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GF! Archival Version Copyright 1995-2004


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by SSI


Ups:Deep strategy game with excellent interface and involving gameplay. Civ fans should dig it.
Downs: Not for everybody; combat system very superficial. 
System Reqs:
Pentium-200, 32 MB RAM, 4X CD-ROM  
imp1.jpg (8459 bytes)I’m just glad Imperialism II got published. Though its predecessor, Imperialism, was a critical hit for SSI, it’s not like there’s an enormous market out there for sixteenth-century turn-based grand strategy games with in-depth economic, diplomatic, and trade models. More’s the pity, because Imperialism II outshines its illustrious original, offering a cleaner interface and an intriguing game situation—the Renaissance race to convert New World resources into Old World political muscle.

imp2.jpg (8318 bytes)In Imperialism II, the player takes the role of one of six Old World powers—England, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Holland or France. At the beginning of the game, the world map will reveal only the Old World, and one of your initial priorities is to launch fleets that will seek out the New World and the tribes that live there. While your intrepid explorers sail around the globe, you’ll also need to manage your homeland’s economy. At first this is a fairly easy job; you’ll search out your own land for hidden natural resources, construct roads and ports, and develop agricultural resources to provide your work force with food. You’ll also have to embark upon a diplomatic course—you can attempt to forge alliances with other major nations, or try to form pacts and trade agreements with the several smaller nations—like Ireland, Germany, and Scotland—that will lead to future profits, political influence, and possibly their entry into your empire. While juggling all of this, you’ll have to make hard decisions about what technologies your country will research—do you want to develop your military? Your trade routes? Your country’s infrastructure?

And that, as I said, is just the beginning. After your ships discover the New World, you’ll have to dispatch explorers to establish contact with the tribes that populate it. After contacting them, you’ll have to decide whether you wish to exploit their resources through diplomatic means—establishing an embassy and buying land in their province—or through military ones—invading.

imp4.jpg (8832 bytes)All of this is, of course, made much more difficult by the fact that the other major nations are all trying to do the same thing, and it’s not unusual to see small skirmishes in the New World turn into full-fledged war in the Old one. Once the New World’s resources start pouring in (and you’ll have to build a large fleet for transport), the real fun starts. Luxuries from the colonies like sugar cane, fur, and tobacco can be refined to provide the consumer goods that allow you to build a more powerful work force, cotton can be used instead of wool to produce cloth, and silver, gold, gems and spices can be cashed in for money.

imp5.jpg (10353 bytes)In the meantime, you’ll have to adjust your trade policies to compensate for your shortages, tailor your diplomatic policies according to the fluctuating fortunes of other nations, and fiddle with your technology as your political and economic goals change. And then, when the time is right, you can deploy your political and military might in an attempt to conquer Europe. If this all sounds complicated, that’s because it is. Imperalism is a detailed and deep game. It demands that players conduct a delicate balancing act on constantly shifting terrain.

Fortunately, the game’s clean and efficient interface ensures that all your wits can be directed towards winning the game, rather than fiddling with screens and controls. You’ll need a lot of information each turn, and in Imperialism II it’s both readily accessible and easy to understand.

The game’s graphics are nothing to give someone a raise over, but are more than adequate for a turn-based strategy game. The world map looks like a slight upgrade from Imperialism’s or Civ II’s, and the 2D animated sprites are functional and clean, but less than inspired.

imp3.jpg (7855 bytes)More problematic is the game’s tactical battle screen. You may, if you wish, fight out battles (mostly sieges in this period) on a screen that looks a lot like—but is a lot less sophisticated than—the Heroes of Might and Magic I battle screens. Most of the battles are fought over the same terrain, and the combat model is very rudimentary. Strangely enough, trading is more exhilarating than fighting, as combat is repetitive and boring. I’m not quite sure why such a deep strategy game contains such a superficial tactical complement, but it’s not a happy decision. Fortunately, you can turn use an autocombat option if you so choose, and I usually do.

But that’s the only down side to Imperialism II. It’s deep and detailed and therefore not for everybody, but it’s an excellent title that sort of got lost in the flood of god games released this Spring. If you’ve become a little tired of conquering the future in Alpha Centauri, I highly recommend that you turn your sights to the past and Imperialism II.

--Rick Fehrenbacher