Imperialism II: The Age of Exploration
|a game by||SSI|
|Editor Rating:||9/10, based on 1 review|
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In 1492 an Italian sailed west under the flag of Spain in an attempt to find a new sea route to Asia. After undergoing numerous hardships and near tragedies, he returned to Europe with gold, spices and tales of a new world. In, that's the easy part. is a 4X game (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit and eXterminate) that covers the Age of Exploration (1492-1600). Your job is to lead a great power of Europe through this difficult period and hopefully to dominance in the old world.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Starting with one developed city, four untrained workers and a very small army, you must slowly build your way to dominance. And the keyword here is slowly. Suppose you want to build up your army to conquer the world. Well, first of all your soldiers need to eat, so you need a steady supply of food and at the beginning food producing resources are abundant. However, to make them produce more food your builders must first build farms and ranches, which require lumber and iron. More lumber and iron is needed for your engineer to build roads to link the resource sites to the capitol. So developing wood and iron ore sites takes priority over food sites. Once you're logging the forest and mining the iron, are you ready to build the army? Not quite. The wood and iron ore must be processed into lumber and iron in the capitol by your workers, but you only have four, not enough to keep even your builder and engineer busy. Before you can process more iron and lumber you're going to need more workers, but it takes cloth to recruit the peasants to your capitol. You have to develop those sheep ranches to get wool, and you need more workers to process it into cloth. And oh yeah, those new workers are going to eat the food you planned to use for that army you were going to build.
If you work slowly and deliberately with foresight and planning, you can eventually turn your country into a fully-developed nation with a thriving economy. Then you can build that army you've been wanting and go conquer the world, but wait a minute. Did you forget to discover and explore the new world? Establish diplomatic relations with the minor nations in the old world? Generate an income from gold and spices in the new world so you can pay to field an army? Research new technologies so that you have a real army, not just cannon-fodder? Enter alliances with the other great nations so you have some backup in case the neighborhood bully comes to call? Neglecting any of these areas will send you quickly back to start the game again.
Combat is an important part of the game and strategies evolve over time, as pikemen are replaced by rifle infantry and peasant levies evolve into sharpshooters. Artillery units are the most important, as a mismatch in firing range means your guns can destroy theirs without getting scratched. For those not interested in tactical combat, the computer will automatically resolve it, but I would recommend handling your own battles for a while to understand how the units work together and stack up against enemy units. Otherwise, it will take a long time to get a feel for building a successful army.
There's really not much to be said for the graphics in Imp II. They serve their purpose and they don't hurt your eyes, but that's about it. You won't be using this game to impress your friends with your graphics hardware. The only problem I had was that it can be difficult to tell if a mine is producing iron, copper, or coal. Eventually I got used to the colors, but it increases an already steep learning curve.
The sound effects are functional if uninspiring, but the background music should be turned off at the earliest opportunity. I don't know why games of this genre still have music included. I can't think of anything I'd want to listen to for the amount of time I spend playing these games. Unfortunately, the Imperialism II CD must be in the drive the whole game, so I can't even listen to my own CD instead.
Windows 95/98, 133MHz Pentium (200 MHz recommended), 16 MB RAM (32 recommended), 100 MB hard disk space, 4X CD-ROM drive, 800x600 display, DirectX 6.0
I wanted to love Imperialism II, I really did, but it didn't quite have that "just one more turn" quality that Civilization or have. The economy is grandly orchestrated and finely balanced. Diplomacy has a natural feel and requires a deft hand. Unit changes over time keep combat interesting and the units are well balanced. The AI is really good and will give advanced players a run for their money (although a patch was required to "dumb down" the AI for the easy level). Imperialism II is a well-designed, solid performer that makes a fun play and an interesting challenge, and the creators deserve kudos for a job well done. However, Imp II won't be joining the library of games that have a permanent residence on my hard drive. There are two real reasons for this. First, the game is the same every time. In Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri there are different factions, different victory conditions and different strategies to win, but in Imperialism II it's always the same game. Second, getting your nation up and running is hard. Getting a working economy took several tries, but after I did it I didn't relish the thought of doing it again. This criticism aside, I do recommend Imperialism II to any 4X gamers. At the very least, it deserves a look because it has a purposeful, "designed" quality lacking in so many of today's games.