Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 52 / SEPTEMBER 1984 / PAGE 109

The Seven Cities Of Gold

James V. Trunzo

There is nothing quite as frightening—or exciting—as the unknown. Imagine, then, what it must have felt like to be with Pizarro, Cortez, Ponce de León, or Columbus and to sail away from the familiarity of Spain in search of discovery, gold, and fame.

The ocean was wide and uncharted, and the lands were filled with strangely painted natives who were often hostile. The storms were fierce and could easily blow the ship far off course. Starvation and a slow and painful death would follow if land was not sighted. Yet even in the face of such obstacles, the conquistadors were lured by the promise of gold and treasure. The ship's captain just had to be brave, smart, and lucky enough to discover a new world.

Gold For Spain

One after one, the would-be explorers visited the court and on bended knees requested a grant to buy ships and hire men. In return they promised to establish missions for the church, forts to prove Spain's sovereignty, and gold to fill Spain's coffers.

Now you can experience the thrill of sighting land after a long, arduous sea voyage. You can also experience the pride in returning to Spain after having explored the Mayan Peninsula and discovered rich and fertile lands; or the shame of returning home after having lost most of your crew, several ships, and having no gold to show for your efforts.

Graphics And Strategy

Ozark Softscape, in conjunction with Electronic Arts, has produced a riveting new adventure game entitled The Seven Cities of Gold that places you at the helm of a fleet of ships and allows you to venture forth from Spain in search of a new world, wealth, and fame.

As in their award-winning game M.U.L.E., the Bunten brothers have designed a graphically enhanced strategy game that challenges and educates as well as entertains. Upon booting The Seven Cities of Gold, the player finds himself in front of a palace in Spain. He has just been given a commission by the Spanish court; and as captain of a fleet of four newly outfitted ships, he is ready for his first voyage.

Leaving The Old World

After scrolling past a pub, his home, and an outfitters building (all important places when returning home from an expedition), the player leaves the Old World and ventures forth in search of the new. Sailing is controlled by the joystick, as are all actions and options. While at sea, the player may navigate the ship, view the map, and keep track of how many days have elapsed. The latter is especially important for several reasons. For one thing, your food supply isn't unlimited.

Eventually you will sight land. At this point, you will have to decide how much of the on-board supplies, goods, and men you want to take to explore the uncharted mass into which you have just bumped. Now the real fun begins. There will be lush jungles, fertile plains, intimidating mountain ranges, dangerous swamps, major rivers, and natives.

Jungles And Swamps

Accomplishing all your objectives is no easy task. Ambushes in the thick jungles will take their toll as will sickness in the swamps. Food is a constant source of worry; men won't travel on an empty stomach, let alone fight on one. And as the land grows cold with the approach of winter, food becomes scarcer.

Once you decide that it is time to return home (a decision often made easy by the loss of men, goods, etc.), you must navigate back to Spain. Assuming that you make it back, thwarting the best efforts of nature's storms, a trip to your home will provide you with a tally of what areas you have discovered, what forts and missions have been established, and how much wealth has been obtained. A trip to the court will give you a rating based upon your successes or failures. More gold, a promotion, or chastisement awaits you in the court. Finally, a trip to the pub allows you to record (save to disk) maps for future voyages. The outfitter? Most assuredly, it will be your first stop before weighing anchor for the next excursion. There you will buy food and goods, hire more men, and perhaps even purchase more ships.

Historical Accuracy

The mechanics of The Seven Cities of Gold are easily implemented and well-done. All movement, both on land or at sea, is handled by use of the joystick, as are all option selections and even combat. The graphics are well-done, and Cities contains over 2800 screens that represent the lands you will explore. The computer literally draws the map as you move about North, South, and Central America, all accurately depicted.

Your expedition is represented by an arrow moving over a variety of easily identified terrain. Symbols are used in various places to represent hundreds of different types of settlements, ranging from farmers and hunters to wealthy Aztec strongholds. It is upon entering one of these settlements that another of Seven Cities' delights is discovered.

Once the player has moved the arrow onto a settlement symbol, the screen symbol begins to magnify, increasing in size until it is replaced by a detailed graphic screen. The arrow is replaced by a conquistador who represents the expedition, and you find yourself in the middle of the settlement, rapidly surrounded by natives. Find their chief and begin trading, or draw your sword.

An Enchanting Challenge

There are many more surprises in The Seven Cities of Gold. The program both challenges and enchants. It forces you to consider various strategies: What is the best way to outfit an expedition? Do you have enough men to establish forts? When should you return home for more supplies? Even the time of year can be an important factor.

And what happens after the player discovers the Mississippi or the Amazon, gold mines, the Fountain of Youth, and all the mysteries of the Americas? Is the game over? Not a chance. Aside from the fact that the game could be played again using different strategies and achieving higher rankings, Seven Cities of Gold provides a utility that randomly generates entire continents; no two are ever the same. Furthermore, all games can be played at one of three levels: novice, journeyman, or master.

Seven Cities of Gold
Electronic Arts
2755 Campus Drive
San Mateo, CA 94403
(415) 571-7171

Available for Atari now and for Commodore 64 soon.