make sure your fleet has more cannons and sturdier hulls than the opponent. As always, violence resolves pretty much any dispute.
You can also capture ports/colonies in East India Company – though this is a costly process. It requires a few big ships with a lot of cannons and marines. Once captured, you have full control over the port, so the competitors can no longer use it. You can also build upgrades which significantly enhance your profit by reducing the cost of the local goods. Other upgrades enhance the defensive capabilities of the colony with forts and cannons – or give it ship-building capabilities.
Since ships in East India Company need to call in a port from time to time to ‘refuel’ (food, water, etc.), capturing ports in strategic locations can effectively eliminate the competition or force them through certain dangerous stretches of water. This all adds a bit of additional depth which isn’t initially visible.
The combat engine is exactly the same as in Commander, and we’ve spoken about it at the time. The embedded video in this review should have given you a taste of it already. Big difference to Commander in this version though is that there actually is a working tutorial which did miracles in understanding what all the options do. I quickly found myself sinking ship after ship until both the French and Spanish companies had no ships left at all.
A small negative point remains that combat can sometimes end up in a ‘chase’ after the enemy, and sailing ships do NOT catch each other very quickly. Even with the speed accelerated to x4 you can sometimes wait for a considerable amount of time – which can get a little tedious. That said, the combat is very enjoyable outside that little point – and in many ways superior to (for example) triple-A title Empire: Total War.
East India Company Collection
The collection edition doesn’t just come with the original game, but also its various expansions. This gives you a ton of gameplay for a very reasonable price – and some of the expansions are quite enjoyable. We gave Pirate Bay a shot and found it incredibly challenging. In this expansion you are given exactly 1 ship, a frigate, and a very small amount of gold. The idea is to capture more ships and cargo and become a very wealthy pirate. An online ranking list shows the most successful pirates and this mode is played in a dead=dead manner – enhancing the challenge significantly. One tiny mistakes, one wrong decision and your game is over.
The other expansions include Privateer, which ads two new campaigns and two new multiplayer modes as well as Battle of Trafalgar, which is a re-enactment of the Battle of Trafalgar from both the British and Franco-Spanish perspective.
This is a fairly short review, as the game is extremely similar to Commander. (Which is completely built on top of the engine of East India Company by the looks of it.) However, East India Company is in many ways a better game – both in terms of gameplay as well as in terms of setting. The collection offers a good deal as should provide you with plenty of gaming content. If you’re a fan of this genre and enjoy a bit of trading and naval combat, then East India Company is definitely worth looking playing.
The only downside we found is that the game doesn’t offer a lot of variety or new gameplay elements as you proceed through the campaign.
However, with the expansions in this collection you get the variety the original game lacked and some of it is pretty enjoyable. We did find it a shame that the developers didn’t work a little more on the levelling and experience aspects of your commanders, or added more upgrade abilities for your (existing) ships. That could have added extra depth which would have made the game just that little bit better.
Given that you can pick up a copy of this game relatively inexpensively now, there’s no reason not to do so if you’re a bit intrigued at this point. Have a look around (or see our helpful widget on the right-hand side!) and you should be able to find a good deal.
Minimum System requirements:
Windows® XP/Vista, 1.6 GHz Intel® Pentium® processor or equivalent AMD® Athlon™ processor, 1 GB (2 GB recommended for Windows® Vista™), 6 GB hard disk space, 128 MB DirectX® 9.0c compatible or better video card with pixelshader 2.0, DirectX® 9.0c compatible sound card, DirectX®: 9.0c, 3-button Mouse, Keyboard and Speakers,1 MBps Internet connection for multiplayer.
Recommended System Requirements:
Windows® XP/Vista™, 2.0 GHz Intel® Pentium® processor or AMD® Athlon™ processor, 2GB RAM, 6 GB hard disk, 512 MB DirectX® 9.0c compatible or better video card with pixelshader 3.0, 4X PC DVD-ROM, DirectX® 9.0c compatible sound card, DirectX®: 9.0c, 3-button Mouse, Keyboard and Speakers,1 MBps Internet connection
MULTI-PLAYER UP TO 12 PLAYERS