1701 A.D.


posted 12/26/2006 by Randy Kalista
other articles by Randy Kalista
One Page Platforms: PC
While it would be another strong supplement to integrate a storyline campaign into 1701 A.D., Related Designs left well enough alone and set their sights on creating a stellar sandbox ("continuous campaign") to frolic through. A short stack of single episode adventures also come highly recommended, as they will expose you to relevant focal points that you can accomplish, but might have overlooked or shrunk away from in a standard round of play. These individual modules are peppered with a little more storytelling verve, but don't ultimately serve any grand narrative, and they don't unlock any further benefits beyond their built-in learning experience. Nevertheless, the benefits of unveiling the "Curse of the Monkey God" or escaping a fate parallel to Pompeii in "Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Fire" are self-evident by their pulpy action headlines.
1701 A.D. also, when called for, removes the one-thing-wrong-after-another syndrome that can drive this genre into the grinder. At its best, it's all about seeing to the economic success and general morale of your colonists: Attending to their sense of community, their spiritual development, and their educational quotient. All of which are unwrapped in an escalating list of wants and needs. Surely it seems ludicrous that your evolved, merchant-class citizens would grow riotous if their supply of chocolate bon bons run out, but those are the "needs" you must attend to, gov'nuh, if you wish to raise your particular Caribbean isle out of the dregs and into the purview of the Queen. The Queen is your patient and rarely condescending benefactor, willing to bail you out of the red should your abilities as a CPA be otherwise questionable.
Each lusciously animated island is yours for the taking … unless one of your rivals lay down their claim first. Other foreign cultures dabble across the map (the Aztecs, the Chinese, etc.) but they reside in preformed islands too small and too resource-barren to warrant your attention. Formulating trade agreements with these foreign cultures works to your benefit, of course, as trade routes and trust go hand in hand, opening up greater venues of luxury trade goods. At the easier level, just being a good neighbor is enough to keep the peace.  But testing out the waters with harder level opponents brings in the games shadier side. Suffice it to say that subterfuge, coupled with a rival's army-navy team, has a way of ruining your Little House on the Prairie way of life.
This isn't the Total War series of games, so don't travel back to 1701 A.D. if you're dying for a wartime simulator. Save that for the aforementioned Total War games or other combat-centric RTSes like Warhammer 40,000 or Company of Heroes.   Here, combat is a simple exchange of gun and cannon fire, tactics are point-and-click, and politics are no more involved than the shake of a hand or the throwing down of a gauntlet. This lack of fuss contributes valiantly to 1701 A.D.'s artful dodging of any single-minded Murphy's Law qualities.
It should be no secret, this formula could be transplanted into any genre or any time period and meet with laudable success. It may not be one for the history books, but its one that will -- in its own whimsical way -- transport you to the momentous heights and grandiose ambitions that comprised the 18th century Americas.

Just when we thought "fun" in an RTS meant a term paper's worth of learning tech trees and tackling tough-graded assignments, 1701 A.D. comes along and reminds us to Keep It Simple, Stupid. Even without some overblown storyline drama, it's impossible to put this one's single-player campaign down.

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