East India Company Hands on Preview (PC)

East India Company
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Developer:Nitro games
Genre: Real Time Tactics/ Turn Based Strategy
Release Date: Q3 2009


East India Company may be the first game to focus on, well…East India Companies! These 17th century companies gained immense wealth, influence, power and prestige plundering and monopolizing far flung reaches of the world for different European monarchs and establishing colonies as well.

Nitro Games (rightfully so) thought this lack of gamer attention to a critical part of history is an affront to the age of sail and set to rectify the situation (No, pirates were not more important than East India Companies, you mongrel!).

Being a history buff, I couldn’t resist the chance to play a preview build of East India Company that Paradox and Nitro sent our way.

Sadly, like so many other demos and preview builds, the main turn based strategy section is not included in the build. I had a selection of three different sea battles as well a tutorial.

Nitro Games set out from the start to make naval combat in EIC deep yet accessible to the landlubbing masses. Straight away you can tell that the game is easily accessible. The interface is clean and free of clutter and should be instantly familiar to anyone who’s ever played any RTS game. Unit icons are along the bottom, mini-map in the bottom left corner and unit information in the bottom right.

Controls are simple as well, left click to select and right click to move, so it’s pretty standard tried-and-true RTS mechanics.

So it’s certainly easy to grasp, but does that make it a shallow easy game? No. Winning battles does just mean going parallel to the enemy and slugging it out with broadsides (Okay, that appears to only work if you better ships…) but you’ll have to use wind direction and speed to outmaneuver your opponents. Even the weather plays into this, as raging waves can actually be used as cover by smaller ships!

Speaking of the waves, they look stunningly beautiful in East India Company. The water has great ripples that reflect the ships as well as sun and moonlight to create a stunning view. The ships themselves are well modeled and animated, complete with ruffling sails and flags (Those flags actually serve as a quick shortcut to know where the wind is blowing!). There are even little sailors scurrying around the deck reloading cannons and climbing up ropes and masts. This is truly intricate stuff.

I’d be lying though if I told you it’s the best looking Age of Sail game out there, as that honor falls to Empire: Total War. To be fair though, Creative Assembly had a budget of approximately the size of a small nation’s GDP, so I commend Nitro for delivering a game that looks almost as good on a much much tighter budget. It’s proof that indie companies can put out content that rival’s the big boys.

Honestly? If you were expecting Age of Sail II levels of hardcore simulation, then you’re going to be disappointed. You can see the devs trying to achieve a happy medium between simulation and arcade. I, for one, think that they have hit that sweet spot, but it could alienate hardcore 17th century naval enthusiasts while also proving too hard for newbies just looking for a quick cannonball fix after watching Master and Commander.

East India Company will be released sometime around the summer of this year (2009) and DieHard GameFAN will have a review of the game whenever it is released.

Don’t forget to also check out our interview with Lead Designer at Nitro Games Kim Soares right here.

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