Even if you have never heard of the Impressions City Building Series you probably will recognize one of the games in it. This group is responsible for Caesar 1 through 3 as well as Pharaoh and its Cleopatra add-on, and now they have mastered all of their previous accomplishments and put them in their greatest game to date, Zeus Master of Olympus.
Wow I just realized how epic that sounded. Well, that is how I feel after invoking Gods and destroying monsters. Whoa, I am getting a little ahead of myself. Let me back up and start form the beginning. If you are a Sim City nut or just a control freak and have not tried any of these games then you are really missing out. There is not quite as much city planing as Sim City. The places that you will make are more along the lines of villages, but there is an awful lot of strategy and careful management that must go into each land.
In Zeus you are a major city builder in ancient Greece. You have to make sure that everyone is provided for and that they are happy. Provide for them by building farms and hunting lodges for food, fountains, for water, and by building other establishments that can provide fleece, cheese, oil, and wine. Keep them happy by keeping them healthy, providing entertainment and philosophers. These people love hearing a good philosopher. Of course all of this costs money so you will have to tax your residents and set up trade to export the things that you have in excess. All this is very similar to the games that came before it but that is where the similarities end.
What we all remember about ancient Greece was not the fleece and the housing but the great Greek gods and the epic battles that were fought over girls and monsters with 6 heads. Well rest assured, epic battles and appeasing the gods is really what the game is all about. When you choose you mission, you can either choose something historical like the Peloponnesian War or something mythological like one of the Greek Myths. If you are playing one of the challenges that involves the gods you must build a fortress in order to house him or her. Once that is done (and that is no easy task mind you) the god will come down to your city and give a blessing to all who are there. Different gods give different blessings. Some may give your farm a bountiful harvest or others, like Aphrodite, will just make everyone happy to be there. Whatever god you choose, be warned, that god has probably pissed somebody off at some point (gods are always pissing each other off) and you must be prepared to defend your city against any the city serving the pissed-off god.
You defend yourself by building up your army. The army and navy portion of the game is significantly improved over Caeser and Pharaoh. Now you can call an army together from many different places including the gods personal soldiers, the navy, other allied cities, etc. Then with this united army you can actually go into a city and take it over. Or if you wish you can just sneak in and plunder their resources. Low on wine? Plunder a city. This is especially good if you have one of the war gods.
For those of you who have played other Impressions game note that there are two main differences. The first is that there is no central government. You are not serving Caesar or Pharaoh. You are serving the gods, your gods in particular, or you are serving yourself. This makes having allies and enemies all the more important. Allies will give you help if you need it but will also expect to be helped in return. Conversely if you do not maintain some level of respect and honor among your rival they will attack your city. Also, any city that you take over will have to pay you a nice tribute which can make funds ever the more bountiful
The other major difference is in the way the screen is set up. Instead of having to go to a completely different screen in order to see status reports in all of the different areas, you can now see them right on the main screen. This offers much more control in a much more efficient way. There is no more loading up of the trade screen every time you want to start stockpiling something or make something available for trade. Plus you can easily get unemployment ratings as well as housing vacancies and army reports. There are other sub-menus for more detailed control factors and other menus but they still load up much quicker and easier than they did in previous games.
I guess the main difference in this game as opposed to previous Impressions games and any city building games for that matter is the level of humor. Since we are dealing with mythological figures and monsters, the creators decided that they did not need to take the historical aspects so seriously. All of the gods have big ludicrous temples and walk around in glowing light. All of the written dialogue is very dramatic and overplayed. However, even though the characters may be played up, the strategy is very real and very complex. One problem like a lack of fleece can start a domino effect that will leave the town crippled. You have to be very observant and smart about where everything goes. However, the game does not take itself too seriously and you will definitely get a chuckle in here and there.
So if you are a fan of the Impressions games and you want the next in a series that I hope will never end then pick this one up. It really shows how the creators can continue to improve upon a great idea to make it something spectacular. With immense buildings, a flair for the epic, and a good sense of humor, Zeus stands out as being in the top of it s class. Realism is for geeks, fun is for Greeks.
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