Patrizier IV – Hands on Preview

 

The most interesting part part of the Patrician 4 event in Lubeck - the first ingame impressions.

One thing first: we played a very early version of the game that basically included the trade functionallity only - I do not know whether someone was already able to try the factories.

 

The early development stage of Patrician 4 was visible. Here and there some textures were missing or the free zoom- and rotatable showed the town from underneath. Some dialog screens, responsible for the depth of the future game, were empty. In short, there is a lot of work in the short amount of time until the release.

 

Patrician IV Sea MapThe 3D sea map is the first thing you see from Patrician 4. It is by far more colorful as you are used from Patrician 2 or Patrician 3. Some participants said it was too colorful. Daniel will address this issue to the developers, color changes should be possible. You can freely zoom the map. With a bigger display you should be able to view the complete North- and Baltic Sea at once.

 

All shown towns on the map are already known from Patrician 3. While your curser points one town, some additional icons are shown. One of them brings up the familiar status windows, showing your status, producible goods... Other icons appear when you have convoys in the town, or in case you own a trading office an additional icons enables you to open the trade window. The last icon is showing the good the town is short in supply.
That is all important to mention for the sea map.

 

More interesting is the new 3D town view in Patrician 4. The town is shown slantwise from the top, as you are used to from Patrician 2 and Patrician 3. With the help of the 3D engine you can change your angle of view and zoom closer. Up to now the view snaps back into the standard orientation, the angle of view is not saved. But this seems to be the intention of the developers, they were waiting for some feedback on it.
I had to get used to it first. Why do you need the option to change the view when it is not permanent? I guess that only a few people will use this option later in the game and most of us want to stick with the old-school angle of view. Some of you might say that 3D is useless any way in this kind of games. But we were told that it is nowadays really hard to sell a full price game with a 2D engine only.

 

The town map impressed me a lot, it was so hugh. I guess it is at least twice as big as in Patrician 2 or Patrician 3 with (almost) the same building size requirements. The towns should get really big.

Patrician IV Town MarketAll towns looked identical in the Patrician 4 version we played. There is now regional difference but this is of course a planned feature. As you can see by the pictures recently published all towns will have a circular city core around the market place.
One atmospherically feature Daniel pointed out was the vertical orientation of all city buildings. At the edge of the town, enclosed by the town wall, you can find simple and small houses. Followed by the middle class houses which are bigger and more magnificent . The rich people live near the city core in houses with multiple floors and attractive architecture.
The market place is enclosed by important buildings: town hall, guild hall, trade office, construction office and tavern. I did not find the bath house or the money lender. The biggest of all these buildings is the town hall it is only outshined by the hugh church.
Thanks to the 3D engine the skyline looks like expected for a town in the Middle Ages and the way we know it from old pictures.

 

Away the city core you can freely build houses and factories. Just choose the desired building and place it in- or outside - depending on the building - the town wall. All buildings can be rotated by 360° using the mouse wheel. Streets will be set automatically by the game engine - not all times the best route was chosen. It definitely will be one of the players challenges to build the most place saving. Daniel already mentioned that they will have to optimize the street engine. The engine tries to arrange house in form of blocks with a courtyard.

 

The town wall is linked to the town gates. If you want to extend the town wall you have to place a new town gate the attached town wall will follow like a rubber band. There is no need to build a completely new town wall at once.

 

The building process itself will be different to Patrician 2 or Patrician 3. You will not need to collect all required construction materials in your warehouse before you start building. In Patrician 4 you simply construct a new building which costs money but the construction materials have to be in the town market hall. That means, you have to sell the required goods to the town. You can create building queues, every item is processed one after the other as long as all goods are available - the same for ships.
This might be a big break at first for most of the old Patrician players, but the idea is not bad. The goods for buildings had to be transported to the town in Patrician 2 too, but now you can start earlier to create buildings. The process itself "feels" better and you earn an extra profit from the construction goods trading!

 

This brings me to the next point - the trade. The already mentioned building queues have a direct trade impact. Selling construction goods to a town with a building queue results in almost immediate consumption of the goods, the price almost stays the same.

 

The trade screen was fundamentally changed in Patrician 4.
You see the goods icons, a signal lights, the goods in stock in the town/ your warehouse and convoys and of course the prices. The signal lights are showing the availability of goods in a town. Completely green means plenty of goods are available. A completely red one means an under supply. The consequences of you trading are shown this way. You should only sell goods until you see 2 green lights, the same for purchase. Purchasing a good with only one green light will result in a reputation drop in this town. Selling a good results in a reputation gain until two green lights are shown.
In my eyes a great feature for new players, protecting them from making unfavorable trades.

Another big change is absence of separate purchasing and selling prices. Patrician 4 only has one single price. The reason is the arbitrage exploit in Patrician 2 and Patrician 3. This might be too simple for some of the old players but on the whole Gaming Minds made the right step. The trade screen is much cleaner, you do not have to remember 40 prices, just 20 one.
The amount of traded goods is not adjusted with buttons but with different scaling button. From 1-10 units one good each step gets purchased/ sold, 11-20 units two goods, followed by 5 and 10 goods. It will take some time until you get used to this new handling. Due to the scaling it is very hard to set the right amount in the first attempt which is important when you want to stay in the right signal lights area.

 

Patrician IV Auto TradeThe auto trade function is implemented as known from Port Royale 2. Your trade office manager and your captains can trade completely on their own produce profit. You can block a desired amount of goods in your trade office, they will not get transported by your auto trade convoys which might result in missing goods for your production.

The fast forward function is also known from Port Royale 2 - simply press the spacebar and the game runs faster.

Patrician 4 only knows convoys, no single ships. A single ship automatically becomes a convoy and gets its own captain. They can be trained by old masters you have to find somewhere in the hanseatic area.

Patrician IV ShipyardThe ship armament has changed compared to Patrician 2 or Patrician 3. You only have one kind of weapon and you cannot buy weapons anymore. You only have the option to upgrade your ship in the shipyard, this will mount weapons to your ship in return you will lose cargo capacity.
Even though it is historically not correct, Patrician 4 will use the ammunition known from Port Royale 2. Stray ammunition to reduce the crew, chain-shots to destroy the canvas and reduce the ship’s sailing speed, and ordinary round shots to damage the ship’s hull.

 

Loading times were amazingly short for Patrician's 4 early development stage. Only entering a town took around one second. During my tests the game crashed not a single time, but I cannot speak for others who played the game.

I was not able to test the interaction with the AI. This was not part of the version we played. Daniel told us during our conversation that the eight main AI opponents will be shown according the region they are belonging to. They will react on the player’s action with little videos.

Summary:

Leaving the unfinished gaming parts out, Patrician 4 feels completely like Patrician 2 or Patrician 3 even after the very short amount of time I played it. It basically is Patrician 3 with an enhanced graphic and an up-to-date interface and function.
The amount of time left until the release is a very critical point in my eyes. For this reason I do not expect a multiplayer in Patrician 4 for the start, this would take too much time which might be missing for other parts of the game. And as the most things that are relevant for the game depth were missing in the version I played, I would rather see the time left, spend on these gaming parts.
Altogether I expect Patrician 4 to become a good game. I had fun playing it, even though it was only a short time, and I am looking forward for the release of Patrician 4.