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Posted on Oct 16, 2009 in Electronic Games

Dawn of Discovery – PC Game Review

By Cave DeWitt

Dawn of Discovery
Publisher: Ubisoft. Retail Price: $49.99

Pass Inspection: Unlimited replay value, detailed graphics, great city-building experience.

Failed Basic: Lack of multiplayer option; needs detailed game manual.

The city building of Dawn of Discovery is second to none and rivals that of City Life or Sim City.

Dawn of Discovery is a city-building game with a heavy emphasis on trade, economy and, of course, military. One of the more exciting differences with Dawn of Discovery compared with other games in this genre is that its city-building takes place in the 14th century in a distant land with plenty of rewards and vast amounts of risk. You duty is to appease your King by expanding his empire while competing against rivals, pirates and friendly nations. Helping you along the way is your permanent ally Lord Northburgh, who is always open to trading with you and sometimes will provide you a with a naval fleet in times of need. As you explore the world, you’ll come across the great mystery of the orient. Once discovered, Grand Vizier Al Zahir becomes another ally, providing you with new opportunities to open up your trade routes to more exotic goods, to discover new designs for buildings and the potential for more rewards and quests.

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Your first responsibility when discovering an island is to build up a basic infrastructure. With houses, a marketplace and shops to produce goods, you’ll soon have a bustling activity around your village. In order for your civilization to advance from basic goods to luxury items, you must first provide the raw materials your townspeople are requesting. Each island is unique in what you can produce, which in the end makes this game that much more difficult. Islands are capable of only growing specific crops, minerals and furs. While one island can grow hemp, which makes rope and clothes, another island, can grow dates or mine jewels and coal. In the end, that means you must balance the right amount of production with what materials are actually needed: produce too much and you’ll find yourself paying for production with zero output. Your strategy depends on exploring the entire map and finding new islands to set up other settlements. As the game evolves, you’ll have multiple islands and settlements to manage, giving those who yearn for a cornucopia of multitasking and city management a dream game to play.

After settling your first island and seeking out additional islands, you soon notice many of the tiny attributes that really bring this game into its own. The graphics and music are two of the major peripheral pieces that add another dimension to the game. For example, when there is danger like a thunderstorm or a trade ship coming under attack, the music turns dark and foreboding. The graphics are exquisite and present surprises throughout the game. As your city grows, you’ll see workers traveling along the streets with empty or full wheel barrels depending on their route, rioters raising a ruckus against your poor management, or deer running through the fields because … well, because they’re deer.

What makes Dawn of Discovery so different from other city building, economic and military games, is that you can pick your ending. You have your common endings, chosen by selecting among six different scenarios, from the easiest setting of Elector to the hardest and most arduous setting, Imperator. The option of selecting “continuous” game play allows the user to decide how the game will end. Options range from “never-ending,” “diplomacy,” “sunken ships,” “conquer the world” or the most difficult, “building the Imperial Cathedral” or the “Sultan’s Mosque” or both! With so many ways to end your campaign, you’ll be replaying this game time and time again to try out new strategies. To keep the player busy, you have over 250 “attainments” you may achieve. These “attainments” range from completing quests to building churches. They are rarely easy to complete and to finish them all would be a significant achievement in any game.

The game isn’t all about your economy and building the most prosperous trade routes and trade treaties. Wars against rival players and Corsair pirates are always just over the horizon. Wars can start over something as simple as another faction not liking you. The game allows you to flatter rivals, which can lead to trade treaties, but too much flattery can work against you, leading to a battle you aren’t prepared for.

Battles scenes in Dawn of Discovery are a tad cartoonish and really come down to who has the most ships or soldiers. There isn’t much of a tactical component to it, but building defensive fortifications and developing alliances with players will always make you one step ahead of your enemy. Also, a player should take advantage of Lord Northburgh, as sometimes he’ll supply a fleet of ships to help defeat an enemy.

Beyond trade, production and military achievements, players also have the option of completing various quests, which reward you with money, goods or Honor. Honor is attained through activities that typically benefit Lord Northburgh or Grand Vizier Al Zahir. As you continue to trade with Lord Northburgh, his disposition with you will gradually increase and after awhile he will award you with a certain amount of Honor. As you acquire more Honor (from your two mainstay alleys or quests) you’ll be able to use it to your advantage. Honor can be traded in for upgrades to increase warehouse storage space, recipes for planting new seeds or buying good-will documents that can be given to Grand Al Zahir in exchange for new buildings of the Orient to construct. Honor can also be bought. Have enough money on hand and you can pay to increase your Honor. If you find yourself with a vast supply of Honor but running low on money, you can do the reverse. As your game progresses, you must use your Honor wisely, as it’s easy to use but hard to gain.

As mentioned before, quests provide you with an escape from the micromanagement of your city. Quests come and go and are given by Lord Northburgh and Grand Al Zahir. Each one has a side story and must be completed within the timeframe given. With quest, it’s always something to be gained and rarely your loss if you choose to ignore it. Before each quest is accepted you can see your reward, which can help determine your motivation in finishing the quest. The quests are a small part of the many “attainments” you can accomplish in this game.

Dawn of Discovery does have some setbacks. The lack of any substantial manual providing you with insight on how to play the game is a major weakness, as you’ll find it extremely difficult to learn how to advance your society, cultivate your crops and determine placement of buildings in your settlement. The other missing piece is that Dawn of Discovery lacks any multiplayer capability. This is a perfect game for utilizing multiplayer competition, pitting two friends against each other in trying to outsmart their rivals while enlightening their society and harvesting the raw materials that provide the most money and happiness to citizens. Players who don’t enjoy managing every aspect of their empire may find this game tough to love. In order to win the game, a player must know every detail of his or her town’s management, which may turn off those who are looking for a non-thinking city-builder game.

Overall, Dawn of Discovery is a dream for those who love to micromanage every aspect of their city. The city building of Dawn of Discovery is second to none and rivals that of City Life or Sim City. The trade and economy is complex and entertaining and plays like a game of chess, always making you think three moves ahead. With careful planning and by taking advantage of your trade routes to the Orient, you’ll soon see your coffers exploding with money.

Armchair General Score: 85%

3 Comments

  1. Enjoyed the review. Just picked up the game and so far have really enjoyed it.

  2. Finally a new city building game! Getting sick of Sim City and looking forward to trying this one out. Never been interested in this time period, but always willing to try something new.

    Keep up the good work!

    Doug

  3. I’m trying to get a world city status any sugestions would be great

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Great History - [...] Might be time to jump back into the city-building game arena; http://www.armchairgeneral.com/dawn-of-discovery-pc-game-review.htm [...]
  2. History Roundup 10-23-2009 « Great History - [...] General has a couple of new game reviews for Dawn of Discovery and World War 2: Time of Wrath. …

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