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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Strategy

 

Publisher

Electronic Arts

 

Developer

Sunflower

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

Q1 2003

 

 

- Detailed production chain

- Large selection of buildings available

- Good music

- Nice visuals

 

 

- Slow pace will be daunting for some

- Confusing symbols indicating production troubles

 

 

Review: Tropico (PC)

Review: Shogun: Total War (PC)

 

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1503 AD: The New World

Score: 8/10

Looking for a different sort of real-time strategy game?  EA and Sunflower may just have what you’re looking for.  1503 AD centers on commerce and civilization building instead of combat like most games in the genre.  It’s a slow paced experience, and not for everyone, but the leisurely nature of 1503 AD has its charms for those with some patience and a thirst for a different take on real-time strategy.  

1503-ad-new-world-1.jpg (104713 bytes)         1503-ad-new-world-2.jpg (86970 bytes)

The point of 1503 AD is to start a colony, and slowly work your way through the social strata, making your way from being a pioneer to a hoity-toity aristocrat.  Figuring out a good layout for your colony is a must, figuring out where to put shops and store houses relative to shipping lanes and houses to get the most out of commerce.  This can be really fun, especially since players will often have to think on their feet as their colony slowly expands across the land.  The real challenge comes in interpreting symbols indicating trouble in various buildings’ production chains.  The symbols give a basic idea of what’s wrong, but even referencing the manual, their meaning can be a bit vague requiring some trial and error to get things back on track.

The technology chain is pretty good, and quite gratifying as new buildings become available during the game.  These new items come along as your population increases as well as when you make it to a higher tier in your colony’s social standing.  Technology largely comes in the forms of new types of businesses and the means to mine or refine materials better, resulting in more sophisticated items being produced and more income for the colony.  Usually when your getting close to being at a stage where your colony is close to being able to make this new sort of building an icon shows up in the appropriate section of the construction menu.  You can’t select it yet, but by placing the mouse over it you’re told what the basic requirements are that your colony must meet to open it up.  This is a very helpful feature, and does a great job of making players want to work harder to get this new building.

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The selection of places to construct are wide-ranging, from places to process raw materials such as mines and forester huts, to housing, to markets, to places of public gathering.  They can be quite costly to build, and really dig into your colony’s expenses, possibly forcing it into the red.  This forces players to develop a delicate balancing act early on, trying to keep the colony profitable while tending to the needs and wants of its inhabitants.  They can be a fickle lot, so a lot of careful planning is needed to handle them.

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All the while, there are political considerations to keep in mind while running your colony.  Making money is a key part to keeping your land on the up and up; so arranging trade agreements is essential, and potentially quite profitable.  Also, keeping a military on hand to either seize land or to protect your own property from other colonies is a must.  These facets don’t come into play until players have had some time to nurture their colony, but it’s a good idea to lay down the groundwork early on, otherwise players could find themselves in some trouble later on.  

1503-ad-new-world-3.jpg (103862 bytes)        1503-ad-new-world-4.jpg (107447 bytes)

From a visual standpoint, 1503 AD is looking quite nice.  There’s a nice amount of detail being put into the colonists, their structures, and the environments around them.  Lighting and the use of color is particularly pleasant, helping add to the almost carefree, leisurely attitude of the game.  All the while the animation is very smooth as the days go by in your colony.  Musically, the game is fabulous.  There were quite a few tunes from the game I found myself humming after playing a quick round.  They have a feel true to the era the game takes place in, with an old, folky vibe to them.  Sound effects are the usual mix of sounds related to the various buildings and people making a comment when you command them to do something.

Really, 1503 AD is a fun departure from what we’ve come to expect from real-time strategy games.  The slow pace of the game, even for a strategy title, will definitely turn some off but those with some patience will find an entertaining commerce-based RTS that will keep players plenty busy through the games dozen campaigns. 

Mr. Nash

April 26, 2003

 

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