Imagine a mixture between Populous, Powermonger, The Settlers and Civilization. What you get is. This is of course not overly correct. Some of the games are older than the game we're talking about here (Populous, Powermonger) and can therefore be classed as role models. Civilization was developed at the same time and The Settlers was released significantly later, so it was inspired by and not the other way round.
From the choice of other games to compare it with, it should be clear thatis one of these 'global strategy' games. Sensible Software is better know for their sports games (Microprose Soccer, Sensible Soccer, Sensible Golf) and their later smash hit Cannon Fodder. All these games have one thing in common: cute little sprites running around chaotically.
That is one thing you'll of course also find in this game. It was not the first one to break with the unwritten law that strategy always has to be presented in a very 'dry' way, but it was certainly another step to abolish to piece of prejudice once and forever!
I can already hear you thinking “get to the point”. Alright, alright. So you're controllling these cute little people who are living on a small island. Unfortunately, you are not alone on this island, another godlike creature has sent his or her minions, too. Your followers' development can be compared to cavemen, so there is not much you can threaten your competitor with. He/she is not in a much different situation, so you both settle on different ends of the island (which is divided into fixed territories) and let your people build some buildings (a stronghold, later also mines, factories and so on), do research to come up with new and better weapons and of course build these weapons.
You're on the right track, your people are prospering and their numbers are growing. You send a group of settlers to the next territory, and the whole process of technical advancement begins again which is a bit strange because for what reason should people lose their knowledge when they move to an adjacent territory? But that's the rules of the game I guess. Anyway, when you think you have the upper hand on this island, you send your soldiers to the by now of course heavily defended fortress of the enemy and (hopefully) wipe him out.
This basic concept goes on through the whole game, you hop from island to island, what varies is the number of enemies at once (up to four sides per island), the number of historical periods to go through (at the beginning, you will only be able to advance to the early middle ages with stone fortresses and archers, later you get to modern times with planes and everything) and the level of difficulty.
One level ( = island) rarely takes longer than 30 minutes (only the last ones do),is a very fast paced game. Even though you can always adjust the speed (very useful at the beginning of a level when you're just waiting for your scientists to achieve something), you will never be able to have it so slow that you have much time to think or plan! And if you're trying to do this is pause mode, you'll quickly understand that this will not do you any good because your plans are most most likely to be shattered to small pieces again as soon as you let the game run again - and something unpredictable happens. I'm not saying you can't plan and everything is random anyway, but you really need different 'thinking patterns' in than you're commonly using in round based strategy games
The game combines basic economics (mining natural resources, processing them in different ways which will decide about the course of the level) and basic military action (drafting men from scientific / mining work to defend the buildings or form an attack force) into what appears to be a quick snack at first, but later turns out to be a complete meal consisting of several tasty courses: the easy appetizers are followed by epic and heavy main parts which will, if you're trying to take too much at once, make you sit helpless in your chair and still make you want to have more - even though intellectually, you should know it was enough. With this completely messy and unclear methaphor, I'd like to close this review - and leave you all confused >:)