The German publisher Kalypso kept secrets in the run-up to Gamescom when it came to presenting the line-up. In addition to the console conversion to Tropico 6, Commandos 2 HD and Immortal Realms, two titles were not named – those responsible only revealed that one is a space game and the other title is supposed to be a commercial game. At this point, the first fans already suspected that the “trading game” could be the sequel to Port Royal. And indeed, Kalypso already announced Port Royale 4 as a novelty at the opening show "Gamescom: Opening Night Live". In general, the developers from Worms were convincing with their announcements at Gamescom 2019. Exciting months await lovers of strategy and business games.

Game fairs and reveals - for fans it's an explosive mix. When the words "World Premiere" sparkle on gigantic LED screens, gamers often get heart palpitations. The promised world premiere does not always turn out to be a surprise, and certainly not as a game with hit potential. And then there are those moments when game fans jump for joy. As part of the Gamescom opening ceremony, when the trailer for Port Royale 4 flickered across the screen. The German publisher is bringing several titles to Gamescom 2019 that fans around the world are eagerly awaiting.

Tropico 6: Funny as usual - soon also on consoles

It was no secret that Tropico 6 would make its way to the latest generation of consoles. At least since the release of the preview version for Xbox One, it was clear that the family history of the dictator dynasty would also be written on next-gen consoles in the foreseeable future.

The presentation of the current state of development was short but worth seeing. With Tropico 6, there is a lot to offer the gamer's eyes in particular: atmospheric light reflections, azure blue water and detailed landscapes promise high quality in purely visual terms - even if the graphic jump from the predecessor to the current series part could have been larger.

In terms of play, Tropico 6 is probably just as much a safe bet on consoles as it is on the PC. Basically, however, the following applies to all implementations: This type of strategy game can be played in a very classic way, intuitively and directly with the mouse and keyboard. Developers must first manage the detour via the gamepad, because where the operation does not work smoothly, the fun of the game is far away. Fortunately, the business simulation works as well on Xbox One and Playstation 4 as it does on PC - the developers still had to overcome some challenges. For the version for Nintendo Switch, gamers can expect intuitive touch control that knows how to exploit the strengths of the hybrid console.

With "El Presidente" behind them, the cruise industry is doing particularly well. Image: Kalypso Media

With “El Presidente” behind them, the cruise industry is doing particularly well. Image: Kalypso Media

What Haemimont Games has built up over decades is being continued by the Limbic Entertainment development studio with Tropico 6. Not much has changed in the basic idea. As rulers of an island state, players control the fortunes of their subjects and ensure that the piggy banks of "El Presidente" are regularly and generously fed. The tried and tested mechanics from the predecessors all take effect, with new ones being added. How would-be dictators fill their bank accounts is up to them: houses, farms and factories are built, but penal institutions are also administered. The latter can be expanded into a lucrative source of income if you convert your island into a penal colony by edict.

With Tropico 6 you can immediately feel the clichéd humor of its predecessors. “El Presidente” has lost none of its charm over the decades. This becomes particularly clear in the scenarios that are supposed to captivate players for many hours on the screens. In Tropico 6, stories are told through the scenarios, because there is no coherent campaign. There are all sorts of crazy objects that players build on their islands - sometimes with very unfair methods. Building the Colosseum in Rome or the Brandenburg Gate in his island paradise is no problem thanks to the president's “power of persuasion”: he simply “borrows” the buildings and adorns his domain with them.

Tropico 6 looks great - even on consoles. Image: Kalypso Media

Tropico 6 looks great - even on consoles. Image: Kalypso Media

The customizable presidential palace belongs more to the gimmick category. Players can decorate their residence according to their own taste and change the color. In solo mode this has no effect on the game, but in the multiplayer area the extensions of the palace indicate the playing time.
The latest installment in the Tropico series isn't easy either: especially the micromanagement at the beginning of the game, together with the almost decadent abundance of actions, poses a challenge, especially for beginners. But it could be worth accepting this: At least if Tropico 6 keeps what “El Presidente” promises. The console versions will be released on September 27, 2019.

