It seems that every few years, a historical strategy/economic-sim/trading game appears. Recently, there was East India Company from Paradox, and now we have Patrician IV: Conquest by Trade from Kalypso Media and Gaming Minds.
Patrician IV comes with a storied history. With the original game having launched back in the days of the Atari ST computers, during a time when games like Patrician and others of their ilk were popular. The games didn't require a ton of processing power, since they were about economic simulation and not blasting alien space lords. With the resurgence in "mercantile" games (think Farmville), it seems a fitting time for Kalypso to unleash something new in the franchise that adds a little more depth.
So, 18 years after the launch of the original title, we have Patrician IV, which looks to stick to its core values by creating a strong economic simulation. It also aims to bring new players into the fold by being more accessible than previous iterations and competing games in the genre.
Patrician IV starts you out as a young merchant in medieval Europe. You get a small cargo ship and some gold, and off you go, sailing between towns, buying and selling goods. Dozens of commodities are available, from lumber and salt to cheese and beer, each with a fluctuating buy/sell price based on various conditions in each city. Fill your cargo hold with cheap goods in one town and set sail for another port, where you'll hopefully sell for a higher price.
Lest you think the game is nothing more than straight up Farmville "buy and sell," there's much more. Once you've started really bringing in the gold, you can buy more ships, which means you can set up automated trade routes with a few button clicks. You can also construct buildings and production facilities in towns, which not only produce needed goods but also help increase your reputation as an all-around good guy since you're now offering gainful employment to the town's citizenry.
After you set up trade routes and administrative offices, the computer can take over all the arbitrage (if you want it to), so you can concentrate on chasing down (or becoming) pirates and becoming the leader of the Hanseatic League, the merchant guild of the era. By buying or earning popularity, you'll rise through the businessman ranks, slowly becoming your own little political power. After some effort, you'll be able to become mayor of a town and start building your own harbor cities to lord over.
Patrician IV: Conquest by Trade might not be the game for everyone, but with the popularity of more simplistic "buy/sell" games like Farmville and Frontierville, this might be a great time for Patrician IV, since it offers that easy-to-understand type of gameplay but methodically adds more interesting and complex gameplay layers on top of it. Expect Patrician IV to hit store shelves in mid-September.
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