1497: Five Years After
for Amiga (OCS/ECS)

Mr Creosote:
Company: Jan Hagqvist
Year: 1996
Genre: Strategy
Theme: Business / Historical / Multiplayer / War / Unfinished
Language: English
Licence: Shareware
Views: 1173
Review by Mr Creosote (2023-11-18)
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Colonization Reloaded… or something like that? For sure, someone must have loved the Microprose classic there. The big question with these… “inspired” games is always whether they manage to build their own identity. Because honestly, why play a second-rate imitation when you can have the original as well? Let's see how 1497 fares.

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Before we continue, let's get the elephant out of the room first, shall we? In spite of sporting the version number 1.0 and having been marketed as commercial shareware for a couple of years, the game is glaringly incomplete. In single player mode, 1497 remains a pure sandbox game. There is no artificial intelligence inside the game at all. There are as many European nations active as there are human players, never more. Natives remain purely passive, just waiting for their cities to be destroyed and never even trying to strike back.

The reward for burning down cities is gold and slaves. Slaves are even represented as regular units which can be freely moved around, but they are good for… nothing. They cannot work, they cannot join settlements, they cannot be sold for profit at one of the neutral trading posts. Regular goods, produced in the colonies, can be, again increasing the credit line. Though this also serves absolutely no purpose. The player's account increases, increases, increases, but there is never anything to pay for. Appropriately at this point, there is no winning condition. The game will simply go on forever. Or rather: until the player(s) gets bored. As such, there can be no doubt: this is not really an entertaining game, because what are the chances of finding other human players these days?

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For those academically interested, let us dive into the question of this game's unique identity anyway.

At first, some minor clunkiness of the controls aside, it indeed all feels like Colonization. More or less wild land is just waiting for settlers to arrive, build cities, develop the land and… kill all the current inhabitants. Let's keep things historically accurate, shall we?

Colonists take over various basic jobs inside the settlements, such as lumberjack, miner or builder. Common resources such as ore or gold need to be managed. Construction of standard buildings leads to more options, such as an armoury obviously being used to build weapons to then equip soldiers. Soldiers? Didn't I mention the senseless killing of the natives earlier? That, or you can try assaulting the other players. Or at least defend yourself against those bastards.

Though then indeed, seemingly subtle, but finally quite significant differences emerge. 1497 turns out to be much less building centric. Indeed, the complete initial growth phase of a city is usually best spent not building anything at all. Even later, each construction project has to be well considered, because they compete for space with exploitation of natural resources, due to the squares surrounding the city actually being used for such construction.

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This also introduces an interesting aspect into warfare. Even if a city itself may be too strongly defended, the surrounding land can be pillaged. An effective way to destroy or at least strongly damage an opposing country's power base.

So here it is, the game's identity. What could have made this one unique and worth playing.

Though then, even if playing against others, competition really remains optional. The world map is large, effectively too large to really force confrontation. Even four players can easily expand for a hundred years without ever going head on. Sid Meier's famous game design principle of either doubling it or cutting it in half clearly has not been applied here.

It is what it is. A brave attempt by two individuals to create something big. They got surprisingly far. There are some ideas in there distinguishing their product from its inspiration source. Development has stopped back in 1998, so I guess it's fair to say now, 25 years later, that chances of it being picked up again are zero. Though if anyone else wants to start from scratch and make a Colonization style game, there may be some not too bad ideas to snatch in here.

Comments (1) [Post comment]

Mr Creosote:
Here is a game none of you have ever heard of, let alone played. In spite of 1497: Five Years After not even being such a bad name. The theme is instantly set without being overly generic. It triggers the "I get this" reflex without being elitist, too clever for its own sake. Between 1996 and 1998, it went through various revisions, starting at version 0.09 and finally reaching the treasured 1.0. Let's have a look at that one.
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