Sail the unknown seas in the hope of fame and fortune in a solitaire action-strategy game brilliantly crafted by the same design team that produced the 1984 Arcade Award winner M.U.L.E. Ozark is obviously a unit on the rise, because the fluid play-action, exceptional animated graphics and painstaking attention to detail and nuance of Seven Cities are significantly improved over the group's previous effort.
The program can generate two types of environments. You can cross the Atlantic to explore the New World as it existed circa 1492, or a special hemisphere generator can create a "what if?" scenario through application of geological and sociological principles. The latter has the advantage of smoothing the edge resulting from whatever you remember from all those U.S. geography lessons in school.
The simulation begins in Europe,
where the player must outfit an expedition. The Royal Court sometimes grants a loan to speed you forward. The next phase involves sailing the fleet across the ocean and finding
something without knowing the longitude.
Reaching land permits the option of dropping anchor and sending out an expedition. Such parties earn players points for making discoveries such as the sources of rivers, contacting natives and amassing gold. A visit to court back in Europe lets the gamer see a rating for the voyage just completed and for the game as a whole. A compaign can be saved from play-session to play-session, or a new game can be initiated with either a new or the existing hemisphere.
The joystick-operated native interaction phase is not only a triumph of computer graphics, it is almost a game in itself. After entering a village, an expedition may try a variety of strategies ranging from bribery with gifts to wholesale murder to achieve desired objectives. Credit the designers with sensitivity for making a bloodyhanded approach to dealing with indigenous civilizations something other than an expressway to glory. Killing the natives can work - let's face it, several countries had pretty good success with hard tactics -but it-also leads to mounting resistance, heavy casualties for the expedition and a reprimand from the sovereign back at home.
And if bribes and force fail, you can
always do something to amaze the locals into submission.
Seven Cities of Gold is fascinating,
sophisticated and yet easy to learn.
And that makes this disk worth considerably more than its weight in precious metal to any computer gamer.