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Score: 7.0 / 10
Sitting through world history class in
junior high, I can remember the brief attention that was paid to the
Hanseatic League. To hear the teacher and the textbook tell it, the
Hanseatic League was a fluke, an entity that came about by dumb luck and
quietly faded into the dustbin of history. A collection of traders,
bound by mutual agreement, driven by the desire to make stupid amounts
of money at any cost, done in by the inertia of feudal lords and
princes. Gaming Minds paints a somewhat more vibrant picture of the
League and the merchant princes who formed it's core, letting players
take on the role of a budding trader who could potentially become the
head of the largest trading cartel in Europe, assuming said players are
patient enough to make it happen.
From a visual standpoint, Patrician IV is very well done, but at the
same time the amount of artistry is rather circumscribed. There are
really only three types of map
that players can look at, and all of them
feel strangely cramped, even when you're in the midst of a naval duel
with pirates on the high seas. The level of detail on buildings in towns
and ships out on the water is very nicely done. Meanwhile, the special
effects such as water movement, cannon fire, and flying debris are
cleanly executed, but only the water effects are likely to really stick
the player's mind. There are some characters who speak with you briefly
should you deliver goods in a timely fashion to a neighboring city, or
should you irritate the prince of a city by building up your own
production facilities. The visual style is consistent across the board
and is nicely done.
Folks looking for fast paced action in Patrician IV are likely to be
disappointed. While the game is constantly running, and while it's
possible to temporarily accelerate the passage of time, the actual pace
of the game can arguably be called "sedate."
You may be in the trading game, but it's a game that favors slow
deliberate growth over rapid expansion. Players who look to build quick
will have to have patience in building up sufficient supplies of
materials to fuel their expansions, and will have to be patient as it
may take some time for structures and new trading vessels to actually be
completed. Those looking for fast money will doubtlessly rediscover the
use of triangle routes and maximize them accordingly, though they should
be aware that fast money isn't always big money. While trade routes can
be automated with a minimum of effort, it takes a lot of tweaking to get
the most out of them. One seemingly large flaw I've noticed in the game
revolves around pirates. During the main campaign, you regularly hear
about pirates and eventually can pick up contracts to go hunting them.
However, it seems as if the game has something of a "live and let live"
setting insofar as pirates attacking your ships. From what I could
discern, if you don't arm your ships and don't try to go hunting for
pirates, they don't attack your convoys. Naval combat itself seems to
take a page from Sid Meier's Pirates!, but doesn't feel quite as
polished. The political elements of the game don't come in until much
later, when you've not only established your presence in multiple towns
and made yourself sufficiently popular to unseat the ruling mayor, but
can juggle the politics with the trade empire that props you up.
Much like the trading model, the political model doesn't allow for
lightning strokes. You have to build your political presence slowly,
bringing the cities that make up the League into your sphere of
influence one by one. Much like the real world, the public has a short
memory for what you've done for them, so building up sufficient
influence in a town is combination of bringing in goods, jobs, and good
old fashion vote buying that takes a tremendous amount of time.
Fans of the Patrician series will doubtlessly find a lot to enjoy from
the newest iteration. Those who haven't been exposed to it before will
find a very deep trading and city building simulation, but the pace may
turn off players who prefer their empires built in a day.