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PC Review - 'Patrician III'

by Velvey on Dec. 27, 2003 @ 1:58 a.m. PST

Patrician III is a real-time trading simulation featuring elements of construction and the historical background of maritime trade in Northern Europe during the 1300's. Read more for the full review ..

Genre : Strategy
Developer : Ascaron
Publisher : Encore
Release Date : October 24, 2003

Buy 'Patrician III': PC

As a resident of a medieval town, your goal is to rise from the status of a simple, insignificant trader to that of a Patrician and perhaps even become the head of the Hanseatic League. You can raise your standing through town improvement and diplomacy or fill your coffers through piracy and smuggling.

Patrician III is going to be one of those niche games that have an excellent lineage and a much targeted market. Its forbearers have had enough success to give Asceron Entertainment the wherewithal to continue the series to again. In essence they have conducted enough trade to afford creating more goods and selling them to others in need or want. But I digress… Patrician III keeps all the good things going from the previous versions and adds a little more to the game that warrants a 3rd edition. This is a real time trading simulation game. Just saying those four words are enough to send the average gamer screaming away to the closest expansion of Warcraft III. This game does not have the pretty graphics or glossy production values of many a blockbuster out there. What it does have at the heart of it is a very addictive game play that will have you coming back for more. That is, if you care to take the time to find out what is underneath the hood of this very average looking game.

As you get started with Patrician III you see that much is the same as Patrician II. Graphically it's very similar. The tutorial is virtually the same. You will see that the voice overs have been left out this time. Those new to Patrician III are going to find the tutorial a must. Most of the tutorial is just reading and following directions. No narratives here with top notch voiceovers, just reading text. The tutorial fortunately is fairly comprehensive and has several layers of knowledge to add.

Once you're done learning how to play you have two options of game play. One is to set up a game were you define the parameters of the simulation. The other is a campaign mode. Both have the objectives of attempting to establish trading within the Baltic region and working yourself up to the status of the leader or Alderman of the Hanseatic League. This was a League of traders comprising 12 different towns around the Baltic during the middle ages. A former economic and defensive confederation of free towns in northern Germany and neighboring areas. The Hunsiatic League you will be playing was traditionally dated to a protective alliance formed by Lübeck and Hamburg in 1241. It reached the height of its power in the 14th century and held its last official assembly in 1669.

Graphically as you can see from the screen shots there isn't much to get excited about. The graphics are 2d, and as 2d graphics go, there alright. The graphic representation of this game is really there to help you navigate the game play. Think of Sim City or other city/empire building types of games.

Sounds are ok but nothing great. The music is repetitive and uninspired for the most part. Animations and actions of the townspeople and of the ship battles have been outdone by real time strategy games from ten years ago. Yes, it's true, ten.

Almost to the game, you will find that the graphics of the trading and empire building games with this kind of depth are just a placeholder for the very good and addictive game play. And, Patrician III has this quality in spades. You will start off wondering how fetching a staple food for your little town and selling what you have in surplus to nearby towns could be fun. After you have made your first few trades and see some success you will start climbing the ranks by being elected to higher offices. Eventually you will be attacked by marauding pirates and find yourself bearing down and really getting into this game.

There are seven different campaigns aside from setting up your own game. The campaigns start with easier scenarios and give you hints through the correspondence system.

You will find that the fun really starts to rise when you get elected to Lord mayor. You won't find this rank until you have goods and services being traded well and some steady income. Once your there however you get to start building town fortifications. If you abandon your town buildup in pursuit of more maritime trading you will suffer the penalties. The town people will not continue to elect you for higher offices and you won't even keep your current standing. You got to give the people what they want!

So the balance is with keeping three main parts of the game in focus. Trading and establishing trading routs for goods, taking care of your town through building and a variety of other options, and managing your battles at sea. I should mention that your sea battles graphically are not going to win any awards. They aren't even all that realistic. They do provide a good mental pause from all the micromanagement you will be doing in your towns and on your trade routs. The pirate ships come in and try to take over or destroy your ships. This brings in a little of the rts feel that can be a nice distraction in your quest to become the highest ranking official. They really aren't much to look at but they are fun.

You do need to build structures and make improvements to your town and your fleet of trading ships. Once you build your town up you will be manufacturing and producing many of the goods your town needs. Until then you are very much at the mercy of other town's prices for those goods. If they have excess they will charge less and if they have lack they will charge more. If you start to buy them out of a particular product their price gradually increases. You really have to shop around to find the goods that your neighboring towns in the hunseatic league have in excess. You too will have some goods that are being produced in excess. Shop around the Baltic region a bit and you will find other towns that have a need for them. You will also find the need for building up other towns eventually. Checking in various buildings in your town to say, make a donation to the church or make sure the rich have enough luxury goods to keep them happy is a must. You will even find much to do at the local brewery. Many side quests can be found in the brewery and information you may need about other cities. And don't forget the commoners; they will need their beer to keep them happy. Keeping your people happy is a primary goal as this will afford you higher elected offices eventually.

For those revisiting Patrician III from previous versions you will find several new features. You can, as I mentioned, build your own towns now. This will come after you have proved yourself in on of the twelve hunseatic towns that you start in. Patrician III also allows you to find and destroy pirate villages. Seasonal weather effects are now incorporated making it very important to stockpile your goods to last when trade routs are down and your docks are frozen. The weather effects are not just mere graphic overlays; they have direct implications to your production and transportation. There are a wealth of other features and upgrades available that you can find out on the Patrician III website.

Patrician III offers as much or more game play than many games I have seen. For the newcomer there are several tutorials and a great manual to get you started. Newcomers are also going to find the campaigns with there scenarios to their liking. Veterans are going to find a enough new features that provide many hours of game play. Veterans are also going to most likely prefer the open ended games that you set up yourself. Patrician III, like many trading and empire games can keep you involved for many hours at a time. You will find yourself wanting to come back and try different tactics for your rise to fame. There is also enough to learn that you will have an almost constant discovery of new ways to make it to the top. I should mention here that the average gamer will find this game somewhat overwhelming.

If you are the average real time strategy gamer or you are into first person shooters, Patrician III can be daunting. The learning curve is fairly high. Let's face it, any game that comes with an 80 plus page manual has a fairly steep learning curve. If you have never tried it and some of this sounds intriguing, or if you are a fan of other empire building games like the Civilization series or possibly the Sim City series, you are probably going to find this game very well to your liking. Patrician III has a reward with it that keeps on giving if you're willing to stick with it and learn the basic concepts. If any of this scares you off, you may be better suited to some other games of less depth and that are less challenging by nature. It's all what you have time for and what appeals to you. For those who give Patrician III the adequate time, your rewards will be great.

Score: 9.0/10

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