Strategy games aren't normally associated with console gaming, instead favouring PC, Mac, and Linux as their platform of choice. This is why it's important for Grand Ages: Medieval to succeed: to bring the genre to a brand new audience. Developed by Gaming Minds Studio, the brains behind Port Royale 3 and Patrician IV, it's a super addictive title that has plenty going for it, albeit with some notable flaws.
Long ago, Tears For Fears sang, "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" – well, Grand Ages: Medieval grants you this possibility. Assuming control over a small settlement, you're given the chance to develop your land by investing in businesses and specialising in goods. You're also tasked with employing merchants, setting trade routes, and establishing an effective military force, as well as some other important responsibilities. Progression in the game's story occurs by meeting deadlines associated with these duties, and accomplishing objectives, set by an NPC.
It's important to note that the game focuses more on developing a functioning economy, building new settlements, and making agreements than waging war against other empires. The combat is simple, with the emphasis instead falling on balancing your production and consumption of goods to turn a profit. This makes up the majority of the title and is actually really gratifying to manage. With 20 distinctive resources available to develop, you'll spend your time experimenting with different assets, as well as researching new technology to speed up the rate and yield of production.
The release's events take place in a condensed world map, featuring Europe, North Africa, the Caucasus, and the Middle East. At the beginning of a playthrough, only European cities will be available to visit, with distant lands instead obscured from view by clouds. These clouds can be removed by sending scouts and settlers into the world to discover new areas. Unfortunately, all of the towns and cities that you'll locate are extremely similar in appearance and don't have much individuality to them beyond the ethnicity of their leader and what goods they can produce. This is disappointing, considering it erases what makes many of these places so interesting in the first place.
With that being said, the ability to explore caves and look for commodities makes up for this slightly. It contributes a fun diversion to the main tasks that you have to carry out, allowing you to pick up additional goods and extra coin to add to your coffers. Should you be struggling to balance your books, it also provides a nice helping hand to get you back on track with your finances and buys you some time.
In addition to single player, Grand Ages: Medieval also has a multiplayer component, which allows you to play with up to eight players. This is a brilliant feature that grants you the ability to attack your friends or aid them in the development of their towns.
All in all, it's refreshing to see a title that focuses on trade and economics instead of battles and warfare. Grand Ages: Medieval shows assigning assets and constructing businesses can make for a compelling gameplay mechanic. With so few games in this genre available on the PS4, it fills the void adequately, providing an engaging experience that'll likely take up much of your time if you can get past the problems.