Wow…I’m impressed with this game. Looking at my Steam account, I’ve played this game for about 18 hours so far and it looks like there is no end in site. There might not be an end considering we’re looking at a game that covers the years 1850 to 1920. With each turn being 15 days, we’re looking at around 1600 turns per game. In my current game, I’m on turn 56. So, yeah…lots of playtime in this game. Let’s take a look at this bad boy and see why you absolutely need to get this if you’re even remotely interested in strategy games.

Trivia for you before we get into the review. How many Popes did we have from 1850 to 1920? We had four: Blessed Pius IX, Leo XIII, St. Pius X, and Benedict XV. There you go…you’re all caught up now :)

Pride of Nations(PoN) is a turn based strategy game that was developed by a company called AGEOD. AGEOD is one of those smaller companies that usually stay under the radar of the main stream “gaming industry”…and to most gamers for that matter. It’s usually companies like this who create games worth playing these days. Companies like AGEOD usually stay away from endless sequels and they’re not afraid of taking a risk every now and then, either. PoN is certainly a risk for them given what they’ve made in the past. Traditionally, AGEOD has created games that concentrated on one conflict and/or theater. Take a look at their previous offerings and you’ll see titles like American Civil War, Rise Of Prussia and Napoleon’s Campaigns. PoN is their first offering that gets out of the “one theater” rule and starts to look at things on a more global scale. If you ever played Europa Universalis 3 or Victoria I/II, then you have an idea of what PoN is aiming for.

Let’s start off with the graphics. The graphics are not state of the art, but they really don’t have to be for a turn based strategy game. For us “old timers” (…heh…), graphics are nice, but they don’t define a game. We leave the “flashy graphics makes a game” to the younger crowd and console gamers. The map is where all the action happens and so it should look nice. Like all AGEOD games, it is done very professionally. There are some blurry textures here and there, but for the most part, you get a very good sense of depth and color. The other main graphical centerpiece of this game is how your armies are represented. Armies, like the board games of the past, are shown as square chits on the map. Leaders of armies have real pictures from archived photos of those historical leaders…or so I’ve been lead to believe. Both the pictures of leaders and the representation of the armies themselves are remarkably well done and give the player plenty of information to go on. Of course, this wouldn’t be an AGEOD game without map filters. Ohhhhh man…the amount of map filters can be extremely daunting to a player who is new to AGEOD strategy games. If you want to see your supply lines, there is a filter to turn on. If you want to see trade territories, there is a filter. I think I counted about twenty filters that give you various representations of the map from military control to international relations. Crazy? Yes. Necessary? Absolutely. There is a lot of information that you need to understand in this game and filters is just another tool to help you make the right decision.

Map looks great

Moving onto actual game play, because that is where the meat of it is. At the beginning of the game you are asked to pick a nation. At the time of this writing, there were only about eight nations to choose from, but there are plans to add more nations with DLC as well as patches. Actually, as of patch 1.01h, they added two more nations, so this isn’t a “yeah yeah…we’re getting to it” kind of thing. No, they are adding quite a bit of functionality as they move along with patches….but more on patches later. Now, when you first start out as a nation, there are many things to consider: your military, your economy and industry, you relations with other nations, colonial aspirations. How you develop your nation is completely up to you and there are plenty of tools given to you to forge your nations destiny. This is not just a game about war and conquest…as much as you’d like it to be sometimes. No, like all great nations, industry and economy is usually the first order of the day. Within your nation, you’ll find resources that you’ll need to gather and turn into raw materials for use in making everything from luxury goods for your citizens to guns for your armies. Of course, this is the 19th century, so coal was the new gold back then as it drives the backbone of your economy as well as your war machine. I must admit, that I’m only now starting to understand how to drive my nation’s economy. Yeah, I’m 18 hours in and only now starting to get it. That’s not a hit against the game, it’s more a hit against me because I don’t read manuals unless I’m really stuck. Don’t be like me kids…read the manual on this one because there is a lot under the hood.

Since this is a turn based game, you’ll be spending most of your time making sure all of your economic ducks are in a row before your hit the “next turn” button. This is essential, because without a good economy, you can’t have a good army. Army’s can get quite large in this game. In my current game as Prussia, I have some armies as large as 60000 men in them, comprising of a couple of corps and a few divisions. In my current war with Russia, they fielded an army of about 150000 men. Yeah…the war with Russia is not going so well, but thanks for asking. Armies vary in size and usually come in brigades, divisions as well as corps. Corps being the largest to field are usually are 27000 men including about three artillery regiments. The detail to which these are modeled is very impressive as each regiment within these armies have various stats and abilities that go along with them. When two opposing armies meet, combat starts. There is really nothing the player does during combat and it is all done automatically. You are only in control of building your armies and getting them into the best position possible for combat. At the end of combat, a report is given so that you can see both what went right, and what went wrong. Did you charge across a river? Well..that’s why you lost about 3000 men and ended up retreating. These reports are important as they will inform and teach you. Territory is taken from the opponent via sieges and all out assaults on towns and villages. Usually, a peace is negotiated between opponents which would usually include reparations of land, money or other diplomatic options. I find combat and raising armies in this game to be extremely satisfying.

Uh ohhh...I'm in trouble.

One more thing: Bugs. When released, this game was not really in the best of shape…or not the shape it should have been. There were reports of crashing, memory leaks, missing features and other various annoyances to some players. The good thing is that AGEOD and Paradox are on top of this and have already released many patches that have addressed most issues. As of patch 1.01h, most of the bugs that I have had are fixed…but there are still some outstanding bugs out there. This game is far from the status of “buyer beware”, just be aware that you might find yourself in the minority of hitting bugs when purchasing this game. A lot of the bugs being reported now look more like system specific issues than anything else. The one thing that most players are complaining about is the amount of time it takes to process a turn. For me, it clocks in at about 3 minutes for a turn to be resolved. The most extreme case I’ve read about is 9 minutes….although I’m confident that it is more a system issue than the game itself. Most players are reporting  2-4 minutes per turn. In today’s “gimmie it now” age, 3 minutes seems like an eternity, but it really doesn’t bother me. If you’re an impatient gamer, then best you know upfront what you’re getting into.

Overall, this game is extremely engaging and is well worth the time and effort to learn the mechanics of guiding a nation through the 19th century. For those who love the turn based strategy genre, this is a must buy. For those who are new to turn based strategy game, or AGEOD games, you might want to look elsewhere for your first dip in the strategy pool. For those new players, head on over the the AGEOD website and try one of the demos. Try the demo of PoN just to see if this is something you want to sink your teeth into. This is a deep, rewarding and fun game. I highly recommend everyone and anyone to take a look at PoN and even other AGEOD titles.

D out.

Copyright 2011 Darren Love