In 1992, the “discovery” of the American continent had its 500th anniversary. Just in time, Impressions released their take on this, plus the conquest/colonization which followed, well in time for this celebration. Based on their own Merchant Colony engine, development effort was probably limited.
Taking the role of one of the major European powers of the time, your ships set sail westwards until they hit the soon to turn prosperous shores. It doesn't make a difference whom you pick, so if you fancy a bit of ahistorical weirdness, nothing should prevent you from picking Prussia (clearly a land-locked power, and not even all that relevant in the 15th century) or Genoa (whose purely Mediterranean colonial empire had just collapsed around this time). Adventurous small settler figures swarm out in real time to chop some wood, dry up swamp, build their new homes and start some farming. Wait, don't these mountains look promising? Maybe ores could be found?
Good thing we still have our ships to send goods back home to Europe or any other major port of the world to sell at a nice profit. Which, obviously, could be higher if we didn't just transport and sell raw materials, but processed or manufactured goods. For this, factories need to be built. Higher profit, finally, leads to more power obviously – the player's precise goal being selectable at the beginning (most gold, most settlements etc.) and leading overall strategy.
In a change from, there is a stronger focus on land-based expansion. The natives, while initially somewhat peaceful, don't react well to our expansion. So we secure our stakes with fortresses or even take the offensive route. As soon as we need their land, this will happen anyway. Boom! Another European power is sitting on those gold mines? Well, not for long – boom! Or maybe we should rather play it dirty, letting them do all the hard work, but sending some privateers to capture their transports? This way, plays out in a remarkably historical fashion completely and organically driven by player needs.
The same land focus also has the nice side effect of working around a couple of the previous game's issues. For instance, ship pathfinding is still awful, even up to the point of fleets just getting irreversably stuck on some coastline until they turn to real piracy out of demoralisation. Though with the main route just being east-west, across the open ocean, and ports simply being directly selectable as targets, such annoyances are less frequent.
A noteworthy transition happening throughout a typical game is the focus shift from away from micromanagement. While it is absolutely necessary to give each settler figure exact orders in the early game to get settlements started, as they will – in the best scenario – otherwise do nothing but chop wood or – worst case – be eaten by the swamps (yes, still, but at least swamps can be dried now, albeit manually), once a certain threshold has been reached, the player can safely focus on the bigger picture. I.e. the game changes from detailed, fine-grained optimization to global strategic decisions. This helps long-term motivation immensely.
Althoughdoesn't actually solve most of its predecessor's issues, it is a winner, because it works around most of them to a just sufficient degree. After the fairly stressful, but also interesting beginning, the feeling of reward and gratification grows and grows as your little figures move about the countryside, seemingly carrying out their business, not always quite targetted, but just nice to watch. It is a sort of charm which later games may have used to an even stronger effect, and in some cases coupled it with a much more elaborate economic model (most notably The Settlers), but in its own small ways, remains a piece of art on its own right in spite of interface imperfections.