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Publisher: Runesoft    Genre: Strategy & War
Min OS X: Not Supported    CPU: 601 @ 180 MHz    RAM: 32 MB    Hard Disk: 250 MB

Knights and Merchants
December 21, 2001 | Adam Newman

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I’m one of those guys that wants to give people (and their work) the benefit of the doubt. I really do. Can you tell already that this won’t be a glowing review? I genuinely feel that calling it a mediocre “Sim-Middle Ages” or “Middle Ages-craft” is a fair summary.

Knights & Merchants takes you through a series of scenarios designed at conquering your little part of the world. Like Starcraft, Warcraft, and all other “crafts”, the scenarios and goals get increasingly difficult as time passes. Unfortunately, time passes VERY slowly.

The game does have two tutorials. One teaches basic village construction and the other battle tactics. Or so they say. The village tutorial was helpful, but I found that learned very little about commanding my armies in the battle tutorial. I confirmed this as I watched my armies get decimated in battle after battle.

Unfortunately, the documentation does little to help. It lists out each building or army unit, what it basically does, what it requires, and what it produces. That’s the more or less of it. It took me 30 minutes to figure out how to get out of “construction mode” and back one level so that I could click on other buildings to get their information. Maybe I’m clueless, but it wasn’t obvious to me. The manual describes keystrokes to allow this, but they never worked for me.

The game is controlled with mouse clicks and pointing. If you click on a building, you get its information and production values. If you click on a military unit, you can command it. Simple, elegant, no frills needed.

You begin with your castle and a school. The school produces new serfs (for work), new workers (to build things), and recruits (destined for various military roles). In addition, you can produce the various craftsmen to support your growing village. The initial development of your village is straightforward. Produce an inn for food, a farm to supply the mill, a mill to grind the corn to supply the inn, etc. Then add armorers, weapon makers, mines, and such to increase your resources. And DON’T forget to put roads to your new buildings. Without them, construction grinds to a halt.

The military AI seems quite oversimplified. Once engaged in battle, I found it very difficult to withdraw and regroup. This got irritating quickly as well.

Multiplayer gaming is described in the manual, but I was unable to test it.

Both the people and buildings in Knights & Merchants are nicely rendered and are flawlessly animated. The 3/4 perspective is appropriate and well done. As your people move over the unexplored areas of the map, those regions become visible.

The background music is unobtrusive. The sounds of construction are tied to the buildings being built and are clear. The trouble is, after about 15 minutes, the sound of your quarry cutting rocks and forest losing trees gets OLD REAL FAST.

I really wanted to like Knights & Merchants. I’m still playing a bit to see if there is more there than what I have discovered. It simply feels like I’m playing a “Sim” game without the meat. An old “Sim” game. It’s nice on the surface, but for me, the frustrations and limitations outweighed the “fun factor”.

• Beautiful animations
• A topic that Maxis hasn’t “Simm-ed” yet
• No blood, gore, decapitations, maiming, or other gratuitous violence
• At least the pc cheat codes work

• Irritating sound after a few minutes
• Repetitive animations for building/developing villages
• Village development and road building take forever, even sped up
• Nothing new here

Knights and Merchants
Publisher: Runesoft
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