by Stefanie Fogel
previewed on PC
Supply and Demand
Based on the popular trading simulation franchise started by Ascaron Entertainment in 1992, Patrician IV is now being developed by Gaming Minds Studios and Kalypso Media. As in the earlier games in the series, the player takes on the role of a trader in Northern Europe during the late Middle Ages. As a trader, you will buy and sell goods, form trading routes, battle pirates, and more. There is a surprising amount of depth to Patrician IV, and plenty of things to do, as you climb the ranks of the Hanseatic League to reach financial and political dominance.
At the heart of Patrician IV's game play is the concept of supply and demand. Every town in the region specializes in a certain good, such as mead, cheese, or wood. The idea is to buy the goods low in the towns that produce them and sell high in the towns that are lacking them. Trading will give you experience points and increase you level, and the more you trade with towns the more reputation you gain with them.
Reputation is an important part of the game. Without it, you can't join the various city guilds and produce your own goods or build up your own fleets. Once you build up reputation with a town, you can negotiate better prices for buying and selling goods and establish trading routes. Rep can also be gained by building up cities, investing in social projects, or by going to the church to pray.
Build an Empire
Patrician IV is not only an economic trading simulation, it's a city-building sim as well. As you gain more wealth and resources, you can visit the local architect and invest money into building more structures, which will create work for the townspeople and make them happy. However, to keep them happy you will also have to build them homes to live in and build up the town's defenses to protect them from bandits. If your workers become unhappy, they will leave.
Unhappy workers aren't the only obstacles in your path to becoming the biggest, baddest trader in medieval Europe. You will also have to contend with disease, political unrest, lousy weather, bandits, and pirate attacks. You can build war ships to escort your trading ships and defend them from the pirates in realistic sea battles, and can build walls and towers to protect cities from bandits. You also have the option of becoming a pirate yourself. Take to the seas and plunder your fellow traders, but if they recognize you, you will take a serious hit to your reputation.
Climb the Ranks
Pirating isn't the only diversion a player can indulge in Patrician IV. Once you have gained enough experience and your level increases, you can choose to engage in missions of political intrigue or assassination. You can also choose to build your very own town from the ground up and become its mayor. Even once you have climbed to the top of the Hanseatic League's food chain, the game doesn't end. Instead, it opens up, giving the player more freedom, more abilities, and more things to do.
While all of this may sound complicated (and it is), the developers have worked to make the game as user-friendly as possible. The trade routes you establish in the game are automated. Trading can be done automatically or manually as well, depending on your preferred play style. Hover over an object in the game and you will receive a helpful tooltip with background or tutorial info. Impatient? Tap the space bar and the game will fast forward.
Patrician IV uses an all-new graphics engine that is in 3D, a first for the long-running series. Creative Director Daniel Dumont says that the studio has made improvements to the interface, and that they have added more tutorials. He hopes that the game will provide not only entertainment value but educational value as well, and envisions the game being used as a teaching tool in schools.
If you are a fan of the Patrician series, or of simulation games in general, you might want to give Patrician IV a look when it is released later this year. Although it might be overly complicated for some, there is a surprising amount of content packed into it that promises to keep gamers happily micromanaging for hours.