Review: Pride of Nations

Pride of Nations is a turn based strategy game set in the Colonial era, a period rarely explored in gaming. The game takes full advantage of its setting to an extent which is quite remarkable.

Micro-managing is such an appropriate term that I may have to restrain myself from over-using it during the course of this review. The game features a great many different ways to entertain your detail-obsessed tendencies, whether you’re manipulating the stock markets, training armies or attacking your enemies. You’ll need to be completing objectives to earn prestige – the nation with the most prestige at the end of the game wins.

There are a few intricacies to the gameplay you might not often see in other games. One of the things you’ll need to be doing is making sure your stocks are healthy. If you’ve got more, for example, tea going out than you have coming in you’ll need to have some imported. If you’re running low on iron you can build an iron mine or buy some from elsewhere. There are so many resources for you to keep track of you almost certainly won’t be able to keep them all positive all the time, as buying and building all cost money as you might expect.

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Of course, there are ways you can make money, too. If you have an excess of any resource you can always sell some to earn a little back. This is just barely scratching the surface of the game’s mechanics and the game is far too deep to fully explain here, it was difficult enough for me to get it all into practise from the text-based tutorial. Still, its depth is guaranteed to delight those who crave it all.

It is a shame, though, that the interface is so unintuitive that it often feels like you’re micro-managing it as much as you are your nation. You manage your country via 4 different ‘modes’; Military, Economic, Colonial and Decisions. You can switch between them by cycling through them with a click of the button on screen, holding alt and pressing F1-F4 or they’ll switch automatically on certain actions. For example, if you select an army the game will automatically switch to Military, select a city and it’ll switch to Economy.

[drop]Unfortunately, you will be switching between them a lot manually, and you’ll also have to switch to sub-modes to do certain things within these modes. The sub-mode is different in each – in Military, for example, it’s used for training troops, whilst in the Economic mode it’s used to build buildings.

The on screen buttons for switching modes and changing into/out of sub modes are on the right of the screen, whilst the sub mode box appears at the bottom, so whenever you switch it feels a little grating to go click on the right and then have to move your attention back to the bottom of the screen. It all seems a poorly laid out and whilst not necessarily game-breaking, it is just a little aggravation that will always be there getting in the way of gameplay. It’s especially strange considering that multiple games and franchises have done it better before.

This is not the only place where the presentation in Pride of Nations falls short, however. The main game screen is a map that doesn’t look pretty but does its job just fine. Except that, despite being a static image with some small animated graphics on top, the game still has the nerve to stutter and jump when I zoom out and scroll around the map, obviously a fairly crucial aspect of a strategy title. Obviously performance varies depending on your equipment but there seemed little enough going on that it was a surprise to see.

Elsewhere, the text in both the tutorial and on the main menu has a bad habit of going outside of the text box. This doesn’t really affect gameplay but it does demonstrate a lack of polish. That isn’t the only element demonstrating a lack of polish either. At the end of the first tutorial you’re advised to move onto the next tutorial, which it says is the Military tutorial. However, in actual fact it’s the Economic mode tutorial. On top of that, the tutorials themselves are very wordy and require a lot of reading to get through, which is a cardinal sin for something that is supposed to be your accessible route into the game.

[drop2]The game is slow, too. Right from the start, booting up the game has you spend 30 seconds staring at a screen that, on a click, will glaze over with non-responsiveness until it finally finishes loading the main menu. And that’s not the slowest part – every time you end your turn, you’ll be greeted with 90 long seconds of loading before you can carry on with your next turn whilst your mouse cursor genuinely switches between 2 or 3 different loading graphics.

Whilst it is processing a lot of information, a 90 second loading screen every time you finish your turn is difficult to forgive, especially when your only company is the background music. Although the music’s crescendo-filled orchestral nature was cute originally, it quickly grated on my nerves and often inexplicably suddenly stops mid-track, switching to a completely different song. Put simply, it isn’t quite low key enough for use as background music.

Pros:

  • Very deep.
  • The colonial era is rarely explored in gaming and Pride of Nations does it reasonably well.
  • Heaven for those with micro-management fetishes.

Cons:

  • Mode/sub-modes system is needlessly convoluted.
  • Long waits while it loads between every turn.
  • A chronic lack of polish is evident throughout.
  • Despite basic graphics it still manages to stutter when moving around the map.
  • Music quickly grates and often switches mid-track.
If you’re looking for a very deep strategy game and are willing to overlook the above list of cons, chances are Pride of Nations will suit you. Likewise if you’re specifically looking for a turn-based strategy set in the colonial era, as this is probably one of very few, if not the only, choice. Otherwise, there are simply too many problems with the game to really recommend.

Score: 4/10

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3 Comments

  1. Seen this on Steam lately, was tempted but didn’t go for it. This type of game, although I love micro-management and creating grand strategys, just doesn’t suit me for some reason.
    If you’re looking for a good game set in the (early) colonial period, try Empire: Total War. Lost weeks to that game, completely awesome and my favourite game in my favourite series of all time.

  2. Not my sort of thing, ouch on the score side….

  3. Its the kind of game I wouldn’t play sadly.

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