my life after graduate: [GAME] Impressions to 2 Games Created by My Gamers' Idol

Sunday, May 14, 2006

[GAME] Impressions to 2 Games Created by My Gamers' Idol

Civilization IV: Warlords Impressions

Warlords is the first expansion pack to last year's hit turn-based strategy game Civilization IV. As you may have heard, it will introduce a number of new scenarios centered on great warlords from history, such as Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan, as well as new content for the core Civilization IV game. I got even more details from Firaxis at E3 '06, and Warlords sounds better than ever.

First up are the new warlords units. Warlords are an offshoot of the new great-general unit, which joins the existing great-people units, such as great artists and great prophets. Basically, if your units are successful in battle, you may generate a great-general unit. The great general can do things such as construct a military academy or turn into a great instructor, meaning that units built at a city where he's an instructor will get free experience. Or, if you attach the great general to a military unit, he becomes a warlord, which is incredibly powerful. Basically, the warlord will instantly give all the units in his stack two free promotion upgrades, and the warlord gains 50 percent more experience than normal. With a warlord, you'll be able to wage war against your enemies like never before.

I saw two of the new scenarios that are in the expansion. The Alexander the Great scenario requires you to conquer the ancient world, and there's new Greek architecture for cities, as well as a scenario-specific technology tree. After all, technologies such as flight wouldn't be available to the ancient Greeks, but there are useful technologies such as being able to heal while on the move, as well as faster movement over terrain. Even cooler is the new Genghis Khan campaign, which turns Civ on its ear. As Genghis Khan, your job isn't to build cities and a civilization but to sack them. The nomadic Mongols get points for razing cities to the ground. They don't research technologies; rather, they seize them from their enemies. And their mobile-camp unit lets them spawn units every turn. If the camp is on the plains, it'll spawn horse units. If the camp is in a forest, it'll spawn a catapult or trebuchet. It makes sense, in a way. The challenge will be that all the other civilizations absolutely fear the Mongols, so you'll have your job cut out for you to defeat everyone in approximately 150 turns. You must move fast to win.

Finally, there's new content for the original game to talk about. There are some new leaders for some of the existing civilizations, such as Shaka for the Zulus and Winston Churchill for the British. Each of the existing civilizations get new buildings, and there are three new wonders, including the Great Wall of China. Build the Great Wall, and you'll get it constructed along your borders, and it's incredibly useful to keep those rampaging barbarians out. Warlords looks great, and it's due out this summer.

Sid Meier's Railroads! Impressions

Considering that it's due out later this year, the speed at which Firaxis is working on Sid Meier's Railroads! is impressive. The game, which was just announced a couple of months ago, is a remake of the famed designer's beloved railroad game from the early 90's. According to Firaxis representatives, Sid visited Hamburg, Germany, not too long ago and saw the world's largest tabletop model railroad. He came back from that trip with a gleam in his eyes to remake his masterpiece.

Railroads! won't just be a model-train game, though it will introduce a train table mode that will let you tinker around without having to worry about money or the artificial intelligence. But if you play the game in regular mode, you'll find yourself in an economic battle to build a railroad empire large enough that you can buy out your rivals before they can buy you out. You do this by building railroad networks linking cities and industries together, and then making sure the trains run on time to deliver people, mail, and goods to where they need to be. You'll see the results as you play. If you're successful, cities will grow and flourish. If you neglect them, they'll wither and shrink. This is a real-time strategy game, so it's all about being able to link the key cities and resources first and establish your foothold. Or you might need to engage in a price war with a rival in a contested city to gain market share.

This new Railroads! looks to be a lot easier than the original. There's a new drag-and-drop method of laying down railroad tracks, so it's no longer a struggle to lay down one piece at a time, make a mistake, and then have to tear down what you did and begin again. Now, just drag a rail out along the path you want, and the computer will show you how it will look, and it will also automatically build tunnels or bridges to deal with terrain features in the way. This is a much prettier game than the original, though that wasn't too hard to do. This new Railroads! is built on the same graphics engine used for last year's Civilization IV, and there are some interesting design decisions at work. Cities on the map are much closer together than they were in the first game. That's because Firaxis wants to fill the screen with action everywhere you look. Like with Civ IV, Railroads! is going for a living, breathing world. You'll see trains running along the tracks, people boarding at depots, lumber mills depositing logs onto your cars, and more.

Railroads! will support single-player and multiplayer on the Internet and a LAN, and the prospect of battling other cutthroat would-be robber barons is exciting. The game is rapidly coming together, and we're told to expect it to ship sometime this fall.