Production buildings are just what they sound like. They either produce a trade good or can be rented out. Rent is nice as it is money directly in your pocket. Trade goods are just as important, as goods you produce are cheaper than the ones you buy on the open market. As in real life, a vertical monopoly is the way to go.
You'll find that, beloved as you are, you can't just run the various cities to suit your whims. Each one has a city council that can make your life harder (or easier). This introduces the third phase of the game, politics. It is possible for you to become part of the city council, or even mayor. From such august heights you will, for example, be able to determine whether a city builds a cathedral or a university. Decisions like this can have large if somewhat indirect effects on your trading empire. It is instructive that the path to political power is paved with money. Almost every political maneuver one makes is either accomplished or enabled by the expenditure of cold, hard cash.
The overall arc of the game takes you from a small-time merchant with one ship through a multi-city trader on to a production powerhouse and into the halls of power. Success in each stage leads very naturally into the complications of the next. It makes for a very pleasant feeling of progress over time. At any given point in the game it is pretty clear how one got into the current situation, and what lies ahead. Patrician IV pulls off a rare trick for a sandbox game: the player is given a lot of freedom but is never in doubt as to what their goals are.
That is not to say the game is perfect. Business sims have their own set of problems and Patrician IV is not immune to them.
First off, the only really direct source of conflict is pirates. There is a tactical view in which one can fight said pirates, but the less said about it the better. One can create some pirates of one's own in order to harass competing merchants but this no more fun. You are best off buying some war ships and letting the AI resolve the pirate battles.
Second, replay value is low. Subsequent games have the same cities with the same supplies/demands, so whatever you did the first game can just be done again. As much fun as the first playthrough is, it is unlikely you will play too many times after that.
Finally, this reviewer felt that, at the end of the day, there could have been more recognition of accomplishment. In-game, it is easy to figure out how to progress. Looking at the game, however, not much changes to reflect your progress. For example, in a city-builder game, at the end of a scenario, one can look back on the city that was built and feel a sense of accomplishment. The presence of the city validates the effort put into its building. In Patrician IV that feeling is harder to find.
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