If you read Dan Adams' review of the original 1701 A.D.
, you already have a good idea of what we think about this game. When we first reviewed the game, we were impressed by its intricate gameplay that combined city building with mutli-step economic production and maritime trade and placed it all in the context of some truly challenging missions. Now the Gold Edition is out with an entirely new campaign that is, if possible, even more difficult than any the series has seen so far. A load of new toys are also being included in the package just to sweeten the deal for gamers who are still on the fence about the upgrade.
Since we already reviewed the core game, we're just going to focus on the features that are new for the Gold Edition. Keep in mind, though, that everything that we liked (and didn't like quite so much) about the previous game also holds true for this new version.
The expansion includes some ridiculously challenging missions, drawing both from more awkward RTS-oriented gameplay as shown in the early firefighter levels, to the full on multi-island economic and production puzzles the series is justly praised for. The story plays out over 11 missions that will take even more experienced players at least a week to complete. We, ourselves, found some missions to be particularly difficult, especially given some of the limitations the designers placed on us.
Fortunately, not being able to use particular structures, or not being able to remodel certain aspects of a city encouraged us to seek out more inventive ways to achieve the goals in a given mission. In one, for instance, players will have to increase the appeal of an island without actually touching any of the residences. Moving production facilities to other islands and using blasters to clear rocky areas for churches and schools proved to be the solution, but that also left us with even more plates in the air.
And that's still the big appeal of the game. You need to create production chains to deliver goods, from necessities like food and bricks to luxuries like jewelry and perfume. You'll also need to balance the maintenance costs of those facilities with the tax revenue you get from your citizens. Of course, since no island is big enough for everything, you'll need to work to set up trade routes so that your honey-producing islands send their goods to the islands where your bakeries are, and that your bakeries send their sweets to the islands where your people are living. Throw in a few rivals who are also trying to lay claim to resources, sometimes simply out of spite, and things can get very, very interesting.
The overall story of the new campaign provides a nice context for the missions and offers up some intriguing side missions that are sometimes just as difficult as the main story missions. Players will weave through a tangled story of lost treasures, vengeful spies, and marooned refuges. There are a number of interesting characters here that add a lot to the appeal of the story. Our favorite is the smugger Grace Bonnet who almost always shows up just in the nick of time with something we need. Of course, she always has an interesting price as well.
As with any good Gold Edition, the new version of 1701 A.D. includes some new pieces to play with and a handful of new gamplay elements. The new pieces are simple ornamentals that will appeal more to the build-oriented players than to the mission-focused crowd. Being the obsessive achievement seekers that we are, we didn't find them particularly useful. If you have regard for things like "aesthetics" or "beauty" your own appraisal of them will surely vary.
The new trader assignments are more interesting, offering up a new mission element for stranded or otherwise struggling ships. It's a great way to add a bit of life and personality to the missions. The massive meteor disasters promise to be even more impressive, with their ominous inevitability but, sadly, they're only available in the "continuous play" mode, which, for some strange reason, failed to work properly in our versions of the game. We suspect this is a video card issue, but haven't been able to track it down to a single cause yet.
As if the new content isn't quite enough to get you excited, the Gold Edition also includes a full world editor for players who want to create their own islands. The range of options here are pretty broad but the game lays out a lot of your options for you. You won't, for instance, actually be able to create your own islands from scratch, but you can choose from a wide range of pre-made islands and orient them however you like. Really the editor is more of a fancy map generator, but it works so well that there's almost no end to the missions you can create.
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