by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
Interface and micromanagement (cntd)
Your captains slowly gain trade experience as they follow their routes, a process that can be sped up using trainers found in various towns. For the mere sum of 10.000 gold they will share their knowledge of trade, repair or combat skills. Trainers replace the captains found in taverns, reducing the need to madly dash from one port to another finding a new captain to command your fleet, a welcome change in my book, especially since a captain was required on automatic trade routes .
Building new production facilities is done through the town Architect. Setting up your own production chains is as fun as it always was and more profitable than ever. To maximize your profit, goods need to be ferried across to other towns where they can be sold at higher prices or used by other facilities as base materials for more expensive goods. Every town has only four goods that can be efficiently produced and transporting base materials between towns becomes especially important when small scale production is scaled up and you start producing goods in higher quantities.
As your trade empire grows, the chances of an encounter with a pirate fleet increases exponentially. Patrician IV presents the pirate threat a little different than its predecessors and puts a little more pressure on the player to act against it, yet it does so without actually making things more difficult. For starters, automatic convoys seem to be less at risk from attacks than before while your manually controlled ships are far more susceptible. While this does mean that some of your specific trades are more likely to be intercepted, it means you don’t have to spend time fixing your routes all the time. It is also rare that a pirate confiscates more than your goods. In 30+ hours of play time, not a single ship was taken from me by pirates.
Combat between two fleets occurs only between a maximum of three ships at any given time. You can still put together fleets of 8 ships, as long as you are aware that 5 of them won’t be joining you at all. Pirates whose fleets outgrow the maximum of three ships will form multiple fleets that are all used to block the same ports, increasing their chances of intercepting ships. To stop the blockade, you’ll have to deal with all three. Combat itself has received what is a downgrade in my eyes. Many of the strategic choices have disappeared with the removal of wind strength and wind direction. These two I don’t mind so much, but speed advantages of the smaller Krayer’s and Snaikka’s have also been removed and damaged ships sail as fast as those with sails and hull unharmed by battle. The boarding mechanic has also been removed and only the last ship standing will ever surrender to your guns, so only one ‘prize ship’ can ever be sailed home.
While the most dramatic gameplay changes are found in ship combat, other changes were made as well but all fairly minor in nature. One change I enjoy is that people start talking to you every now and then. It does not nearly happen enough but it’s a nice break in the usual silence to see and hear your uncle guide you through the campaign or traders complain about you setting up shop in what they see as ‘their’ town. Another change I particularly appreciate is that when frustrated landlords lay siege to towns, they don’t destroy farms outside of city walls anymore. Production on farms in besieged towns does grind to a halt however, so you’ll still need to feed your businesses with materials from other towns.
A number of small bugs are still present after patch 1.13, including one show-stopping one that prevents you from progressing through the campaign. A work around can be found in the official forums however, so you can finish with a small cheat.
Patrician IV does a lot of things right, but ultimately it is the same game as its predecessor. The changes are a bit too subtle to speak of a real sequel. It is obvious that the developers were struggling with the transition to 3D. Something more akin to Anno 1404 or even the older Anno 1701 would have greatly increased the game’s appeal. If you are a ‘gameplay over graphics’ kind of guy, like I am, the graphics won’t disturb you too much though. Some players may find the dumbed down naval combat sessions a plus but as you cannot avoid dealing with pirates, I would have preferred a bit more depth myself.
Still, none of these things make it a bad game, quite the contrary. Patrician III was a solid and unique trading game and Patrician IV is no different. Forging a thriving trade empire is as challenging as ever and Gaming Minds successfully tackled some of the more tedious mechanics that plagued the previous titles, making Patrician IV feels like a much smoother ride.
Same unique trading experience as previous titles in the series, vastly improved interface.
The graphics are a dudd.