Port Royale 4 starts well. The opening cinematic shows footage of shady piratey characters doing shady piratey business, and it's backed by a rousing soundtrack that makes you want to sail the seven seas looking for plunder. But any hopes you might have of swashbuckling adventures are almost immediately dashed after starting up the first of the game's many tutorials and discovering that you'll be doing little but busy work.
The aim of the game is to build up trade networks between different ports in the Caribbean seas so that your empire can grow. If your home town has a surplus of cotton but no cigars and Tortuga is swimming in cigars but could really do with a cotton bud or two, then striking up a deal between the ports makes good business sense for all parties.
Shrewd investments lead to a bulging bank balance, and at this point, you can throw money at more ships and trade licenses in more ports, or you can build up the production output of your home town so you've got more wares to trade with. You can make your seaside town more attractive to workers by building affordable housing and by making sure there's enough grog to keep everyone merry.
Occasionally you'll find your ships accosted by pirates, or if you're feeling nefarious you can fly a jolly roger and do the pirating yourself. This gives way to ship combat resulting in you clicking on a ship you want to blow up and then it blows up. It's not thrilling.
Port Royale 4's gameplay consists almost entirely of all of the bits in other strategy games that you'd normally set to "Automate" because they're fiddly and boring. It's a game set in the era of pirates with nary a hint of swashing nor buckling. It's like if Pirates of the Caribbean 6 was just three hours of Captain Jack Sparrow filing his tax returns. Yes, we know that somebody, somewhere, must have been filling in the paperwork back in those days, but we just don't want it to be us.