Grand Ages: Medieval gives players the chance to build up from humble beginnings to ultimately become the emperor of the Roman Empire. The year is 1050 A.D., and you're the mayor of a small village. You're challenged to explore and settle the land, gather resources, and conduct trade. Eventually, you'll upgrade your technology and amass an army strong enough to defend your settlements as you expand across Europe and into both North Africa and the Middle East.
I got a chance to go hands-on with the economic side of the game on the PS4. The first thing a player needs to do is begin constructing resource structures like mines, and send the scout out to find nearby settlements to trade with. Although the landscape is quite large, we played with the game timer sped up so that the scout zoomed across the countryside. Physical characteristics like mountains don't impede movement, and I'm told that they probably won't provide much of a strategic advantage other than resources.
Each town specializes in five different commodities that range from ore to fish (which are conveniently shown under the town's name), and location will determine what gets gathered. With a little time and luck, you'll come across a town that has a commodity that you don't have and vice versa. Then, after some negotiating, which usually involves some extra gold to move things along, a trade pact is born. Then it's a matter of having a builder construct roads and a merchant to carry the goods from place to place. Giving units commands involves holding down the left shoulder button, which brings up a radial menu. From there, you can select the unit you need and then issue orders.
With a few more trade agreements and a little logistical finesse, you can set up a trade route that spans multiple settlements to maximize your income. Fortunately, you won't have to pore over ledgers to find the best deals. The merchant AI automatically selects the commodities to trade, and it is set to always buy low and sell high.
Other diplomatic options are available, like forming an alliance, but how willing other leaders are to agree and how costly those deals are will depend on how they regard you. Towns may have special requests for resources, and fulfilling them will gain favor. With enough favor and power, you'll even be able to annex cities into your control. That is, if you're not in the conquering mood.
Unlike historic strategy games like Civilization, each settlement in Grand Ages: Medieval is fairly self sufficient with the exception of certain resources. You can't build a settlement too close to an existing one, but you won't need to take proximity too closely into consideration. So, you won't have to worry about a settlement starving to death if you set one up too far away from one of your towns. However, players will need to take random events into consideration, including natural disasters like earthquakes, volcano eruptions, and the Black Plague.
In addition to the campaign, Grand Ages: Medieval has an open sandbox mode, which is a custom game without all the story trappings. It also supports up to 8 players in multiplayer, which might sound daunting, considering how developing a nation can take a tremendous amount of time, even with the game sped up. However, there is a option to have the computer AI take over the gameplay for a while, so that it will automatically grow your economy while you're away. I asked whether this option also available for the main campaign, but the answer hasn't been determined yet.
Grand Ages: Medieval is shaping up to be a deep strategy game that will eat away the hours for strategy fans. We have not yet seen the game's combat system, but that will surely be revealed soon enough. The game will release on September 25 digitally for PC and PS4 with retail box versions to follow.
Steven Wong posted a new article, Grand Ages: Medieval Impressions: Making Money and History
Can you explain what elements add depth? How does this compare to SM's Starships? Or the Hegemony series?
The preview sounds pretty lightweight: terrain doesn't matter, merchants are automated, city placement doesn't matter, diplomacy is really basic and so on. The concept sounds cool and I thought Crusader Kings 2 was going to be a lot shallower that it really was so I'm wondering what I'm missing.