Commandos 2 HD: Remake with buttery smooth animations

With the remake of Commandos 2, Kalypso mainly wants to spoil fans of the tough tactics simulation, even back then. The game has lost none of its charm from the past with a huge optic. The revised animations of all characters are particularly noticeable: the war specialists smoothly shimmy, crawl or run over the large mission cards.

In purely playful terms, nothing has changed, reveals product manager Uwe Roth. Even today, the various tactical possibilities are able to captivate fans for hours on their screens. Because not only old hands but also newcomers are to be addressed, Kalypso has donated a detailed tutorial to the Commandos remake, which is supposed to bring less experienced mercenaries closer to the innumerable game plots.

Commandos 2 HD is more than just a fan service. Thanks to the new tutorial, even newbies are carefully introduced to the tough game. Image: Kalypso Media

Commandos 2 HD is more than just a fan service. Thanks to the new tutorial, even newbies are carefully introduced to the tough game. Image: Kalypso Media

Despite helpful tips, however, the remake is also aimed more at experts than at beginners. Last but not least, this is due to the almost overloaded tactics that players can use in their favor. The variety of items that can be equipped and used presents a challenge for beginners, but with veterans it means that missions can be played over and over again - and then differently.

Whoever wants to play Commandos 2 HD doesn’t need good hardware or quick reactions, but so-called soft skills - patience is essential. Scouting out enemies' fields of vision and skillfully exploiting blind spots is the key to mission success. And where there are no blind spots, commanders have to create them through tactical actions.
Commandos 2 HD should appear at the end of 2019. Uwe Roth was unable to narrow down the publication period.

Praetorians HD: Stress-free Roman battles 

Because remakes are popular, Kalypso has given another classic a refresher: Praetorians. Under the name “Praetorians HD Remaster”, the publisher is releasing a strategy game that lets players maneuver troops through ancient Rome. Here, too, the following applies: The remaster has not changed much compared to the original, the improvements are much more in the area of ​​optics - and usability.

Somewhere between titles from the Total War series and Age of Empires, players send their Praetorians across the maps at a comfortable pace, dig out opposing positions and set up their own base camps. You should always keep an eye on your resources, especially your troop strength. So even battle-tested Praetorians can be converted into builders, but then they lose a lot of fighting power - the original maximum troop strength still remains. There is more to Praetorians HD than meets the eye.

The graphics are functional: Praetorians HD is more playful. Image: Kalypso Media

The graphics are functional: Praetorians HD is more playful. Image: Kalypso Media

Letting your troops run blindly into hordes of opponents usually ends in defeat, as does not doing any scouting. If you want to be successful at Praetorians HD, you have to submit yourself and your strategies to the pace of the game. Areas need to be explored, troops strategically positioned and formations cleverly exploited. Praetorians HD does not cause stress, but it is exciting and quite demanding.

Lovers of simple hit-and-miss tactics or mass battles can confidently ignore the remake, as can real-time strategists who need button-pressing as fast as an arrow for correct micromanagement. If you want to throw yourself into strategic battles without collecting resources, you are in as good hands with Praetorians HD as the gladius in the hands of a Praetorian. 

Clever troop formation and scouting are the keys to mission success. Image: Kalypso Media

Clever troop formation and scouting are the keys to mission success. Image: Kalypso Media

Instead, the strength of the team grows with the number of villages conquered. Capturing cities in the classic Pyro Studios is therefore not only a mission goal, but also a goal. And if the battles get a little hectic, you have to take care of your commanding officer. This not only ensures passive bonuses, but also ensures that players pay even more attention to the correct positioning of their troops: if the general dies, their own troops take down their weapons. Means: The mission is lost.

With three selectable factions, players plunge into multiplayer battles: Romans, Gauls and Egyptians. All three parties should play completely differently. Romans rely on a strong defensive, Gauls, on the other hand, have a powerful offensive capacity - and with the Egyptians, quick zerg-like tactics can be implemented. 

The remaster of Praetorians did not turn out to be a real beauty either, but Praetorians HD is definitely convincing in terms of play. Like Commandos 2 HD, this game is aimed more at genre connoisseurs who expect a real-time strategy game with a crisp level of difficulty and depth. This title is also due to appear at the end of 2019.

