by Sergio Brinkhuis
previewed on PC
Did you play the Grand Ages: Rome games? Then you are probably expecting to read about how Kalypso is pushing the city builder forward in time by a couple of hundred years, adjusting gameplay with new technologies and production chains. I can accommodate you with the latter, but you will have to scratch the city builder side of the equation. Grand Ages: Medieval is about building an empire rather than a city.
Still sitting on your chair? It took me by surprise too, but it turned out to be a good surprise.
It requires a bit of a reset in the brain, doesn't it. Let me point your imagination into the right direction again. Forget everything you know about Grand Ages. Next, picture a huge map of medieval Europe and imagine being the mayor of a small town somewhere between Spain and the Nordics. Got it? Now think BIG. You will build an empire through conquest and trade, found new towns to gain access to valuable resources and fight tooth and nail keeping hold of it all while expanding wherever you can. And all of that done in real-time.
Initially, the map of Europe is hidden by fog of war, with the exception of the small town under your control. Exploring the map, you discover new towns - some neutral, some competing with you for superiority - and new resources that help you further your goals. Especially in the beginning, there is a heavy focus on economy and getting access to everything that you need is of paramount importance.
As your settlers found new towns your influence on the region increases, which in turn adds more research points and ability to spot enemy units approaching your lands. The game will show you exactly which resources are available while you are still moving your settler around, so no nasty surprises - you will know exactly which spot is right for your purposes. Towns produce up to five different goods which can be moved around by traders to either give a growth boost to specific towns, or balance between all. Control freaks such as myself needn't worry: you can trade manually as well as automatically. Roads speed up trade and can be upgraded to improve trade efficiency even further if the right research has been complete. In similar fashion, research can be used to improve production facilities and military units.
Ah yes, military. With so much to do on the economic side of things, one could almost forget about warfare. But this - is - a game about conquest and if you are not conquering others, they are conquering you. You could bribe settlements to join your cause, which is fun, but you will probably need to bloody your swords sooner or later. Beggars in the town can be converted to workers or military. No matter what you choose, you will need to feed them and that requirement acts as a natural unit cap. Armies are fed from the closest town, making it unfeasible to station them all at the same place, even if your automated traders - will - scramble to shift food from surrounding towns to the one with the army.
You can set your army to attack enemies crossing the borders automatically so that you don't need to be everywhere at the same time. Units that have sustained losses will automatically refill as they return to town, at the cost of losing a little bit of their experience but not to the point of losing their veteran status.
Grand Scale: Medieval
With the entire map of Europe at your finger tips and the ability to zoom in and zoom out at leisure, Grand Ages: Medieval feels grand for the very first time. Shedding its city-building focus did come as a surprise, but while I liked the Grand Ages games, I also have to admit that city builders are a dime a dozen. Grand Ages: Medieval is something new, something unique and therefore far more exciting.