|Im just glad
Imperialism II got published. Though its predecessor, Imperialism, was a critical hit for
SSI, its not like theres an enormous market out there for sixteenth-century
turn-based grand strategy games with in-depth economic, diplomatic, and trade models.
Mores the pity, because Imperialism II outshines its illustrious original, offering
a cleaner interface and an intriguing game situationthe Renaissance race to convert
New World resources into Old World political muscle.
In Imperialism II, the player takes the role of one of six Old World powersEngland, 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, youll also need to manage your homelands economy. At first this is a fairly easy job; youll search out your own land for hidden natural resources, construct roads and ports, and develop agricultural resources to provide your work force with food. Youll also have to embark upon a diplomatic courseyou can attempt to forge alliances with other major nations, or try to form pacts and trade agreements with the several smaller nationslike Ireland, Germany, and Scotlandthat will lead to future profits, political influence, and possibly their entry into your empire. While juggling all of this, youll have to make hard decisions about what technologies your country will researchdo you want to develop your military? Your trade routes? Your countrys infrastructure?
And that, as I said, is just the beginning. After your ships discover the New World, youll have to dispatch explorers to establish contact with the tribes that populate it. After contacting them, youll have to decide whether you wish to exploit their resources through diplomatic meansestablishing an embassy and buying land in their provinceor through military onesinvading.
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 its not unusual to see small skirmishes in the New World turn into full-fledged war in the Old one. Once the New Worlds resources start pouring in (and youll 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.
In the meantime, youll 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, thats 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 games clean and efficient interface ensures that all your wits can be directed towards winning the game, rather than fiddling with screens and controls. Youll need a lot of information each turn, and in Imperialism II its both readily accessible and easy to understand.
The games 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 Imperialisms or Civ IIs, and the 2D animated sprites are functional and clean, but less than inspired.
More problematic is the games tactical battle screen. You may, if you wish, fight out battles (mostly sieges in this period) on a screen that looks a lot likebut is a lot less sophisticated thanthe 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. Im not quite sure why such a deep strategy game contains such a superficial tactical complement, but its not a happy decision. Fortunately, you can turn use an autocombat option if you so choose, and I usually do.
But thats the only down side to Imperialism II. Its deep and detailed and therefore not for everybody, but its an excellent title that sort of got lost in the flood of god games released this Spring. If youve 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.