Seven Cities of Gold Revisited

Instead of writing about a game I haven’t covered yet, I spent an awful lot of time in the last couple of days playing Seven Cities of Gold on an Atari 800 emulator. A game I’ve already covered here, while Bryon over at Stir Fried Pixels posted his own thoughts a while ago, as well. And… ‘wait, what? Atari 800? Why’s that?‘ you ask. Well, I’ve read that the original Atari 800 release is supposed to be the most ‘complete’ version of the game, so I was curious. And gee, I’m surprised I found time to get off the game to write this post, to be honest. (Don’t worry, Ultima IV, I’ll be back to complete my task to become the coolest Avatar dude there ever was).

It all started some days ago when I found my old copy of Seven Cities of Gold – Commemorative Edition, remembering how different it was compared to the original. And while it’s a good game in its own right, there was just something missing. Cue Atari 800… tadaaa.

One of the coolest features, regardless the system you play it on, is the random map generator. Because the thing about using the historical map is that, even with an average knowledge in geography, you already know where everything’s located, really. With a random map, on the other hand, you’re literally exploring the unknown, hopping from island to island in the hope to stumble across a continent.

After having a quick go at the historical map, I used the map generator to create a new world for me to explore. The whole process took roughly ten minutes (thankfully, the emulator got a Turbo-Mode). It’s the end of 1500, and I just completed my fifth or sixth voyage. In those eight game-years I discovered several large islands and, on my last expedition, a huge landmass located in the south, presumably a continent.

7cog_anim_mapOn the right an animated map of my last voyage. After checking on my mission (more on that in a minute) I headed south, passing the small island and using it as a navigation point, then turning south-west, towards the V-shaped landmass. After sailing eastwards along the coast, making landfall and sending an expedition inwards on a couple of occasions, I came to the conclusion that this truly must be a continent.

But not everything is happy go lucky. On my second last expedition (1499) I established a small mission on one of the first islands I discovered way back in 1492, just to say I tried to establish the first colony in the New World before the end of the century. Well, I did indeed try, and it ended in disaster. See, I somehow miscalculated the amount of food they needed, and the following year, when I came back to check on them, the mission was empty and 40 colonists just perished. Thus ended the first attempt to colonise the island of… umm… dunno, haven’t given those places a name yet. But, you know what? I just do it now… ahem… I hereby name these lands ‘The large island north-west of that other large island’. Shall it be forever known by this name.

Until now, I’ve always approached the natives peacefully, handed out gifts and engaged in trading. Well, apart from a couple of incidents, where the whole tribe went after my party and I had to fight my way out of the village. And then there was the very first village I visited, where I accidentally bumped into the chief, killing him. (Forgot that, unlike in the¬†Commemorative Edition, you have to stand next to him and not walk into that fella to start trade). The tribesmen were not amused, I can tell you.

But no matter what I do, every time I return from a voyage and visit the King and Queen, they always tell me the same. And what they say to me is not that uplifting at all. After I returned from my first expedition, they flat out told me my performance was, and I quote, “poor“. Same again after my second one. Third expedition? “Poor” etc… You notice a pattern? Ok, I do realise they’re monarchs and stuff, so can say whatever they please, but c’mon guys. I spent all that time exploring Terra Incognita and discovered those lands for you, and that’s how you thank me? [sigh]

I’m still not sure about my next expedition. I’ve got plenty of gold, so could assemble a huge fleet to explore that continent. Or I do some roleplaying, and pretend I got relieved of command (remember, my performance is supposedly sooo poor), with a Conquistador taking over, trying to conquer those rich Inca cities I’ve discovered on the continent.

I’m just glad everyone’s got the opportunity nowadays to have a go at all those old systems, thanks to emulators. Speaking of old systems, RetroReactiv8 posted a cool article a couple of days ago, speaking of how we were biased and loyal towards the system we owned back then. Yes, Fanboyism already existed back in the 80’s.


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