1701 AD

a game by Aspyr Media
Genre: Action
Platform: PC
Editor Rating: 7/10, based on 1 review
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1701 AD is the follow-on to two predecessor empire-building titles, 1503 AD and 1602 AD. This one is set roughly in the time of high New World colonization and exploration, the early 18th century. Geographically the maps simulate chains of islands in the Caribbean. There are no mainlands and no Old World to travel to or from. Graphically gorgeous, the game is an oddly addictive trading and economy building game where nearly every ethnic group is represented as a fairly equal trading partner. Historically it may gloss over all the controversy inherent in colony building and plantation operating in that earlier unenlightened era, but the result is strategy game that may intrigue many, while offending nobody.

Two main modes for the single player include ten story driven scenarios, rated for difficulty, and a correctly labeled "continuous play" mode which amounts to what other publishers call Real Time Strategy. This one allows concentration on a building and trading approach over the rushing and the fighting, although the aggressive means of expansion is certainly available. Set-up options give you control over many aspects of the campaign, from the size of the islands to whether the map is revealed, to choosing the very victory conditions themselves.

In the beautiful 3D environment you establish settlements and then work the land for the crops that grow best. Your population starts out as pioneers, then as more uplifting commodities become available, as well as access to faith and culture, they'll pull themselves up by their own bootstraps and upgrade. As their economy improves pioneers become settlers, then citizens, then merchants and aristocrats.

Trade with your neighbors for the goods or raw materials that your population owns is lacking however. Each level gain makes more buildings and potential products available. They'll need a steady supply because they quickly become a consumer population and if any of the goods they are used to having run dry they quickly become a displeased consumer population. Then individuals will revert to a previous level or desert your island altogether.

On-screen controls are handy and keyboard mapping is configurable. Two useful buttons let you cycle through all your warehouses or ships on the map. At times your various farms and factories may get lost in the lush landscape, but click on the desired building in the build menu and the ones already placed will light up on the map.

Just a few downsides. The hard copy documentation and in-game text all suffer from less than fluent translation from the original to an English more Euro than American (your treasury is called an exchequer.) Some of the prose will draw snickers for awkwardness, but it's a good try and anyone looking for an extensive research tree will have to look elsewhere. Some essential capabilities can be attained through research but some branches close off others. For instance you'll have to decide whether you want cannon towers or mortars, the one branch precludes the other.

What you have is a mildly addictive game with a good dose of the Sim City series, Pirates, Age of Empires, Tropico, Colonization and just a dash of Sim Theme Park . Distilling all the best of these games into a single title is a winner.

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