1602 A.D.

Reviewed by: Doug Reed, send e-mail
Published by: GT Interactive, go to the web site
Requires: Windows 95/98, Pentium 100, 16 MB RAM (32 recommended), 2MB PCI graphics card, 4x CDROM, 120MB hard drive space, sound card
MSRP: $39.95

GT Interactive bills 1602 A.D. as a blend of two "exciting" genres, part empire builder and part real time strategy game. 1602 A.D. just arrived in U.S. stores but it has been available in Europe for several months, although there it bore the moniker "Anno 1602". In Germany it was the best-selling game for several months. Besides that, the game has very low system requirements for a game coming out on the market in early 2000. And I am all for games that recognize not all of us have Pentium III's (or even Pentium II's!). But try as I might, I find very little to get excited about with 1602 A.D.

The game's premise is simple enough: the year is 1602 A.D., and you are the leader of a band of people looking for a better life. You have set sail for the New World in the hopes of finding this better life. Alas, you have competition, and to achieve this idyllic life you want will require some effort.

Sounds simple, right? Find an island you can call home and build your empire. All in real time, ala Ages of Empires or Seven Kingdoms. And the game follows the basic premise of all empire builders: as you build, more people move in and then you must build more to accommodate their needs, and then more people move in, and then you build more... You get the idea. If you've played SimCity or any of the various incarnations of Caesar, you get the idea in spades. Pirates abound, sinking your ships and raiding your city. The major differences with 1602 A.D. and SimCity & Caesar are the time setting (Renaissance) and the fact that you can have competition - up to three other players (human or computer).

1602 A.D. has two game modes: campaigns that are composed of a set of 'scenarios' and a 'sand box' mode that allows you to play forever, ala SimCity. Graphically the game is very pleasant to look at, although there are some oddities such as androgynous cows (no, I'm not kidding - unless you've ever seen a cow with both horns and udders). The interface is fairly easy to use, except for the world map, which is fixed in place - which can be tough to reconcile with the local map if you rotate the local map. The game features only islands - no continents - so sea power is the name of the game.

While 1602 A.D. seems to have all the right ingredients for a great game, it fails to inspire me to want to play it. While you do have competition, the game focuses far more on the economic side of things rather than the military. The cost of generating, maintaining, and using an offensive force far outweighs any gains you might make - although you will need defensive units to protect your ships & cities from pirates. Diplomacy is very simplistic - peace treaties & trade agreements are the sum of what you can do, and even that is carried off with so little fanfare as to be hardly worth mentioning. Yes, you do need trade agreements to build your economy, but I've never seen the computer deny me a trade agreement either. There is no research tree per se, you simply acquire the ability to build new buildings as your population reaches certain limits. The game devolves into build this building, wait and build this building, and fails to cover any new ground - in short, I was quickly bored.

Pros: Real-time empire builder for those who don't like games where the fastest mouse wins. Low, low system requirements. Cons: No research tree. Computer opponents are present, but not exactly opponents. Pleasant enough game, but it lacks any excitement. Whoo-hoo, I just built a Cattle Farm! And for a game billed as an "empire-builder" why is the military so de-emphasized? On the other hand, if you want a quiet relaxing game with little to no "war" maybe this would be your cup of tea.

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