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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Review: Pride of Nations (PC)

In Pride of Nations, Paradox Interactive has released an admirable addition to the strategy games. It's a turn based approach to the genre, and offers a realistic, historically accurate, all-encompassing game. This game is definitely on the complicated side, attempting to be a realistic modulator of the times. For the most part, it achieves its aim and thus should be a welcome addition into the strategists library. 

What's this? A Grand Strategy game that is easy on the eyes? Why I never!

The premise of the game is that you take the helm of any of the eight powerhouse nations during the turbulent times between 1850 and 1920. In taking control, the player dictates from the position of prime minister all aspects that any influential government needs to be aware of, from military, economic (you have control in public and private in an excellently modulated economy), colonial, diplomatic, religious, power projection, education level and many, many other aspects of society. The primary objective is earning prestige points, garnered through superiority in all areas, shifting focus away from the military-only games. It is a complicated endeavour and preparing yourself, especially if you're a perfectionist, can take a while. Its a good thing you have as much time as you need as it is quite enjoyable to see the plans come to life.

Sadly, there is no easy introduction as this tutorial is quite difficult – it is clear but not very practical and fails to cover the vast majority of what will be required. Whilst within are wry attempts at humour which add levity, the tutorial is heavy going and is blighted by a great deal of information over a few small boxes. The tutorial does serve to equip you for four aspects of the game – economy, military, colonies and decisions but the game requires a great deal more than that. Reading through the 100+ page manual provides just enough to grasp the complexity and point of the game. Many hours of painstaking mistakes later and you'll start enjoy this rather excellent title. I implore that this perseverance is entirely worth the effort. Missions do take a while, so be prepared to give your hours away with a blissful smile on your face.



Gameplay is smooth and concise, important in such an massive game, with 24 filters providing an avenue to keep track of the many decisions required whilst keeping the interface from becoming cluttered (and most not really required if your diving in). Considering the turn based style, drag and drop moves allow appropriate planning. The 15 days movement structure progresses comfortably but allows enough pacing to warrant alternating strategies when required. In addition, the game ticks all the major boxes, with an excellent battle mechanic that provides for fascinating strategy (including influence of weather on troops shows the detail), intelligent markets, the economy is based on an extremely thorough number of resources (in excess of 20 with six main taxable categories) with each important in their own right and a rather intricate political model. The latter is especially fantastic, as it provides a very realistic take of diplomacy meaning war is not entered readily. Indeed, it is not possible to simply declare, you have to position your nation in the right way.

Further, the excellent high tech economy and infrastructure development ensures trade is dependent on national circumstances. Both a public and a private sector are affected by market pressures such as trade routes, availability and political state. Additional layers result in each nation possessing their own individual touches, England as a progressive nation, while Russia is somewhat sparse and agriculturally strong. Multiplayer is excellent. An added bonus includes the intelligent utilisation of the turn based strategy medium. It is possible to play via e-mail and thus you can battle your friends over time without having to organise a dedicated time to meet online.

Reshaping history, one territory at a time


Should a heavy gaming session be desired, or your friends are not available, the AI is extremely well done and provides an excellent and forward thinking challenge; complex strategy is a must although there are very few hints in obtaining your goals. Indeed, a major fault of the genre has been counteracted. Whilst it is possible to master the controls to enact sophisticated plans, each rule has a realistic negative exploitation of loopholes in the game design. A perfect example of this is maneuverability, which comes with a downside relating to supplies and fatigue, resulting in flanking sometimes being more hazardous then good if it leaves your troops cut off. Commendable detail indeed.

The historical accuracy deserves respect. Military uniforms, regiments and unit commanders names (not just of the 3 star generals but also the 2 and 1) indicate just how much went into researching and designing the game, whilst the NATO terminology generates a feeling of authenticity. Realism in terms of simulating major aspects of society and its influences on your military, public and private sectors, including the names of the companies add to the credibility. Music is themed according to stereotypical military music played as a shuffle. This music does not attempt to break new ground and due to the random nature does not add much specifically to the gameplay greater then slightly setting the mood.

Whilst the game is designed for hardcore strategists and military buffs, the casual modern history fan should not be discouraged from enjoying the wonders of this all encompassing strategy game. It takes dedication to learn the rules and the influence each of the many buttons have, but it is well worth the effort. The game's intelligence is commendable and the economic mode, especially the resources market, is fun.

- Owen S


Review: Pride of Nations (PC)
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