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1503 A.D. The New World Review
developer: Sunflowers Interactive
PIII 500, 128MB RAM, 8MB Video Card
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Mar 24, 03
|» All About 1503 A.D. The New World on ActionTrip|
If they want war, give them merchandise. It pays better.
The German gaming production scene never ceases to amaze. It's a shame, really - such potential, so many programmers, and so few development studios. The Germans seem to be at a loss in comparison to the US or Japan or someplace where every other student seems to head a development team. Still, once the meticulous Germans get down to business, we are blessed with high quality games like Sudden Strike or America. And speaking of colonization, Anno Domini 1503 is all about the epic saga of exploration and establishing an overseas colony. It seams the Germans are still smarting that one damn vote decided to make English the official language in the US rather than German, which would most likely make history much better.
Quite a humble little town.
Now who wouldn't want to live here?
Whatever the case, the history in this game can be a bit different, depending on how the game progresses. The very beginning of the sixteenth century was an exciting period for all who chose to sail the seas and discover new horizons, meet new civilizations (and kill them! - Ed.). The game has officially been classified as a real-time strategy, but I would rather call it a controlled simulation, something like a more serious version of The Settlers. Even though the game does feature a number of military units and machines of war, the focus has definitely been set on organizing production chains that are supposed to satisfy the needs of your population, which will diligently work on producing trade goods for trade with surrounding nations. This vicious circle is the first flaw of the game: the game can be played through campaigns and scenarios, but whichever way you decide to play it, you will be playing an open-ended game constantly spreading your state's influence, with no coherent plot or story. The game was obviously made for the fans of Civilization-like games, which is also evident from the level of detail involved.
The game looks fantastic; the islands with the different cultures look beautiful. The game uses an isometric 2D engine, but the map can still be rotated. The more than 350 different buildings in the game all look extremely authentic, and when you're placing them on the map, it is very important to pay attention to detail, like which way are the doors facing and whether they are connected to the road and furthermore to the market which is the heart of any settlement.
The production process is very complex and will present the greatest challenge. There are 45 resources which are divided into raw materials building materials, consumer goods, and weapons. In order to produce sufficient quantities and provide stable development of your cities, you can build up to 130 different buildings in the following categories: public buildings, roads and squares, farms, workshops, coastal buildings, mines and quarries, military installations and ornaments. The most beautiful and most complex segment of the game is managing the production. Almost all products can be produced in more than one way. Alcohol can, for instance, be produced from potatoes, hop, or vine through various methods of production (in wineries, breweries and distilleries). The goods cannot reach the consumers if you only have them in stock. You have to build adequate stores, each of which can sell up to two similar products. For example, in a food store you can also sell salt. Every building in the production chain has an entry material which it processes, and a product. In order to make a soldier you need weapons, money and civilians. Each building has its own expenses and profits, and in times of crisis, you can simply halt the production without having to tear the building down. The mines can be built only on mountains rich in ore, inspected by scouts.
The right-hand side of the screen contains the control interface. One of the items in the upper row is the Info mode (the big yellow question mark). It will reveal the status of your citizens and production in any building, and the range of your buildings. Like in SimCity and similar building sims, each building covers a certain territory. The most important thing will be the range of your sore-houses and markets as they directly influence the size of your cities. The next most important thing is the range of residential blocks, churches and taverns. The production buildings (saw mill, farm) gather resources from their area of influence. Pay attention to building orientation and make sure they are all connected to the roads. If you do not make a road from the saw mill to the store-house, wood will not be available, and if you don't make a road from the potato plantation to the distillery, you can kiss your vodka goodbye.
Yaah, protect the city walls, our kingdom shall not fall!
Just another fine sunny day in Arjuna City!
The other islands will be inhabited by Negroes, Aztecs, nomads, Eskimos, Mongolians, Moors, Indians, pacific cultures, Venetians or pirates. You can offer a trade agreement, military alliance, proclaim war or threaten any town. The battles have been done quite well; every unit is stronger than at least one other unit and weaker than at least one unit... of course, the heavy artillery is best at spelling doom to your enemy, hehehe. The soldiers are pretty smart. They will try to maintain the formation in combat and focus on their target. As soon as they destroy their target, they will start helping their comrades. There is no grouping system, but you won't really need it either. The speed of the combat is adequate for in-battle micro management.
Battles on sea can last for quite some time, but they are also very interesting. I still wouldn't recommend war as a solution as it carries a heavy price tag (not unlike the real world - Ed). When I only think how much I worked to build each little settlement and now someone has to take/burn/rape it. Oh no, never! I'd rather crowd their markets with my products and make them addicted, and then let them drown in my beer! Bwahahaha!! (You, sir, are a freak. - Ed)
The music is another of the game's assets. The melodies are versatile and a joy to listen to. Just as the terrain varies from deserts and jungles to frozen scapes, each nation, situation or game segment has a specific melody. And the melodies are not mere synthesized backgrounds; I'm talking about great renaissance melodies and some famous songs rearranged in a 16th century manner, lively accordion and bagpipe tunes which can really get you going and make you a proud ruler.
What more is there to conclude other than that we're facing another hit? Once you get used to the level of detail and the specific German interface, (right mouse button, right!) and really get into the beautiful surroundings and music and the fantastic feeling of conquering a new world, there is no end to fun (and the numerous maps and scenarios will see to that).Still if you happen to be looking for a rewarding story, real-time combat or a good multiplayer experience, forget about Anno Domini. All in all - wunderbar!
8.2 Very Good
Detailed graphics (for a mangement sim.). Complex, detailed and highly engaging gameplay;
The lack of a consistent story, no multiplayer.
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