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  Imperialism II

Starting in the year 1500, you set out in a ship to either find the spices of China and India or fall off the edge of the world. Life is not so complicated yet but times are a'changing as you soon discover that the new world is going to makes things different back homemuch different. With life at such a 'primitive' level so to speak, living was much more arduous and labor intensive. Ship design and technique was chancy at best and getting back home was a gamble. But these were gambling times and risking tradition and age-old myth, explorers set out to make glory for empire and (the wife and kids!). So come take a look at what Frog City (Developers) and SSI (Publishers) have laid at our feet.



An unknown land unfurls before you. To become one of Europe's Great Powers, you'll have to parlay this discovery into conquest. Then exploit the New World's exotic resources to swing the balance of power back home.

Develop what you can, trade for the rest. Deploy spies to help stay ahead of the technology curve. Build a formidable military. And don't forget: the object is to unite Europe under one flag - Yours!

A hidden new world, different in each game, to explore and conquer
Unlimited gameplay with the choice of playing a historically accurate scenario or randomly generated scenario
New high-resolution art and graphics in rich Baroque style
Over 4o military, naval, and civilian units from over 300 years of history (1500s to 1800s)
Robust diplomacy and trade options figure heavily into gameplay
An expansive technology tree with over 100 discoveries allow the player allow the player to set the direction of their Great Power’s development through research.
Enhanced AI factors nation-specific personalities, strategies, and diplomatic agendas
Revised tactical battle system gives more control during conflicts
Face historical foes such as Queen Elizabeth I and Cardinal Richelieu -- each with their own distinctive personality and style of play
Random events like plagues and infestations
Simplified, intuitive interface and gameplay tutorial for first-time players
Two level zoom feature lets you take a "grand, strategic" look at the world
Multiplayer support for up to 6 players on Mplayer, LAN, or Internet.

First off I have to say that Imperialism II is one tough game to play. It is pretty well essential to run the tutorial in order to get a handle on how to play. I played the introductory level about 6 times before I managed a victory. Mind you, I was tweaking my economy, learning what to research first, getting a handle on the diplomacy and generally trying to stay afloat. But I have to say that you cannot jump into this game and 'expect' to win with little effort. Imperialism II is hard to play and stay on top of.

That said, I must also say that this game is fascinating in its depth and character. If you want to 'win' at Imperialism II, you will need to understand the various facets of the game. These are technology, diplomacy, trading, industry, transport and battle. Get those under control and maybe you will have a chance.

But the first thing you must do is pick a game to play. The tutorial is more extensive than many I have seen and well recommended. Not doing it will mean a lot of manual reading, which you will have to do anyway. You can pick the world as we know it or a more random landmass as you examine the available resources each Great Power has to access. Once you choose whom you will represent, you pick the site of your capital (if that option is checked) and it's off to the races.

And what a race it is. One of your ships must head out and discover the New World. Your Explorer is also busy finding what lays in the hill, mountains, deserts and swamps of your home country. This way you will find valuable resources to develop and produce commodities. You will order your Builder to go in and build on the terrain tiles to make them more productive. There is a cost for each level of production at double the cost of the previous level. Level Four is basically 16 of each commodity needed to build with. Done cautiously.

The Engineer lays down roads and builds forts/ports at your command. These items are extremely important in maintaining the empire. The Rail Builder allows the maximum transportation of commodities throughout. If you can afford to develop resources to level four, than rail is the way to go.

The Merchant is an interesting character. Once you establish an embassy in a nation/tribe, you can send him in to actually buy resources and this gives you the right to develop them. You will still have to pay for them but you get first bid and prices will improve over time. The Spy gives you a chance to steal what technology another Great Power has learned as well as discover what size of garrisons exist in cities.

Putting all these guys to work is hardly half of Imperialism II. There are the various facets that I mentioned earlier.

The Technology tree is something that you will need to study at length. This is because there is very little chance of you being able to research everything that is possible so you will have to pick a route on the tree and try to use it to advantage. You may try rule the seas via naval discoveries, enjoy the best economic power with evolved agricultural techniques or simply use military advantage by getting the best and biggest guns first and plowing the opposition under (though unlikely). The screen has a menu with researchable technologies with a set cost for starting research. Pick one and you can increase the progress of the research but at a greater cost. Hmm... spend the doubloons on that new galleon or sit tight with that leaky old boat that has been around the globe ten times.

Diplomacy here is a double-edged sword. Forming alliances with everyone can be trouble because once one Great Power declares war on another, you have to make a choice on who to support- which means someone is going to be pissed at you. But there is more to it here as you establish trade consulates and embassies which can evolve into pacts and alliances. If you can manage the extra cash, foreign aid through grants and trade policies will improve your relations. Maybe you can talk another nation into joining you empire though this is very hard to do. The five screens here show the world map and allow you to do various diplomatic functions or gather info on progress of other Great Powers/Tribes/Nations.

Trading is interesting if you can either establish enough funds to buy someone’s surplus or make a surplus to sell. You can basically bid on products or the materials to make the products. There is no guarantee that what you want will be available but once you do start a trading relationship, you may become the preferred customer or seller.

The screen here is basically to pick the buy or sell column in the commodity you wish to deal in with up to four bids for buy/sell (six later with research).

Industry is where you will make some tough decisions. Here is where you hire workers, upgrade them to apprentices, journeymen, and master artisans or convert them to military units. And keep in mind that you must feed them every year/turn. There are basically three screens here to adjust your production of industry, hiring of workers and military/civilian units.

Transportation is a juggling situation. The roads are no big deal but shipping stuff gets tricky. Once the seas get dangerous because of diplomatic relations, you have to keep fleets available to protect the shipping. This means fewer ships are available for holding cargo. It also means that you will have to garrison cities but then I get ahead of myself.

But this is something that you will have to pay considerable attention to in order to keep a steady flow of goods coming in and keep the empire productive.

Initially you will concentrate on discovering, developing and learning what you get your hands on. But eventually things are going to come to a head and it will be time to field the armies. This is where it gets very interesting. The computer works out sea battles but land battles can be entirely handled by you. This is where Imperialism II gets to be real fun. Here is where all the effort in discovering and learning about new military technology can make a difference. This is because there are some thirty military units available over four eras. The right mix can win battles and hold cities, which is so crucial to winning this game -especially when the diplomacy has failed.

The computer AI handles battles quite well so you will need to put some thought into what kind of army you field. As soon as possible, gunpowder should be discovered so that you can shoot defenders off the battlements and bombard in turn. Mixing in sharpshooters with cavalry and light cannon usually wins the day but this may change as the fortifications improve. SSI was smart to keep the battles separate in Imperialism II event wise and you will appreciate the change in scenery from working on a world map to up close and dirty.

In the End...

Though I remember playing the first version of Imperialism, it didn't quite grab me the same as Imperialism II. The game has improved overall with better rules, more intricacy and better looking. It immerses you in a period that we have few pictures of and mostly stories about. You manage an economy of an empire and direct its expansion while in direct competition with many other historical Great Powers. You will eventually have to face the same on battlefields to determine the future. The game also included Softkey's "Explorers of the New World' that is a low tech look at history as it existed during the period of Imperialism II. Also of note is that Imperialism II is patched to Version 1.02.

If the above suits you, then here is the ultimate strategy game of the past. The game has been improved over the old Imperialism but it still is a real challenge to win at. Imperialism II has nailed down life of the 1500's period as we are to arrive in the Year 2000. 500 years and some things never change.

Review ID Number: 167
  Product Details
Review Date: 2001-04-20
Reviewer: Nick Sardy
Rating: 8 out of 10
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