Patrician II PC CD-ROM
Designed by Ascaron Software Inc.
Price : £29.99
Maritime strategy games have almost always flopped. The two notable exceptions to this statement are Tai-Pan on the Spectrum and The Patrician on the Amiga. The problem here of course is that those games are now ancient. Recently there hasn't been a good maritime strategy game let alone a maritime game based on trade with masses of depth. That is until now. The release of Patrician II, a game that is based on the early nineties game The Patrician, puts an end to the wait.
Before we talk about the game it's important that we have a little history lesson. The Hanseatic League, as it was known, was an exclusive body of traders, in the thirteenth century, that sailed the North and Baltic seas. These traders amassed great wealth and became important figures who held political power. What Patrician II does is give you the opportunity to become one of these fabled traders and make the ascent from shopkeeper to Patrician.
In the game you have a hometown and it is the needs of this hometown that, primarily, is your main concern. Beginning with a small ship and a small amount of money you must sail to the nearby cities and acquire the goods that you're hometown is in need of. This would be a doddle if it was as straight forward as this sounds, but it isn't. The economy of the towns is not static, it is dynamic. The prices of the goods is tied to the amount of goods that a town has. For instance if you sail to Gdansk to purchase beer (which Gdansk usually has a lot of) you will find that purchasing the first few barrels will cost you around 36 gold pieces. However the more you purchase the less the town Gdansk has and so therefore the price will increase. You have to keep an eye on this as the first barrel you purchase will cost around 36 gold but the 50th could cost over 50 gold. What's more you have to make sure that the amount you pay for the goods is far less than what you sell the goods for. The default hometown is Lubeck and this town cannot produce beer so it pays handsomely for it.
You have to take advantage of the dynamic economy in order to succeed at this game. Taking the above example of the beer from Gdansk, it would be fatal to return to Lubeck and sell them all the beer you have purchased. You will find that initially you can sell them the beer at 71 gold pieces per barrel but the more you sell them the less they will give you for the beer. The trick is to sell them enough to satisfy their needs, place the rest in your warehouse and sell them the beer as they become desperate enough to pay the higher prices. There are around 20 different goods altogether and over 15 towns which all specialise in certain goods and can't produce certain goods.
As you progress through the game it is not enough to simply amass wealth. You can buy your own workshops (and provide them with the raw materials so that you can benefit from the finished products) build houses for the workers of the town and build hospitals and wells to cater for the town's sanitation and health. You will come across times when you need to make sure the town is defensively strong from both naval and land attack. You can join guilds, which can give you significant financial advantages as well as the ability to auction your surplus ships. You can attack the pirates or indeed become a pirate if you so desire. You can even get married which can be a good idea if your intended has important social connections and comes with a good dowry. You can commission ships to be built and it is wise to have them built in your own town as the more commission the shipyard receives the greater the abilities of the shipbuilders become and in order to build the Hulks (the finest of all the ships) your shipbuilders have to be very experienced. The possibilities in Patrician II are plentiful and it will be months before you experience everything it has to offer.
Graphically the game is charming. The town view is the usual isometric scene that has become part and parcel of the city building genre. Having said this though the detail is very good and exceeds most offerings in this genre. The overview of the ocean is again pleasing if not spectacular and all the information is clearly visible.
Every piece of information is given in text (the tutorial is given in text as are the mission objectives in the two campaigns) and all information can be recalled at any time. You are visually notified when your ship has docked at it's destination port so as you can go to that city and carry out trade. It's also a nice touch that the news icon flashes whenever a message arrives for you. All in all visual feedback in Patrician II is excellent.
There are only a few minor quibbles with the game. First of all although the tutorial is very good it doesn't really introduce you to the finer points of the game. An advanced tutorial would have been excellent. You will still need to read the manual to fully understand the game. A pause game option would have also made things a little easier as it would have given players more chance to think about their actions. It would have also been good if you could have traded by land to the nearby towns. I found out whilst reviewing this game that the gamers in Germany are already enjoying the add-on pack for Patrician II and that one of the features of this add-on pack is indeed trade across land. Let's hope that the add-on makes it's way to our shores before too long.
Make no mistake though Patrician II's real qualities are not obvious at first. This is an immensely rich, detailed and deep strategy game that demands time and effort in order to fully appreciate it. Simply sitting down and 'having a quick go' will not reveal all this game has to offer. I'm being honest here and admit it took me at least 5 hours to fully understand what to do and even longer to appreciate the games intricacy's. The game is truly worth the effort though and once you have a grasp on how to play the game, it will grab hold of you for several hours at a time and deprive you of much needed sleep.
Game Rating: 9.0/10
A deep and addictive experience Patrician II rewards the effort that you put into it. The ability to pause the game and trade across the land would have enhanced the experience but we are still left with the definitive maritime trade experience on the PC.
It is rare that we see a game that is so accommodating for a deaf gamer. Patrician II is an absolute delight for those who love deep and meaningful strategy.