I Wish I Could Review Pride Of Nations

By Dennis Scimeca in Hands-on, Humor
Tuesday, June 28, 2011 at 4:00 pm
Pride of Nations Review_Intro Image.jpg
It looks pretty, but damned if I know what it means

Many video game journalists avoid reviewing massively multiplayer online (MMO) games, because the understanding is that these are specialist titles that truly require experts to assess them properly. The lesson I learned from trying to review Pride of Nations is that at this level of complexity, turn-based strategy games require specialist reviewers, as well. After over a week of having the game, I still have no idea what the hell I'm doing when I try to play it, and it comes down to one thing: my refusal to read the manual.

If there's anything I expect from a modern video game, it's not having to read a manual. I expect developers to provide me with a robust set of tutorials, or gradually introduce me to the mechanics in limited scenarios. Tutorials should walk me through all the basic commands such that, when it comes time for the full game, I have the rudimentary skills I need to play it, and learn mastery along the way.

Pride of Nations has nothing of the sort. The tutorials are only text boxes, thin slivers of guidance for a game which is all sorts of dense with menus, sub-menus, sub-screens, multi-colored map filters, and complicated unit cards. In every case, the tutorials instructed me to turn to the manual for more information after not even explaining all the basics of their given topic.

The manual is a 142-page tome with 129 pages of pure rules. Every time a tutorial window told me to refer to the manual, I told the window to go to hell.

Pride of Nations Body Image.jpg
After starting at menus like these for long enough, I almost read the manual. Almost.

I'm no stranger to turn-based strategy games. I once taught myself how to play Gihren's Greed, a turn-based strategy game set in the Mobile Suit Gundam anime universe. Gihren's Greed was entirely in Japanese. I had to download player-created guides to translate the controls, which were all kanji.

Gihren's Greed was easier for me to learn than Pride of Nations.

What sucks is that, with some actual tutorials, Pride of Nations might have been a fun game to play. It is set in the late 19th century, when the major powers of the world were spreading their influence in South America, Africa, and Asia, establishing colonies and protectorates, and fighting with each other over the right to do so. One of the most interesting aspects of PoN was the "Colonial game," where countries can influence regions by bribing tribal chiefs, sending in missionaries, or launching scientific expeditions. I wish I'd been able to figure the Colonial game out.

Pride of Nations Body Image 2.jpg
I think this screen has something to do with Diplomatic Mode, but wouldn't put my hand on a Bible and swear to it. And I'm not even religious.

PoN has an Economic mode where you build factories to tap natural resources, and trade "stocks" that represent said resources, with other nations. There's a Diplomatic mode that the tutorials never even introduced, and the military game was preposterously complicated. Forces are made of Units which are made of Elements which have dozens of stats you can investigate, and to figure out what the hell the Elements are, you may have to refer to page 137 of the manual which begins two a half pages' worth of NATO military symbols.

I hate reviews that don't really talk about the game, but I can't talk about Pride of Nations because I couldn't figure out what the hell was going on. The reason why turn-based games of this complexity require specialists for reviews, is because only those enthusiasts are going to muster the patience to deal with the learning curve. It comes as no surprise that only six outlets have reviewed PoN at the time I filed this copy, even though the game came out two weeks ago.

I'm sure that the historical accuracy of military uniforms, historical scenarios, and period soundtrack of Pride of Nations are enticing enough to draw in fans of the genre, but they were all I was able to appreciate.

This review is based on a copy of the game provided by the publisher.

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