Review - The Seven Cities of Gold


2775 Campus Drive
San Mateo, CA 94403
(415) 571-7171

48K $39.95

by Arthur Leyenberger

There is no question that Electronic Arts is the premier game company for the Atari computer. They have been in existence roughly a year and have already produced a dozen titles. Many of these games have become classics. You know the ones I am talking about: Pinball Construction Set, Archon, M.U.L.E., Axis Assassin, Hard Hat Mack and Worms.

M.U.L.E., which is an economic simulation taking place on a distant planet, was written by Dan and Bill Bunten of Ozark Softscape. Although difficult to believe, the Buntens have outdone themselves with their new game: The Seven Cities of Gold.

Seven Cities is a first-person simulation of sixteenth century Spanish conquistadors. After outfitting a ship and hiring a crew, you sail the oceans in search of new worlds. When land is sighted, you disembark with exploration parties in search of natives, treasures and the unknown. It is your decision to either trade with the natives or conquer them to obtain their valuable gold -- which you would like to bring back to the homeland.

As the game begins, you obtain an audience at court, seeking gold to fund your expedition. Once you obtain the needed monies, you can stop at the pub for a refreshing brew while you contemplate your journey. Using the joystick you scroll out of the pub and pass by your home. It is here that you can assess your status, formulate plans and say goodbye to your spouse.

Next stop is the Outfitter, where you hire a crew, buy food and goods and purchase ships. Finally, you embark on your journey, and the court wishes you success.

As your voyage progresses, you must navigate by latitude and pay attention to the passage of time. Storms may be encountered, and lives may be lost due to sickness and storms. It is important to cross the ocean with the least expense of food and life. At any time you can view the ledger of your cargo in order to continually plan your journey.

Once land is sighted and you bring the ships into safe mooring, you must decide on how large an exploration party you want and what provisions you want to carry. Food is all important, but carrying too much will slow your journey. Goods are useful for trading with the natives. And enough men are needed -- you may decide to establish forts and missions.

During your exploration of the local geography, you encounter rivers, takes, plains and mountains. You can travel at various speeds, but travel and rough terrain will cost you additional food and may slow you down. Once you contact a native village, you have several choices. You may give them gifts, trade with them or conquer them. Trading is safer, but it is slower and requires many goods. Gift giving may not produce any immediate results, except show your good will and perhaps convince the natives to eventually tell you where a gold mine is.

Conquering is the easiest, but it will cost you lives and leave bitter memories. Also, the natives may communicate your hostile intent to other villages in the area. It is best to look for signs to determine the mood of the natives before you choose an approach that may have significant consequences.

[Seven Cities artwork]
The Seven Cities of Gold

After you have traded with or conquered several native villages, you will want to get back to your ship before your provisions run out. If you have not paid close attention to your route up till now, you may have trouble finding your ship. It is not uncommon for you and your exploration party to find yourselves lost in the jungle... and starvation is an unpleasant way to die.

If you do make it back to your ship -- assuming they have not already sailed for home without you -- you must transfer your supplies and booty back to the ship before you leave. Then you sail back across the ocean to your home port. Although your first stop may be the pub for a quick brew, you should visit your home to record your maps and review your journey. A trip to the court is in order to bear your treasures to the Queen. If you have done well, you will bestowed with honors and maybe even a title. Now, if you can obtain additional funds, you may prepare for another journey.

Before you begin playing the game, you must create a map disk. You have your choice of using a map of the world as it was known in the 1500s or creating an entirely new world. Creating a new world takes about ten minutes and provides you with a much more challenging game. Rather than just creating random continents, the new world conforms to geological and cultural principles built into the program code.

There are several features that add to the playability of the game. Your current position may be SAVED to the map disk at any time. You may then resume the game from where you left off. A new game may even be started with a map disk without disturbing the previously SAVED game.

Seven Cities of Gold is an engrossing game. I have played it for hours at a time. Electronic Arts has certainly produced another high-quality game for the Atari computer. Seven Cities was written by Bill and Dan Bunten, Jim Rushing, Alan Watson and Roy Glover.

Now if you will excuse me, my crew tells me we are ready to set sail for the new world. Wish me luck.

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Original text copyright 1984 by ANALOG Computing. Reprinted with permission by the Digital ANALOG Archive.