In order to create a truly advanced society, you'll also need to look beyond the West to discover what the East has to offer. To truly enjoy life, your people will need spices and other goods that they just can't produce for themselves. It's a good thing, then, that as your European village develops into a proper city, you'll earn recognition from other leaders and slowly gain access to the architecture and technology of the Orient, which enables you to create Eastern settlements as well. Contrasting the marketplaces, churches, and peasant homes of your Western towns with the bazaars, mosques, and nomad houses of your Eastern settlements makes Dawn of Discovery feel broad in scope and also brings a great deal of visual diversity to the game.
Your journeys will take you to Eastern lands as well.
When playing the continuous play mode, you're given a huge number of customization options to tailor the game to your liking. These include the overall size of the world, the number and size of the islands in it, the fertility of those islands, your starting balance and conditions, the number and skill of AI players, conditions for victory (if any), and plenty more, which allows you to set your own standards for success. You can set out to form mutually beneficial trading relationships with the AI-controlled players or wipe them from the face of the earth. It's important to note, though, that while military might does come into play in Dawn of Discovery, military strategy does not. If you want to win a war against another player, you'd better have a richer, stronger society with an infrastructure capable of producing more troops because combat comes down to players throwing their armies at each other and seeing the larger army emerge victorious. Some may find this disappointing, and those seeking engaging military tactics are advised to look elsewhere. Dawn of Discovery's approach ensures that you can't win or lose by military tactics alone and that success is all about making your society flourish. Single games in the continuous play mode can easily take a dozen hours or more to resolve, so don't expect to get a quick fix here. This is a game that will keep you up into the wee hours as things slowly but surely continue to develop. Players who like completion will enjoy coming back to the continuous play mode time and again to try to attain the game's 206 achievements, which include such lofty goals as constructing a massive imperial cathedral within eight hours and simultaneously owning 10,000 buildings.
A huge part of what makes all this world management so compelling is just how alive that world seems. As you look down at your settlements from on high, you'll be captivated by all the activity. Smoke rises realistically off of production buildings while workers till the fields. The streets fill up with nobles and peasants, laborers and beggars, worshipers, and rabble-rousers. Carts travel along the roads, carrying goods from their makers to nearby markets. The seas, too, are busy with trade ships going to and fro along their routes. And should you fail to meet the needs of your people, you'll see their discontent reflected in their behavior as they walk the streets carrying protest placards, starting fires, and destroying buildings. The one thing that can break the spell that the visuals cast is the tendency of people and ships to pass right through each other, which is particularly noticeable when you zoom in for a closer view. On the whole, though, Dawn of Discovery is a visual delight.
The music and sound also contribute significantly to the allure. The score changes with the action to create a sense of both the intimate and the epic, shifting from the gentle strumming that might befit a small hamlet to lush choral arrangements that set the tone for huge European cities. It also switches to an Eastern motif when you're overseeing a settlement in the Orient. The sounds are authentic and outstanding, from the lapping of waves onshore to the creaking of wood as boats rock back and forth on the water. You'll also hear your residents hawk their wares at the marketplace and comment on their quality of life.
Setting out to build an imperial cathedral is a truly massive undertaking.
It's unfortunate that you can't share the world of Dawn of Discovery with other human players because the ability to trade marzipan and brocade robes or wage war with your friends would make the experience all the more compelling. And we encountered a minor bug with a mission in the campaign's fifth chapter that required us to load an earlier saved game, which is consistent with experiences that many players are reporting. But even as it stands, the lively, inviting appeal of the worlds you'll discover and create make this game's 15th-century setting a place you'll naturally enjoy spending time. There's so much to do in Dawn of Discovery, so many goods to buy and sell, and so many goals to strive for that you'll enjoy coming back to this game of commerce and conflict time and time again.