Archive for October, 2010

Posted on: October 3rd, 2010 by

 

Introduction

The game is a German “Medieval Life Simulation RPG” which has probably made you stop reading already. The sequel to Europa 1400 it has you start a career opening various shops in a growing small town while trying to start a family and gain political clout in the local council.

Gameplay

You directly control up to three of your clan choosing a broad trade for each early in their lives, allowing access to construct specific buildings relevant to that trade, which can then be upgraded. While they can work in those buildings, it’s usually indentured serfs which do most of the graft, as meanwhile you have to start a family and optionally gain seats in the council. The classes are craftsman, patron, scholar and rogue and characters upgrade as they gain XP and buy new titles. You can micromanage everything the shops do, what they make and where they sell it for the best prices, sending their carts out manually, or leave the body of that to the AI with nice granularity in the options it can control. There is enough to do without the micro-micro, but it’s there if you want it.

Starting a family is how your dynasty lives on, so is essential. Each game “day” is a simulated four years in the world, so your characters age and die fairly quickly. The other dynasties in the game will try to eliminate you, either politically, economically or just by plain and simple attacking you and your buildings.

These will be logged as crimes you can bring them to bear for, but there will basically always be someone attacking or robbing your stuff. Of course you can do the same to them, rob them and attack their property – even waylay them on the way to bear witness in a trial for your misdemeanours, thus causing the charges to be dropped.

Positions in the council grant new priveledges and immunities, and each “day” in the council house has a trial in the morning and elections in the afternoon. You can be called upon to appear in court, or if you get elected magistrate, preside over cases yourself laying down judgement and sentencing – cannily to the detriment of your rivals.

Sights and Sounds

JoWooD, despite only being publishers, have in my eyes have developed a bit of a reputation for pretty-looking but slightly bugged games. This is no different. Graphical glitches and dodgy animations abound – nothing game-breaking and more often amusing than annoying – but prevalent. Also the spoken dialogue will randomly switch to German, but thankfully the text remains in English.

Stuff that sucks

The AI, while good enough at managing a single shop, doesn’t do everything you would want. It just sends carts out to buy/sell stuff at the best prices, but doesn’t take into account that you may own other shops, so will sell the gold from your own mine at the market even if you have a goldsmith that needs it. It also does nothing for the rogue buildings or your residence – you still have to plunder, spy and do your diplomacy manually.

There are options to escort your carts safely with thugs you hire at you residence, but this can only be done with any success if you’re directly controlling all cart movement, so effectively forces you to either micromanage or leave their safety to chance. It’s a bit picky about placement, and the best places (near the town hall) get taken very early in the game.

While the town grows in stature, it doesn’t really expand much, so your later shops don’t see much traffic. More problematically, the guards find your more rural buildings hard to navigate to, so are frequently unable to assist when they are attacked.

Conclusion

It’s been a fun sink of 37 hours so far, and I’ve only played a single small map in one (though admittedly the most open-ended) of the game modes. I guess it’s ultimately pointless, but then that raises debate about whether all games are pointless, even games with achievements have less tangible reward than the electrons which power them or the photons with which we see them.

I’ve enjoyed playing it, despite its bugs and frustrations, and that’s what matters to me. There are enough combinations of ways to do things to keep it interesting and enough new ways to play that I’ll be playing it a fair bit more. The as-yet-untried-by-me expansion adds a campaign mode and sea-based buildings.

Score : 7/10