Lucasarts seem to have given up trying to produce another adventure to rival the famous Monkey Island series and instead turned their attention towards the world of strategy titles. Afterlife is a strategy game in the mould of Sim City. Transport Tycoon and Populous and all the other God games that put you in charge of hundreds of little people with the awesome task of managing their daily activities.
However, Afterlife is more than a little bit different to the aforementioned games. To start with, it isn't set in the 'real world' as we know it. It's an offbeat strategy game that lets you decide whether the lost souls from a humanoid alien world rest peacefully in Heaven, rot in Hell, or make their way back to the living world. Sounds weird? It is!
The designers decided that a game with a real world scenario that put you in charge of real people (such as Sim City) wouldn't give them enough scope to create something genuinely original. As Mike Stemmle. project leader on Afteriife puts it: "Afterlife isn't constrained by the built-in rules and assumptions of reality-based sims because after all, no one really has much of a clue about the hereafter, including myself. It's an unconventional and unique take on the genre that's both irreverent and staggeringly silly."
Having had a lengthy go at a demo, I have to agree with Mike that it is indeed irreverent, although I must have missed something somewhere if I was meant to come across something "staggeringly silly". If anything, despite the 'wacky' theme of Aftedife, I still felt like l was doing all the same things I did when I played Sim City et al, such as building roads, looking at graphs full of statistical data and building places for people to live in. This may or may nor be down to the fact that our demo doesn't have all the features that will be available in the final version - I'll be able to give you the answer to that when I get a look at the finished product. However, there was certainly enough to do in the demo to give me a pretty good idea what the game is all about...
Save our souls
Despite being a reasonably complex strategy game, Afterlife is fairly easy to get into. You start off with a rather simplistic-looking screen that shows the so far uninhabited domains of Heaven and Hell. As the game progresses, lost souls will come to see you and you have to send them off to their rightful place (Heaven if they've led a good life, hell if they were rotters, and limbo if you want to bore them silly). If souls believe in Heaven, you'll have to pop them in there and build somewhere for them to live; if they believe in reincarnation, you'll have to find some way of getting them back to the world of the living. If you successfully place souls in their rightful place you will get 'pennies from heaven'. You can then use this money to further expand your realms, making more room for new souls in the process.
If you cock things up. your little reign as deity will come to a swift end. Various things can happen when this situation arises: for instance, you may see a disco dancer enjoying a boogie across the screen, destroying all your buildings in the process, or you may see the 'Hell Freezes Over' ending which creates an icy catastrophe that plunges the game into deep freeze, or you may be treated to the zany 'Heavens Nose' ending... which shows a giant nose sucking up everything you've created.
All of this end sequence tomfoolery is no doubt meant to add to the 'wackiness' of the whole game, but I've got to admit it didn't do all that much for me. However, there are certain elements in Afterlife that give me reason to believe that LucasArts may be on to a winner. The on-line tutorial, for example, is an excellent idea - if you go through it step by step you'll be up and running in about 15 minutes. The ability to track individual souls as they wander around Heaven and Hell is quite impressive too.
Oddball qualities aside. Afterlife looks as though it could be a challenging and entertaining strategy game when it's finished. The graphics aren't up to much, but then seasoned strategists are quite happy to play games with knob presentation as long as the gameplay's up to scratch. We'll bring you a full review of the game next month.
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP