Grand Ages Medieval review
Grand strategy is a funny old genre, a sort of Stockholm syndrome for the gaming world. As long as the mechanics are functional and your decisions tactical, then the longer you play the more forgiving you may find yourself becoming towards the game, a benefit that Grand Ages Medieval enjoys.
Favouring a more historical approach – akin to Crusader Kings and Europa Universalis rather than Civilization – the idea here is likely familiar to strategy fans: begin with a single settlement, build it up over the course of years and expand out, trading with other settlements and waging war with those who won’t bend to your will. Here the focus is on trade, requiring you to specify five commodities for each city you construct.
With only one trader per city, however, there’s a necessary micromanagement, a fact that will appeal to players of this sort of game. It’s admittedly a little more plodding than many of its competitors, but that somehow creates a greater sense of achievement once you’ve created an intricate web of supply and demand. There’s no way to monitor every trade you have ongoing at a glance, however, nor is it possible to track a city’s most popular resource. This makes it much harder to manage than it ought to be.
Diplomacy is a little lacking, too, with fairly limited interactions beyond paying for trade agreements and peace treaties; there’s no real sense of political turmoil that you might feel in something like Crusader Kings, just opponents to attack or trade with as you see fit. Combat doesn’t offer much in the way of strategy, either; the strength of your forces relies heavily on your trade income, but actual battles involve no greater thought than sending your army toward a threat.
But still. Grand Ages Medieval might suffer from its barebones features in some areas, but there’s enough depth in others – city building and trade management – that it manages to draw upon an unexpected compulsion. It’s rough around the edges and has spelling mistakes aplenty in dialogue and campaign text, but there’s enough of an appeal that it has something to offer more methodical, thoughtful gamers.
While the lack of information can be a barrier, the controls on PS4 aren’t; menus are easy to navigate, time moves slowly enough that unit manipulation isn’t a concern and there’s even a handy ‘added info’ button to replace the tooltips on PC. Flawed it may be, but Grand Ages Medieval has just enough newness to draw in the PC crowd and is part of a completely under-served market on console, making it a fine option for those on PS4 craving more strategy.