Patrician IV Impressions - First Look

We get our first look at the next chapter in this economic strategy series at the 2010 Electronic Entertainment Expo.

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Making your way in the Electronic Entertainment Expo today takes everything you've got. Wouldn't you like to go somewhere, where a small German developer makes in-depth economic simulation games such as Patrician IV? We're always glad we came…to see how the next chapter in the series from developer Gaming Minds will build on the economic and trading strategy from the previous games.

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Patrician IV will still take place in Middle Ages-era Europe between England to the west and Russia to the east, encompassing northern Europe and the Baltic region. While you start your career as a humble grocer, your goal is eventually to become the wealthiest merchant in Europe and head of the Hanseatic League--one of the first international trade coalitions and arguably the progenitor of global commerce, thanks to its efforts to promote trade not only in different villages (often run by closed-minded burghers who levied usurious taxes to prevent foreign goods from disrupting the local economy), but in different countries around the world using the wonders of oceanic navigation.

Although Patrician IV seems to tread on a very complicated subject, creative director Daniel Dumont insists that the game is fundamentally based on the simple principles of supply and demand, and the fundamental strategy of buying low and selling high. In the world of Patrician IV, all goods are produced by and consumed by citizens (either workers or their families). And while there are some 20 different commodities in the entire game, each city in Europe produces only four or five. As a result, there will be a constant stream of supply and demand just waiting for an ambitious young merchant with an extra boat or two to ferry much-needed salt to preserve all the fresh meat produced by that one city in Denmark. Starting out, your job is to find new trade partners and establish automated trade routes, then further optimize each trade route by ensuring that each shipment is large enough to warrant the trip, potentially by adding stopovers for warehouse storage to the automation queue. However, in order to trade harmoniously with each town, you need to make sure you don't rob them blind by buying up their last kernels of much-needed grain--doing so will decrease your reputation with that town and potentially affect your future trade there. Fortunately, you can also increase your reputation by making timely shipments of much-needed goods to cities with scarcity problems.

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Despite all the wonderful opportunity to make all that wonderful money, Patrician IV won't be a particularly competitive game. There will, indeed, be rival merchants who will try to establish their own trade routes and make more money than you, but from what we're told, there will be no danger of other merchants establishing a larger trade network than you and "beating" you at your own game. However, you'll still have to contend with rival merchants and wealthy commodity monopolists who may not look kindly on you horning in on their racket. For the former, you can either equip your own flotilla of ships with onboard guns or commission pirates to bump off the competition at sea; for the latter, if you're game enough, you can try to undercut the monopolies until you rack up enough profits to buy them out.

Patrician IV is scheduled for release in September.

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