1602 A.D. is the North American release of a game that came out in Europe last year under the title Anno 1602, which was developed by the German firm Sunflowers. However, despite being essentially the original version of the game with a handful of additions (an included expansion pack, a couple of new building structures, supposedly improved artificial intelligence, and a scenario editor), 1602 A.D. is not just an afterthought release of some obscure European game. In fact, Anno 1602 is the best-selling game ever in Germany and has sold more than a million copies worldwide. As such, you might expect a radical new twist in the gameplay, but 1602 A.D. simply takes the tried-and-true real-time god-game formula and applies a bit of European sensibility. That is, the game is slower, less violent, and more cooperative, yet it still inhabits familiar territory.
Despite its historically allusive title, 1602 A.D. is set in a fictitious universe with no direct connection to the colonization of the New World. However, the game has a strong historical flavor, as it opens with the establishment of a small colony on an island that develops much like an early-17th-century town. Adding to the atmosphere is the game's pacing, which is very relaxed. There are several speed settings, but even at faster speeds the game moves along somewhat uneventfully unless you're drastically mismanaging the situation. It's this slow pace that will likely determine whether you like the game or not.
The gameplay proceeds along well-worn lines. You're charged with building and maintaining a colony on a previously unexplored island. The maps consist of approximately fifteen or twenty islands in a vast ocean, and competing players settle, develop, and expand their holdings in the hope of building a prosperous settlement in the New World. You initially have one ship with enough tools, wood, and food to get a foothold on one island. Once there, you must construct buildings such as fishing huts for food, foresters' huts for lumber, and various farms for wool and cattle. The objective is to eventually build as large and prosperous a colony as possible, so you'll need to build homes for your settlers. As the colony expands, the inhabitants will demand such things as schools and taverns to let them keep growing. Settlers progress through various states of development, up to the highest level of "aristocrat." The more advanced the settlers, the more they want. Eventually you'll be building cotton and tobacco plantations, churches, colleges, and theaters, as well as shipyards and armories. The relationships between the colonists and their buildings can become rather complex, and managing them efficiently is the point of the game.
1602 A.D. can be played in several modes, including continuous play, individual scenarios, and multiplayer. Continuous play is the familiar, open-ended mode in which you start with a ship, settle an island, and subsequently develop your colony through various stages to a thriving 18th-century metropolis while protecting yourself from marauding pirates and overly aggressive neighbors. Continuous-play games have no set ending point, and the mode continues essentially until you become tired of the game. On the other hand, scenarios require you to reach a certain goal, such as having a certain number of aristocrats in your colony. -- Bruce Geryk
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