PowerMonger. (game software) (evaluation)
by Denny Atkin
A warlord's work is never done. Just last week you were the benevolent but firm ruler of the kingdom of Miremer. Then your land was consumed by earthquakes and covered in fiery ash. Now you and your few surviving subjects must move on and find a new homeland-a land where you can once again be Power Monger.
The creators of Populous have outdone themselves with their latest release, PowerMonger. While it may seem that going form being a god to being a king without a kingdom is a demotion, PowerMonger is a much richer game than its predecessor. With over 20 different commands within your reach and hundreds of lands to conquer, PowerMonger will keep you coming back for more.
You start the game with only a castle and 20 followers to your name. From this meager beginning you must gain power and develop skills to eventually conquer the 195 territories that make up the continent
With your army in tow, you approach the first town. You can take a passive, neutral, or aggressive stance as you enter the village. Attack isn't the only option-you can also try to establish an alliance or trade with the locals. However, since the inhabitants of this first island are weak and no real challenge to a conqueror of your skill, you attack. You could be aggressive, but slaughtering the entire population would be a waste of valuable resources-better to subjugate the populace. You take a passive stance instead and take control through intimidation, saving swordplay for later. Changing to a neutral stance, you recruit half of the town's residents into your army. You command the others to invent new weapons. Meanwhile, you and your now food-winter is approaching and if you don't stock up now, hungry soldiers will desert you when food gets scarce. After slaughtering a herd of sheep for food, ;you come back to the town to find that the villagers have carved an armory full of bows and arrows for your use. With your stock of food and new weapons, you quickly defeat the other village on the island. You reign supreme.
Of course, ;what great conqueror has ever been satisfied with a single triumph? You move on to extend your empire. As you do, you find that not only do the lands get begger, but the villagers also get much more resistant to conquest. Not only that, but it also seems you're not the only one with global conquest on your mind-there are other armies roving around the lands you must bring under your reign, trying to capture the same territories. The world won't be conquered in a day.
PowerMonger packs plenty of challenge. While sheer brute force will work early on in the game, in later scenarios you'll need to stop and plan out a detailed strategy or your army will be quickly overwhelmed. You have to plan your attacks, balance your resources, invent weapons, and recruit both soldiers and captains.
PowerMonger is played on a 3-D angled board similar to that found in Populous. However, this board is much more detailed, and the variety of structures, characters, and items you'll find is increased tenfold. The landscape is populated with peasants, soldiers, villages, sheep, trees, iron mines, lakes, roads, and more. All of these play important roles in the game: Sheep are useful for food, trees and mines are necessary for creating inventions such as boats and swords, and roads speed travel. You can get detailed information about anything in the game world by clicking the Question icon and then the object - you even find out the names, ages, and occupations of individual peasants. The world can be viewed from any angle, and you can zoom in and out on it.
As you conquer lands, you can also win enemy leaders over to your side. Use them as spies, or have them recruit armies of their own and use them to conquer multiple cities simultaneously. Be careful to plan head, though - your commands are transmitted to your captains using carrier pigeons, and if you change your mind, you commands may not reach your subordinates in time. When you've defeated a territory, you can move onto any adjacent land on the main map. However, when you move on, you must leave your new recruits, captains, and supplies behind. You have to start out fresh with only basic weapons and a few soldiers.
Graphics are step up from Populous, with better color, more detail, and faster screen updates. The number of sounds that Bullfrog managed to cram on a single disk is nothing short of amazing; sheep bleat, birds' wings rustle, and captains respond to commands with yeahs of varying enthusiasm.
Power Monger is a program with few flaws. Perhaps my biggest complaint about the game is that you must start over with a small army and none of your possessions after each conquest. While this keeps the game from getting out of hand, it would be fun to play the game on an imperial scale, where you would mass giant armies and take on largers and more powerful opponents. Also, the program uses a custom disk format that can't be duplicated without a commercial disk copier program, and it also requires you to look up a number in the manual each time you boot. The two-tiered copy protection is doubly inconvenient.
If you enjoy strategy games, Power Monger is a must-buy. It incorporates the best elements of war games with a simple but powerful user interface. The lands become increasingly hard to conquer, but casual players can always stick to the easier sections of the map. Die-hard war gamers who defeat all the computer-controlled levels can try the two-player modem option that, while a bit quirky, lets you take on both computer-controlled armies and a devious human opponent simultaneously, the ultimate challenge.
Far more than a rehash of Populous, Power Monger is the war game for the masses. If you buy one game for your Amiga this year, buy Power Monger.