The Seven Cities of Gold review
Seven Cities of Gold is a classic real-time adventure game. It was released for Amiga and C64 in the 80’s. EA also released a remake called Commemorative Edition for MS-DOS (PC). It was produced by Sega. I’ll review the remake as it’s the game I played.
It was an open world adventure game, focused on exploration, with some nice features:
- Paused realtime: During exploration, the game time only flows on realtime when the expedition moves (so it pauses when stopped). It’s pure realtime during village visits or battles only.
- Economy management: The player must form expeditions (buy ships, men and stuff), manage inventory (it’s limited how much you carry) and sell new world resources to finance future expeditions. The crown also contributes if you accomplish something. Also, player should manage food for expedition, settlements and mines. Economy is in fact the central objetive.
- Exploration: The expedition can cartography the new world map moving by ship on sea and horses or foot on land. It can also discover hidden resources on land. To succeed, it must avoid natural hazards, deal with hostile natives on land and with starvation. Exploration is core part of game.
- Exploring America feels like a rediscovery and it’s exciting if you’re into that.
- You can also generate random new worlds to enjoy the game on a fresh new map.
- Diplomacy: The expedition must dealt with various native tribes and some are initially hostile. Diplomacy is more complex than in other strategy games as it isn’t “just propose things”. Natives can provide valuable resources and help scouting to find more.
- Trade: Trade with natives is deeply linked with diplomacy in this game and it’s based on giving gifts. Player must also trade in Spain harbor to finance the expeditions and expand colonies.
- Conquest: Warmongering against natives is also a possibility instead of trade, but it’s hard to do in the remake and the crown dislikes it.
- Sandbox: The remake has goals and it’s won when you establish 1 colony, 1 mission and 3 forts within 10 voyages as time limit. But there are not constrains at all. That means you can freely explore and do whatever you want. After 10 voyages, the Crown cease it’s support but you still can continue playing freely.
- Remake game art: Soundtrack is small but the exploration theme (sounds on world map) is one of the most memorable I ever heard, it’s great. Also, the graphics are beautiful and more enjoyable.
There is something else in this game that still makes it interesting after so long. I think it’s more than pure nostalgia. It’s a game with soul. There is no other game where you can feel like a explorer of the New World, no other like this. The other games related to America discovery are mostly 4x strategy games. If you have played Colonization you’d understand it: that’s an awesome game but the feeling is different.
This is the best historical exploration game, mostly because there is no true competition. The game could be a well-remembered master piece but there are few serious flaws:
- The game fails to explain how some mechanics work, like colony types and combat, which also are too simple. It needs not polishing but real improvements on that regard to be a really good game.
- Exploration is great but it feels empty. Everything you find is generic (a village here, a mine here, a bison there, gold nuggets, …). I think this is the major flaw: no Fountain of Youth, no natural wonders, no Tenochtitlan, … nothing unique. And the cities of gold… seem truly lost.
- Native ambush is an random event and it’s annoying.
- The trade mechanic is uninteresting after some time, it’s a bit tedious.
- Clergy has no other use than fund a mission and, in general, the colonies has no other use than fill the objectives. It’s missing features.
- No AI competition. It would be nice to, optionally, have to compete with European powers and maybe
The remake had a heavy load of critics. Most of them come from players that played the original Amiga/C64 version, they seem to argue it’s a better game. I respect that opinion but I think the remake just made better various things (game art, objectives, …). Combat mechanic was tweaked but I actually think it’s a good change as you aren’t really expected to go destroying cities like nothing, in real life it was not that easy, quick and convenient.
The biggest flaw of the remake is that they mostly copied the old game but they didn’t tried to really improve it (no other than game art).
Why to play?
If you are interested in discover America like Christopher Columbus and other explorers did, this is your game. It’s the only game that is focused on adventure. Other games are just strategy games which is a distinct experience.
How to acquire
You can also play the old game, you should download the C64 Forever Edition (or other application) and search the game in any old-game preservation website.
Version / Platform
The reviewed game is the Commemorative Edition, which by the way it has aged good enough to be played today and, it’s easy to acquire.
I don’t think there will any other releases in the near future. Also we now live in a political-correct world where games like 7COG has no room, even if it’s fiction, because of the America colonization discussion.
Games like 7 Cities of Gold
There is no other game like The Seven Cities of Gold, but there are a bunch of games related to the discovery of America:
- Sid Meier’s Colonization. Timeless strategy (4x) classic, this one developed by Microprose. It’s the best strategy game sorely focused on the era of discovery on America and a true gem.
- Sid Meier’s Pirates!. Adventure game that features sea ship exploration too but it’s themed and focused around pirates.
- Conquest of the new world. Other strategy game, I think it aged badly and I never really got into it but feel free to try as it could be enjoyable.
- Civilization IV: Colonization. Remake of Colonization with Civ 4 engine.
7 Cities of Gold is a great adventure game. It doesn’t matter if you like more the old game or the remake at all. It’s a different game and it features some nice ideas that you aren’t going to find on other games. I hope some developer somehow revives this game.
How to play
- The player can form an expedition: buy ships, men, food and old world goods.
- The starting budget depends on difficulty level.
- When the expedition returns to Spain, the budget for the new expedition depends entirely on the goods the ships are carrying: you sell new world goods and restock on ships, men and old world goods.
- The men needs food to avoid starvation, so there must be an equilibrium between carried food, men and other goods.
- There is inventory management. Ships have big capacity (more ships, more capacity) to carry things but still limited by number of ships. On land, the men numbers give some carry capacity but the horses add more.
- The expedition can leave caches with stuff to recover later or create settlements if it leaves also men and food.
- Men can also be left on mines to generate more gold from them.
- The expedition cartographies the world map as it travels. The field covered depends on the number of explorers in the expedition. Soldiers and clergy don’t count.
- In sea, the expedition must move on ships (all ships move together). In land, the expedition can walk or go mounted if there is at least a 1-1 horse-man proportion.
- There are hazards in the sea: storm clouds and reefs. Both can damage severely or sink ships. If all ships are sunk then is game over.
- The natives in the land expedition help scouting in search of hidden gold nuggets, mines, bison, corn fields and burial mounds. Natives can’t board the ship but they can be left on land settlements.
- In the new world there are various native tribes, every tribe can be either pacific or hostile towards player when first enters on their territory (depends on their culture type).
- Every native tribe is composed of various villages. The expedition can enter in villages to interact with the chieftain.
- The natives can be pacified by giving “good” gifts or doing tricks to amaze the chieftain.
- Natives can turn hostile if the expedition draw its weapons, kills natives, threatens the chieftain or profane burial mounds.
- You can also drop gifts or amaze hostile native braves to distract them.
- The expedition can trade with chieftains to get new world goods, food and natives. It’s a give gifts to get gifts trade.
- If the expedition bores the chieftain with bad gifts, it’s expelled and it has to come back inside to start the trade process again.
- The most valuable good is gold. Gold can also be found in rivers and in mines on mountains. Excess natives can be useful to work in the mines.
- Trade is the most successful approach to win the game as it’s far easier.
- You can kill natives when touching them with drawn weapons.
- The natives can ambush the expedition at any time if the controlling tribe hostile.
- You can destroy a village to plunder it’s resources.
- Soldiers are the most effective manpower for fighting natives.
- Warmongering is an bad approach for winning the game, is not effective.