Given the recent glut of real-time strategy games, a new RTS game must either dramatically improve on previous games or offer something innovative and exciting. Patrician II, despite some positive interface features, doesn't succeed in either department. It's a shame, really, because this game has some hidden joys, but few players will weather the poor translations, directions, and slow pace.
The premise: given a small ship and meager starting capital, make smart purchases, and smarter sales. Over time (lots of time), you will accumulate capital, expand your trading empire, and ultimately translate your wealth into political power and influence. Patrician II offers diversions (piracy and sabotage) from trading, but they are difficult and risky. The usually invisible governments fine you for talking to disreputable characters (if they find out, but they usually do). Worse, such a scandal ruins your local reputation, which, in turn, kills your chances in any political elections.
The ship-to-ship tactical screens are promising and resemble an earlier classic, Broderbund's The Ancient Art of War at Sea. The classic (and historic) strategies still work and Patrician II allows several different military strategies to succeed, provided they are executed properly. However, since military success demands either large crews or lots of cannons, your shipping tonnage will be adversely affected. Also, escaping from unfavorable battles is as simple as sailing off the small tactical screen. Any military strategy is pointless when you can easily sail away from trouble; would-be pirates will be continually frustrated as swifter ships sail away from danger.
Despite these problems, trading, accumulating capital, and pursuing various side goals in Patrician II are surprisingly fun. Who will you marry? Can you keep the rich and the poor happy by keeping your hometown supplied with all they desire? Where should you focus on developing your trading empire? The small Hanseatic map is intriguing, the graphics adequate, and the micromanagement reasonably fun. The trading window is, once learned, a joy to use. All the in-game goods are displayed along with the pertinent financial data. Shrewd traders will scan a town's inventory and deduce the correct course of action in seconds.
This excellent trading interface encourages would-be financial wizards to hone their mercantile skills. Unfortunately, despite promising a varied economic and political environment, the game obsesses on medieval sea-trade. This isn't necessarily a bad thing; some games succeed precisely because they do one thing supremely well. However, since Patrician II also promises the opportunity to developing an international reputation and political career, some variety was sorely needed. The incessant trading, which represents the only feasible method of advancement either economically or politically, also loses any excitement after about ten hours of play. Since real-time strategy games are expected to entertain almost indefinitely, this is a decided and inexcusable flaw.
Graphics: Adequate, but not impressive. The map of Northern Europe, with icebergs appearing during winter, is well done.
Sound: Although each town has a different tune and all are well done, they will quickly grow monotonous.
Enjoyment: Initially fun, but Patrician II doesn't allow enough breaks from trading.
Replay Value: Not many things in this game will keep you coming back.
People who downloaded Patrician 2: Quest for Power have also downloaded:
Patrician 3: Rise of the Hanse, Port Royale: Gold, Power and Pirates, Port Royale 2, Patrician, The, Pirate Hunter, Pharaoh and Cleopatra, Populous: The Beginning, Populous 2
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