Through all the to-do around the new console platforms and who’s got the hottest sports games and so forth, it’s good to see certain types of games that I thrive on enjoying some popularity on the PC. In particular, the economic/military strategy games are really starting to come out. Maybe it’s because of Civilization III coming out in November or maybe something else entirely. But I don’t care, I am just enjoying the influx.
One game that I had the privilege of previewing was Patrician II. Patrician II takes you to northern Europe in the 14th century, during the time of the Hanseatic League. (You know, I don’t believe we have seen a reference to the Hanseatic League since the old Microprose game Darklands, but that’s just me showing my gamer age.)
The basic concept is the same as any other economically-driven strategy game – buy low, sell high. But the major difference between Patrician II and other similar games is this is real time. So that means the supplies and demands of the various towns on the map are constantly changing, and you have to be pretty clever to stay on top of things.
Not only do you have to keep track of what is selling for how much where, you also have to attend to matters in your home town. By building residences and craft halls, you gain support and influence in town affairs. People a bit down? Schedule a festival in the market square. But be careful, because if you don’t do it right, the people will have a lousy time and it will be worse than not having one at all.
With enough trading and building and manipulating (and maybe a little skullduggery on the side), you will soon become rich and powerful enough to gain various positions of influence in your home town, and perhaps the whole seaboard.
The graphics are clear and detailed, which is an absolute must for this type of game. The period music is right on target, and does a very good job of drawing you back in time to the beginnings of the Age of Reason where you can make your fortune.
One thing I always look for in this type of strategy game is how good the tutorial is. In the case of Patrician II, I was not disappointed. The tutorial comes in different chapters in which new concepts are introduced one at a time. It puts you right in an environment which is identical to the regular gameplay environment, and allows you to click through the text at the bottom at your own pace, trying out new things as soon as they are taught. The presence or absence of a good on-hands tutorial can make or break a complex strategy game, and in this area Patrician II passes with flying colors.
The only problem I can see is that, like a real-world economy, the game can get rather complex and a casual gamer might get frustrated with the constant change in variables. However, the die-hard strategy gamer will find it one terrific challenge. I predict this game will become as much a sensation in the United States as it currently is in Germany.
Patrician II takes some simple concepts and weaves them into an engaging period in history, producing a strategy game that is enjoyable to look at, a pleasure to hear, and a challenge to play. Once it is released in the US, I can easily see it earning high marks on all counts.