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Promising but lacklustre historical adventure
Merchant Prince is a superbly detailed and comprehensive historical strategy game which really brings the past to life and provides hours of engrossing trading and exploring, while throwing in plenty of backstabbing political shenanigans just to add some spice. The game is set in Venice in a time when the world was much smaller and where adventure and profit were around every corner. The player takes on the role of a merchant seeking riches, fame and glory and must build up their fortune through shrewd trading and politicking, and who also has access to assassins, arsonists and mercenaries for when the honest way of doing things isn't working quickly enough. You start out with only limited resources and must gradually build them up by trading with other cities, while also playing the political game to help your progress. Although not a major focus of the game, military might also comes into proceedings, with everything from pirates to highwaymen popping up and which can all be used to increase your power and influence. Merchant Prince promises a great deal but doesn't quite deliver everything and fails to capitalise completely on its wonderfully evocative setting. There is a lot of detail on display here, with plenty of flexibility in tactics and with the armchair strategist initially offered much to sink their teeth into. However, it soon becomes apparent that this is something of an illusion and you end up just doing the same thing over and over again, with the game thus becoming repetitive quite quickly. This is a shame, as there is a lot of potential here and the world itself is certainly portrayed in such a fashion as to make you want to really explore it. Ultimately though, there simply isn't enough fun to warrant spending the kind of time that such a game requires and it is likely to prove disappointing, even for fans of trading sims The Patrician.
Trading sim in a Renaissance setting
The game has an interesting enough backstory; you are a prince, who has to secure a wealth larger than that of your direct competitors, and to do that you must engage in trading and shipping of goods. If you've played any of the Patrician games or Port Royale, the basics are mainly the same. You have to buy cheaper, and then find the best places where you can trade your goods at a profit. Unlike Patrician where you only traded by sea, here you can trade over ground as well. The simulation elements are there, but they won't overwhelm you with menial management. One of the best ways to trade is by seas, which even if not 100 percent secure is however better than the over land trading. However, most of the goods that bring in larger profits will require land trading, so you're always striding to find the right balance between profits and security. Thus, if you like a trading sim with an added dose of risk management this one will do it. Alternatively, Patrician can prove a better game from a mechanical stand point and also from a diversity standpoint, since it includes some minigames as well.