We take a trip to Electronic Arts' offices to take a look at the sequel to Sunflowers' 1602 AD.
It's your choice, or at least that's what the development team at Sunflowers Interactive wants you to keep in your mind while playing the age-of-exploration strategy game 1503 AD, a prequel of sorts to 1602 AD, which was one of the top-selling strategy games in Europe. "The player can choose how they want to play the game," said Wolfgang Duhr, product manager at Sunflowers Interactive. "If a player settles on one island and only engages in trade, that's fine because they won't be attacked by other players." The reason for giving players more freedom stems from feedback given by strategy fans on both ends of the gameplay spectrum--those who didn't enjoy forced conflicts in their games and those who wanted to see combat play a much larger role. "Many people liked the fact that they could start a settlement, do whatever they liked to do, and not have the computer come over two hours later and destroy the entire settlement," said Duhr. "On the other side, players weren't happy that they couldn't choose combat because it wasn't a [strong aspect of gameplay] in 1602 AD."
1503 AD features five modes that take advantage of your freedom to choose an economic or militaristic path to world domination. The tutorial mode eases newcomers into the game and incorporates a help system that you can use to find information on different aspects of the game quickly. The help system is also present in other modes of play, but experienced users can choose to turn it off at any time. Single-player scenarios include objectives that you must complete to be successful. The new campaign mode includes a series of single-player scenarios as well as an overarching storyline that's told as you progress through the game. There's also an open-ended mode that has no set goals or objectives, so you can play this particular mode as long as you want, or at least until your civilization collapses. "None of these open-ended games will be the same," Duhr explained. "Everything will be randomly generated." 1503 AD's multiplayer mode includes head-to-head mode in which up to six players can decide if they want to join forces and take on other civilizations or remain solitary and rely on trade as a means for survival.
Though there are plenty of differences between 1602 AD and 1503 AD, the most obvious is the upgrade in visuals. Whereas 1602 AD had a somewhat dated look, 1503 AD has prerendered 3D terrain that reveals much more detail within the landscape and various structures. There is also natural moving water that includes fish as well as waves that break along the coastline to give the environment a lively look. You can also rotate the camera in four different directions as well as zoom in and out to get a better look at the environment around your settlement. In addition, each of the different civilizations has a set of structures and people that visually change in accordance with the age, giving each of them a distinct look.