Way back in April 1990 AF gave Pirates from Microprose the once over. It earned 74 per cent which is a fair enough mark, but belied the playability, enjoyment and hours of fun that could be derived from playing the game. It had historical background, geographical accuracy of a sort, combat, tactics and strategy. Any one segment looked at individually couldn't cut it in the unforgiving world of good games. But viewed as a whole, the game had its own internal dynamics and intricacies.
Against it was the fact that the world you sailed around in was finite and constant. You ended up knowing it like the back of your hand. The combat sequences were simplistic and not very believable. You couldn't play against anyone else and there wasn't much variety. Voyages Of Discovery changes all that. It caters for up to four players and you must start with two, one of which can be Amiga-controlled. Each player starts off in a port on an island surrounded by uncharted sea. Your job is to change all that by christening and provisioning a ship, recruiting a crew and sailing into the unknown. While you do this, the opposition captains are doing the same.
Moves are executed in turns, with each ship having a certain amount of moves per turn. If you're playing against human opponents, you have to leave the Amiga until they complete their turns. Initially, finding land with native settlements is paramount. Expeditions can then be formed and the natives either conquered or negotiated with. As soon as that's done, it becomes a settlement upon which you can build or cultivate useful utilities and crops such as sugar and tobacco plantations, silver and gold mines, churches and ports.
Doing this takes up a lot of time though. And when you've got sizeable, profitable settlements up and running, you'll attract the attention of pirates, not to mention your opponents. That's when recruiting armies to protect your ships and settlements comes into play. There's nothing more heartbreaking than losing a hard-earned settlement to one of your opponents, but there's nothing more satisfying than stealing an opponent's settlements.
This game would be perfect for a play by mail system where players could send saved game disks to each other. On the down side, some of the game mechanics are much too fiddly. For example, loading and unloading your ships at settlements that don't have a port is a particularly tiresome and tedious experience.
On the plus side, the game improves on the believability and hookability of Pirates and anyone who's interested in trading strategy games should take a very close look at Voyages Of Discovery. There's hours and hours of gameplay to be had here.
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