VIC TOKAI hits the Super Nes scene with their new shooter, Imperium. The scenario is set on a distant planet where all human life dissappeared a millennium ago. You must pilot your ship and destroy the evil robot society. Imperium is action-packed with six levels of constant action. There are also four weapons to choose from and 3 power-ups for each of them. Your ship has a defense system that allows for you to be hit three times before it is destroyed but at a loss of weapon power-up.
At first glance, Imperium is less attractive than Overlord. Colorful graphics are not to be found, and the game is more difficult to get into. The main player interface is a series of screen windows with dialogue boxes, and your main task is to move from window to window, adjusting numbers and assigning tasks to various personnel, fleets, and diplomats.
Unlike Overlord, this game does not operate in "real time." You can call up the windows in any order you choose, do whatever you want, and finally select Next Turn. The computer then performs your actions and those of the computer opponents. When the next turn begins, you get a series of reports telling you what transpired.
As the manual explains, your role as Earth's elected leader is to make our planet the most important world in the galaxy. Your specific objectives are to remain popular; to manage the economy (both internally and by trading with other empires); to succeed both militarily and diplomatically against rival empires; to expand through colonization and conquest; and, perhaps most importantly, to keep yourself alive a long, long time by finding and maintaining supplies of nostrum - the galaxy's life-extending drug. If you conquer all of your enemies, or if you survive for a thousand years (each turn is one year), you win the game.
By clicking on icons that run across the top of the screen, you can set taxation levels, build alliances, place embargoes of various kinds against misbehaving empires, call for elections, get reports, build and dispatch troops and fleets, and retrieve the galaxy map. The map is the only real graphics feature of Imperium, but thanks to its ability to rotate planets around the stars in each system, it's impressive.
Within most windows, you can also click on other icons to select details or give orders. It is through these subsystems that Imperium takes on its complex shape. For instance, you must select the right subordinates for the important jobs of military, economic, and diplomatic expansion. You must also pay constant attention to reports, and act on them immediately and decisively.
All this makes Imperium a rich strategic game. It places more emphasis on diplomacy than Overlord, and in almost all details it's considerably more complex. But it's also longer and less instantly gratifying than the graphics-rich Overlord. Imperium is clearly aimed at a different kind of player.
With either game, though, you're in for a number of enjoyable and exasperating hours as you work your way through the problems of running a galactic empire. It's a tough job, but somebody has to do it.