The Deluxe versions of the early to mid 1990s were a strange trend. Essentially, those games were remakes with very light extensions of the originals' gameplay.never made it to completion, but among others, Railroad Tycoon, Pirates! and Warlords II got such a treatement. And, of course, . For this game, it was hardly the first remake. Best known for the 1987 version subtitled , its history actually reaches back to the mainframes of the 70s, obviously fully character based at the time, before being ported to the then current home computers of the 80s, with a graphical facelift in order to enable commercial exploitation of the by then fully matured game.
Consequently,is anything but a far cry from that previous release. Players can feel right at home, even down to virtually identical icons being used to represent the military units. The basic concept of starting out with one single city and conquering the yet to be explored world by producing such armies being obiously retained anyway. Indeed, this game plays identical to its predecessor in its standard mode.
The most apparent change is on the presentation side. Even if it's not as much as expected. Graphics can still be considered functional at best. The high screen resolutions supported (up to 800x600, something rarely seen in games at the time) offer a good overview of the battlefields, but not much more, and they are still the high point of this overall aspect. Controls are alright, but some things just take too many clicks; particularly, scrolling which forces you to actually use the bars on the screen sides, and “waking” a unit from sentry duty again. As far as sound is concerned, apart from some forgettable battle effects, the game features the music from hell!
During battles, there is exactly one tune which is constantly played. The melody is boring, but it wouldn't be worth further talking about, if it had been integrated right. Though as it is, every time a new unit becomes active, the tune starts over. The average map is quite large, with many units active at the same time. Typical player behaviour isn't to take time to plan strategy per unit, but to come up with an overall plan and then simply carry it out. Meaning the units are moved in rapid succession – having the effect that only the first one or two seconds of the music are constantly repeated over and over again. For sure, music isn't the most important aspect in a strategic war game, but here, it leaves the impression of its integration never even having been properly tested. Speakers off, everyone!
Technically questionable decisions aside,may have been a little old-fashioned in 1993, but it has become brutally out of touch with typical player expectations and playing patterns another 27 years later. It's a long game, not structured into major phases or otherwise guided. There are no major changes of gameplay throughout and of course, it does suffer from the “long endgame” where although the winner is already clear, the game just goes on for another hour or two until it's official. Casual playing in small bites is just impossible.
For those who are still reading at this point, i.e. those we can assume to still be interested in such a genre, let's go into the details of the gameplay.
One design choice which keeps distinguishingfrom many other war games is its clear focus on naval operations. Land forces are limited to a single basic unit type, the same for the air force. The navy, on the other hand, can consist of a whole six different ship types. Even disregarding the army transporter and the aircraft carrier, four remain. Three being simply ships of different sizes, where the strategic challenge is basically the trade-off between power versus production time, but the final one being a submarine for which special visibility rules apply (transports and even the behemoth battle ships are particularly vulnerable against them). Although finally, the victory condition is conquering all cities, which can only by done with land armies, those land battles are solely a matter of quantity attrition. The real strategic part comes with planning where to attack and how to transport those armies there – usually across sea. Meaning the challenge is to first protect your vulnerable transports on the journey, then clear the shores through bombardment and then landing to march towards the cities.
adds a simplified mode which reduces the number of available units (not further worth discussing) and an advanced mode which adds two new units. Land armies are split into infantry and armors (re-using the sole army icon of the predecessor…), with the latter being a faster and tougher version of the former, which however take longer to produce. Also, they have to mind the diversified terrain types: forests slow them down, mountains are completely unnaccessible etc. Bombers are vulnerable to fighters, but they have the ability to bomb cities to hurt their production capacity. Falling victim to a successful bombing raid, units will take longer to produce subsequently. Efficiency which can only be regained by pausing unit production for some turns.
The success of such conceptual extensions in strategy games can be judged – in the negative – whether they destroy any of the previous balance and – in the positive – whether they open up new strategic options. If none of the two is true, the extension is purely for show, adding just more quantity to something already established.
It all went well in this case. Although changes appear light on the surface, especially the aspects of production efficiency and city production specialization (allowing for certain unit types to be produced in less than the regular time) add a strategic world simulation level previously not found in the game, but fitting in seamlessly, opening new pathways on the original foundation without turning it upside down. The litmus test turns out positive realizing that like the interception of large-scale sea transports before, targetted production bombing can turn the tides of war around, enabling a smart, but so far unlucky and small faction to topple over a much larger giant.
With the strategic breadth and depth expanded in such a ways,remains the version to play within this long ancestral line. Whether given the lack of large-scale changes, it was worth its price in 1993 for owners of any previous version is not such a pressing question anymore today. Its niche target audience certainly has not increased since then. Nevertheless, within this niche, it's a good pick.