Patrician II takes you back to Europe in the 1300’s, where sea trading was really starting to take off, and a veritable fortune could be made if a trader was clever enough. The most resourceful sorts of fellows could even reach positions of power in a town or even a seat on the fabled Hanseatic League.
As with any economic strategy game, the concept of "buy low, sell high" is a must to master. However, it’s not exactly simple to determine what is in low demand in one town, and more difficult to predict what will be in high demand in another town once you reach it. Keeping this all straight in a real-time environment, even with the speed turned all the way down, is quite an enjoyable challenge.
In addition to keeping your finances and trades in order, you must keep an eye on the attitudes of the populace of your hometown – if you want to rise in power and prestige, that is. Buying and selling goods in the town is one way to make people like you more, and another is constructing new buildings which will give people jobs, not to mention produce more goods for you to sell.
Of course, there are other ways to get ahead of your competition. Pirates can be hired to harass their shipping. A wedding or festival can be held to increase public esteem. Towns under siege will be grateful for any support you can provide. There are just so many options.
The level of animation and detail of the townspeople is quite rewarding. I could sit there for quite a while just looking at what the little people are doing as they go about their daily routines. Of course, that’s a good way to lose, since most aspects of the game have to be tended to constantly.
The music is fantastic. The developers either went to the trouble of recreating authentic period music, or they wrote entirely new pieces that have an authentic feel. Either way, it’s quite an accomplishment, and it contributes greatly to the enjoyment of the game. The sounds on the town screen give the player the feel of a busy 14th-century city – entertaining without being too awfully distracting.
There were some continuity problems in cleaning up the game the I noticed. For instance, while some changes were made to the tutorial text in order to make some concepts clearer, the accompanying voice-over was not changed, causing a minor amount of confusion. However, these discrepancies were very minor, and shouldn’t hamper someone from learning how to play.
I should also point out that, like a genuine economy, the many elements combine to make a game that can easily become complex, and it will take many, many hours of practice to get a handle on things. However, as is the mark of a good strategy game, those hours will pass almost without your notice, as they did for me.
Patrician II fairly accurately presents the challenges that confront an adventurous entrepreneur in Northern Europe’s 14th century. It combines a variety of basic economic concepts, sea and land combat, wonderful music and graphics, and turns out one medieval masterpiece. It quite easily earns 4 GiN Gems out of 5 overall.