Let's be honest: the "trading sim" genre isn't the most appealing type of video game out there. For many, the notion of looking at spreadsheets and adjusting item values to capitalize on supply and demand is the furthest thing away from "fun" one can imagine. Yet, Kalypso Media is doing something truly unexpected with Rise of Venice: it's making a trading sim that can appeal to a much wider audience.
Central to Rise of Venice's appeal is the campaign mode, which will slowly introduce the various mechanics that power the trading genre. It's inherently an intimidating genre, so having some structure immediately appeals to newcomers. The story that ties everything together is also genuinely intriguing, with you having to navigate not only the economics of the Renaissance, but the politics as well.
The Council of the Ten are the ten most powerful families of the time, and you'll have to try and woo them in order to gain their favor. They will be able to bestow new abilities to you, like the ability to trade with new cities. However, each family has their own interests and must be persuaded in different ways. Trading a certain item at a certain price with a certain town might win over one family--at the cost of another family's trust in you. You could also bribe certain people--although they can also be offended by the attempt (especially if it's a bit too low).
Your family will also be part of your growing empire. You'll be able to assign brothers, sisters, aunts, etc. to different roles--and they can help (or deter) your progress. You may want to make brothers captains of your ships, you may want to send aunts to certain towns to increase your reputation with a specific family. These narrative garnishes make the game about much more than just trading silk for spices.
There's also naval combat. Smartly, you can have the simulation simply determine the winner of any excursions based on your stats. However, you can also manually battle--simply for the fun of it, or for the opportunity to use your skill to potentially overcome any statistical shortcomings.
Of course, all this talk of things that aren't central to the trading simulation gameplay may worry genre fans. While I can't speak to the actual depth of the sim gameplay, what I was shown certainly looks impressive. You can create rather detailed trading routes--essentially macros that automatically conduct trades based on certain conditions that you establish. In addition, sim players can skip the campaign altogether, going directly into Free Play mode, which allows players to customize the rules of the open world and how the simulation can unfold. There's also various challenge modes with online leaderboard support, for those that need to flex their economic muscle.
Rise of Venice is the sort of game I didn't expect to be so taken aback by. However, the story and the political drama has me intrigued to learn more about the sim gameplay. The full game will be available on September 27th.