Merchant Prince II is an excellent sequel to Holistic Design's classic underdog Merchant Prince (which was later updated and published as Machiavelli: The Prince by MicroProse). Don't expect anything radically different or changed from the original game, as Holisitic Design clearly decided to use the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" approach. But given that Merchant Prince is one of our Hall of Belated Fame entrants, that approach definitely has its merits.
If you're familar with how the the original plays, almost all of it is here, just with updated graphics (which are not 3D quality but very nice), and some updated screens. The main playing screen has all the options on the bottom as a graphics icon.. to build roads, for example, you click on a cart. There are also nice-looking separate screens for battles, disasters, and other major events, again very nice-looking graphically. You can hold the cursor over an icon or option to see a quick description of what it does.
There are some new features in the game. One of them is the Research option. If you decide to turn this on when you start the game, you only have the ability to buy a few units -- small ships, small caravans, one type of soldiers. You can invest money in research options on the Venice screen, and slowly gain the ability to build all the regular units that Merchant Prince has, as well as new options to help increase your soldiers' combat abillity, for example, or make your parties more effective. For Internet games, you can also choose if you want to play it as turn-based, or simultaneous, which makes for a faster and more competitive online game.
Finally, besides the regular game (with the Earth map or a generated random one), you can also choose from five new scenarios. They are --
- Die Hanse -- You play in the Hanseatic League
- The Med -- You still play in Venice, but as a weaker and lesser known family
- The Orient -- You start in Shanghai, and play in Asia
- Marco Polo -- Recreate what he was able to accomplish
- Atlantis -- Try to maintain control of the damaged continent of Atlantis and expand to Europe and the Middle East to make your new home
I only have a few complaints about this gem. First, you need time to get used to what icon on the bottom of the main screen does what. An option to play 1300-1492 should have been included. Lastly, sometimes there is a lot of clicking to do what you want to do -- for example, if you click on the Venice screen and bribe a senator, then want to go buy a cardinal, you get dumped back to the main screen after the senator action... you have to click on Venice again to go back. There are enough new features in Merchant Prince II to warrant buying it even if you still play the original. Nothing radical has been changed, but at least you can play it in a nice, smooth, Windows version. As is noted in the back of the manual from Holistic, some people have reported that when they try to install the original Merchant Prince, the game reports they have NEGATIVE memory, caused by their hard drive being so huge! And it's only $30. My advice? If you liked the original, BUY THIS. If you have not tried Merchant Prince, you should still consider checking this game out. Don't let the turn-based format bother you -- this is a wonderful mix of trading, exploration, and adventure. You can buy it at TalonSoft's website, as well as many other online retailers. Two thumbs up!Reviewed by: SoulBlazer