It’s going to be a hard sell to any gamer. Luckily, we’re not selling, we’re merely reporting and in this instance, we’re truly happy about that arrangement. Happy because we can literally forget talking anyone into liking a game such as Patrician IV; such an exercise would be fruitless. You’re either pre-disposed the 14th century pan-European trading simulations, or you’re not. We’re guessing that most of you are not, but then, if you clicked on this preview in the first place, then we know where we stand.
Patrician IV is a vastly complex title. Fortunately, our E3 behind closed doors demonstrator was keen to point out that it’s never overwhelming. Everything is taken in baby-steps, from the basics of supply and demand, through manufacture, through to setting up and automating trade, ready for turn-by-turn tweakage.
So what’s this game all about? It’s about turning a profit at its most basic. It’s about buying cheap and selling expensive. It’s about beginning the game as a simple grocer and working your way from small fortune, to large fortune, to becoming Europe’s uber-trader, having amassed a wealth greater than many of the kingdoms within it.
Beginning simply then, we were shown our home town of Lübeck; in the modern day famous for its marzipan, but back in the 14th century, it was beer which was Lübeck’s number one export. The premise is that certain towns manufacture beyond their needs, while others consume certain commodities beyond theirs. The trick then, right from the off, is to buy beer cheaply in Lübeck and sell it expensively where it is in short supply. Supply and demand, it really is that simple.
However, prices aren’t static and to make the most out of your trading routes, you’ll need to ensure that you don’t saturate the market. Sell too many barrels of beer to Copenhagen, for example, and the price you’ll get for it will drop dramatically, since it becomes a common commodity. One trade route, then will quickly dry up, leaving the player looking for wider opportunities.
Later in the game, it is possible to set up automated trade routes which happen automatically each turn. These may initially seem like a great way to play because once set up, you leave them to their own devices. But wait; you have competitors. And if these competitors see that you’re making a killing in selling salt to the meat producers of Denmark, they will muscle in on the action, leading to over-supply and killing your profits. Setting up of effective automated trade then, is a process in need of constant tweaking and vigilant monitoring.
It takes a certain kind of mind to be entertained by anything as atypical as Patrician IV. If you enjoyed the trading elements of Elite, or the Civilisation games, there’s a fair chance that this game will sweep you away with its deep complexity and pretty graphical interface. If, however, life for you is all about Halo, then you'll probably want to look elsewhere.