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The Rise and Rule of Ancient Empires is one of several sim-type games being offered by Sierra. This particular game puts you in the role of a leader of one of six civilizations: Greek, Egyptian, Indian, Mesopotamian, Chinese or Celts. The game concept is based upon the idea of a "What-if" scenario. What if the Greeks encountered the Egyptians, or the Chinese vs. the Celts? What would have happened? Well, if you are anything like me, you would have grinned evilly, and then conquered the buggers.
The concept is strong enough. You start off your campaign with a simple settler, find a place to build and then start churning out the parts that will make your empire. In this aspect, it is very similar to Civilization. However, unlike Civilization, the interface is not as seamless. Your people's production can be split along three lines: manufacturing (or training), food harvesting, and learning. All three are directly intertwined. A player can only produce certain objects or train certain types of people, depending on the knowledge that has been gained. At the same time, of course, one must keep his people fed or they will starve to death, at which point no one is learning or building anything. The location of your city will directly affect how quickly your city can start to produce food. In lush regions, food is abundant, but in the harsher austere climates of mountain ranges or deserts, food is almost impossible to come by.
The problem with the interface is that after a while, all the player really does is adjust the output bars to continue production. It becomes rote and repetitive and not to mention, dull. Furthermore, the player has no real interaction in terms of where he wants the city to grow. It is already assumed the your civilization has certain advances under its belt, but it would have been nice to guide your people along a particular path, such as military production versus technological expansion. While this may not seem like a problem at first, it becomes boring when you have founded your fifth city and have to start the whole process over again. Fortunately for the player, the game allows "philosophers" to travel back and forth passing knowledge, so that new cities don't have to spend as much time learning - they can just concentrate on manufacturing output. Still, how many times do you have to build the same structures before it gets repetitive?
The game also lost much interest when it became clear that it would be a while before there would be interaction with other cultures. I played against three other opponents, and it was almost after ten hours of game time before I encountered my first civilization. The other huge problem related to the game was the incredibly slow place at which it played. Rise and Rule is turn based, meaning that after you visit each one of your cities, and direct your people, you end your turn. It would take anywhere between one to two minutes before your turn would come again!!! One to Two MINUTES!!! That made the game completely unbearable, and I surprised myself by playing as much as I did. Then, when your turn came up again, you had to direct the same group of people over again, and check each city all over.
It would have been better, if each city was able to manage itself a little better. If you didn't keep your eye on your cities, people could starve to death within two turns. That was a level of detail in the game playing that was unnecessary. Ironically, there wasn't enough detail in other areas, such as if you wanted to build a road between two cities, there was no way to tell your sims to do it. You had to build the road one piece at a time. This game suffered greatly from tediousness.
The graphics weren't half bad. Not that sims offer much in the way of outstanding graphics anyhow. But R&R was pretty good, and every time a city learned something new, a nice little 3D rendered animation would come up. The one thing that was very solid in the game was the music (although after hours of playing, it too could become repetitive). The songs all fit the mood of the game and enhanced the experience.
Written by Anil Chhabra
Click here for screen shots.
IBM-PC 486 SW-33 Mhz or faster,
Min 8Mb memory,
Windows 3.1, Windows 95,
Hard drive required with at least 5Mb free,
Double speed CD-ROM drive faster,
SVGA VESA compatible video card,
Microsoft compatible mouse.
Sound Blaster or 100% compatible sound cards supported.
Modem or network (Windows 95 required for multi-player mode).
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