Northwest NEWS

April 17, 2000


1602 AD

Computer game review: Build an empire with '1602 AD'

by Matt Maloy, special to the Weekly

   1602 AD is an intriguing game that aims to combine empire building with real-time strategy.

   When I saw it, I wanted to love this game; I wanted it to be one of those games that cut me off from my social life for weeks on end. But it just didn't work that way--not to say it was a horrible game, but it wasn't a great game, either. It just felt a bit like a throwback.

   1602 AD takes place in 1602 A.D. (surprise!) when a large number of people decided to leave Europe and look for a new place to live and prosper. So of course, it's the player's duty to build a prosperous community, and it's not going to be simple.

   You start the game with nothing but a boat and meager supplies. Your first duty is to find a suitable island to settle on, so you need to explore a couple of islands and find one with the resources you'll need to build an empire.

   First thing to go up is your warehouse; then you need to build some houses for your citizens to live in. Your people need to eat, so you need to build a fishing hut on the coast and a hunting lodge in the forest. Then you need a sheep farm so your settlers have some clothes to wear. As your settlement grows, you get more and more things to build and support your growing economy.

   Probably the most appealing part of the game is the authentic-feeling economy. Your island can only grow certain things, so you have to build what you can and trade for other goods. For instance, say your island can grow vines and spices extremely well, but your people can't live off just those items, so you must grow lots of vines and spices and trade what you don't need for things you can't grow.

   The buildings you construct all work with each other in a chain. If you have a sheep farm, you need a weaver's place in town to make clothes out of the cotton. And that applies to everything, such as needing windmills for grain, and then in turn needing a baker to turn your flour into bread. The whole empire-building system is great.

   The real-time strategy is where the game falls flat on its face. There is hardly any unit variety, which in turn makes for very little strategy. I never once found myself planning an attack, such as flanking the enemy or baiting them with someone else and ambushing them. The battles fought were pretty much won by the person with the most units.

   One thing I can say is that this game doesn't have any bugs, so I didn't have to get on the Internet and download the update patches. The manual was good and answered my questions, yet at times, it seemed to explain the game as if you've played it before, which can be very frustrating. It took me several hours of gameplay before I knew even slightly what I was doing. The developers tried to remedy this problem with a lackluster tutorial, but the manual explained more.

   Even though 1602 AD drained a lot of my time away, it did keep me entertained for hours. But I expected so much more from this game.

   The game never introduced anything new to the table, and everything it did has been done before in much better games. The graphics are nothing to holler about, but are decent enough.

   I would only recommend this game if you are a fan of this style, but otherwise, you can get a lot more gaming goodness elsewhere for your hard-earned cash.