Immortals Realms: Vampire Wars - Charm offensive for bloodsuckers

Somewhere between Heroes of Might and Magic and Battleforge, the Vampire Wars of Immortals Realms are probably taking place. The round strategy game was one of Kalypso's new announcements at Gamescom 2019, previously the publisher had already presented the game at E3. The Swedish studio Palindrome Interactive is responsible for the development. 

In Immortals Realms: Vampires Wars, players control the fortunes of their vampire caste. They move troops from sector to sector and spend a certain number of action points. Every action costs points: movements, claims on provinces, building construction, even recruiting. In addition, Twists brings a card mechanic into the game. Vampire rulers can use special playing cards to carry out special actions, such as generating free units or generating additional action points for a round. Cards can also be upgraded - players then choose one of three upgrades that are displayed.

Players gradually conquer provinces. Image: Kalypso Media

Players gradually conquer provinces. Image: Kalypso Media

If there is a fight, the game changes to a tactical view. There, like in the classic Heroes of Might and Magic, players can first set up their troops and then deploy them according to a fixed turn order. There, too, special abilities can be triggered by cards, for example spells. But not only the leaders are strong fighters, the standard units also have individual skills that can be used tactically. It almost seems unnecessary to mention that the advantages and disadvantages of the unit types work according to a rock-scissors-paper system. 

The basic topic is quite arguable. These days vampires are still as exciting as a soccer game between Real Madrid and FC Wanne-Eickel - after the intermittent hype about thousands and thousands of vampire love stories, but the efforts of the young developer studio are definitely worthy of praise. Perhaps it is time to make vampires socially acceptable again - and Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars offers a good basis for this. Thanks to the Unity Engine, the game makes a good, if not outstanding, impression. After all: the drawn cutscenes are charming.

The card mechanics are quite exciting. Rulers bring individual decks of cards with them. Image: Kalypso Media

The card mechanics are quite exciting. Rulers bring individual decks of cards with them. Image: Kalypso Media

The focus is on a campaign mode with a story that should entertain the player for around 20 hours. There are also individual battles against the AI. A multiplayer mode is currently not planned. Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars will be released for PC in autumn, and console players will be able to play on Playstation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch in spring.

Spacebase Startopia: Settling in space

With the expansion game Spacebase Startopia, Kalypso and Realmforge Studios have a title in their portfolio that appeals to fans of humorous business simulations. The video game mixes building elements with economic cycles and adds a dash of "The Sims in Space" and real-time skirmishes. The basis for the title was laid back in 2001 - the original was published that year.

Players manage an intergalactic space station on which aliens from all over space roam. A nice detail: the ring-shaped space station also feels the same when scrolling. And so, as a station manager, you set up living and entertainment rooms, ensure medical care for the aliens and ensure that the garbage is properly disposed of. Garbage is one of the most important raw materials in the spacey building simulation, which is not stingy with jokes.

Behind Spacebase Startopia there is a complex economic and resource system. At its core, however, it is about meeting the various needs of the alien races. And while some enjoy dancing - each alien race has its own style of dancing - others spend their time doing other leisure activities.

Spacebase Starpoint looks even more charming "live" than on the screenshots. Image: Kalypso Media

Spacebase Starpoint looks even more charming "live" than on the screenshots. Image: Kalypso Media

The focus of station management is on simple workers who - sometimes more, sometimes less zealously - do the basic tasks, including building buildings or collecting garbage. Because workers don't always go where they should, players sometimes have to help out by hand and move the workers to the right place in the best Dungeon Lords fashion. Attention is always required when it comes to maintaining the station processes. Only then can the station be expanded.

The playful focus is clearly on a campaign, but free play is also possible, theoretically with infinite playing time, in practice this game also ends: when the station is fully developed and populated and all processes work, there is little for the player to do . Kalypso Media states about ten levels and about 15 hours of playing time with regard to the scope.
Rather, the multiplayer mode provides variety. Instead of playing on separate space stations, everyone plays together on one ring. It comes as no surprise that disputes arise when it comes to expanding one's "sovereign territory" - and that is exactly how it is intended. If there are conflicts, they are decided in real-time skirmishes. Up to four players settle at the same time and against each other on a station.

Without them, nothing works on the space station: the workers. Image: Kalypso Media

Without them, nothing works on the space station: the workers. Image: Kalypso Media

All in all, Spacebase Startopia presented itself as an apparently beginner-friendly but deep building game. Visually, the title convinces with its high cuddle factor. Watching the aliens at work and in their free time is fun. The "extraterrestrial settlers" scurry around everywhere on the station - sometimes they are more, sometimes less clever. On a total of three decks - sub-deck, bio-deck, fun-deck - aspiring space captains have to pay attention to a number of things in order to turn an empty heap of scrap into a living space station. Attacks by space pirates, which of course have to be fended off, add even more excitement.

By the way, surplus goods can also be traded - then at the spaceport that the players build on their station. Every now and then traders dock there who offer and buy goods. Resource management and forward-looking trading strategies are essential at Spacebase Startopia. Spacebase Startopia will be available for PC, Xbox One, Playstation 4 and Nintendo Switch - according to Kalypso in the third quarter of 2020.

Port Royal 4: the world premiere!

The exclusive announcement of Port Royale 4 at Gamescom 2019 made fan hearts beat faster. It includes everything that trade experts would expect even remotely from a profound economic simulation: four single player campaigns in the roles of the colonial powers England, France, Spain and the Netherlands, 50 different buildings, 18 types of ships and 25 goods. There are also tactical round-the-clock battles - these can even be fully simulated if desired. The focus of the game is clearly on building an efficient economic cycle. 

How players want to play their game is largely up to them to decide for themselves: Diplomacy or war are real alternatives to trade, not just mere gimmicks. After choosing a nation and main character (different skills bring advantages and disadvantages), the game starts. Boredom is unlikely to arise in view of the random events that have been announced - the player is repeatedly urged to take action. 

The graphic is not yet final, but it already looks very good. Image: Kalypso Media

The graphic is not yet final, but it already looks very good. Image: Kalypso Media

In order to increase fame and reputation with the respective domestic ruler, players must mercilessly make profit. This is not only possible through the clever trading of goods, but also through the creation of time-efficient trade routes. Players decide where the ships go - taking the wind conditions into account, of course. Those who let their ships sail with the wind save time and get to the ports faster, where goods are then bought and sold. If desired, trading campaigns can be automated - which makes sense, because the fleet is constantly growing. 

The card size determines the level of difficulty in Port Royale 4, says the creative director of Gaming Minds Studios, Daniel Dumont. The larger the map, the greater the selection of ports that can be approached. That makes it easier to trade goods because ports are always available. Wars over ports inevitably break out - especially on smaller maps. 
All islands can be continuously zoomed, up to the "settler level". Those little pixel figures with their individual needs show players which goods should be procured and to what extent. The stepless zoom not only looks great, but also helps playfully, for example to keep an eye on the movements of the fleet.

The stepless zoom: From the island view to the settler level, players can move the camera freely. Image: Kalypso Media

The stepless zoom: From the island view to the settler level, players can move the camera freely. Image: Kalypso Media

In city-builder mode, players must then reach their settlements and cleverly plan production lines ahead. Each nation has its own business areas. New licenses have to be bought from the viceroy, for example if beer is to be produced. In any case, production and trade are closely linked, reveals Daniel Dumont: If you want to use beer, you not only need the appropriate buildings, but also the right resources in the required quantities. Experienced players can tweak almost every detail to build a "perfect economic cycle". Simply placing buildings anywhere is hardly a good idea. "Buildings influence each other," says Dumont, and then explains what he means by that. SO islanders mostly don't want to live next to buildings that generate noise. Large production facilities are also rather unpopular with neighbors. Churches, on the other hand, are doing well. 

Port Royale 4 presents itself as an enormously complex trading simulation that aims to assert itself on the market primarily with clever innovations - such as the wind system. Even if the graphics are not yet final, according to Dumont, Port Royale 4 already looks extremely good. The developer still has some time for revisions: Port Royale 4 is due to appear in the second quarter of 2020 for PC, Playstation 4 and Xbox One.

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