The programmers write in the opening blurb that there are still some people around who are not merely interested in blowing extra terrestrials away all day long. Because of this they have produced a strategy game for the thinking man (or woman). reLINE (that's how it's spelt!) have brought out this Sci-fi game following the success of their previous sim, Oil Imperium. Centerbase is is an amalgamation of completely new elements where you control all the action from a 3D vector graphic terminal, and by using a transmitter can be beamed over to various parts in the city. It goes without saying that with games such as these its vital to read the instruction booklet if you're going to progress with (and enjoy) the game. The booklet is 30 pages long and will need to be read at least twice to get an idea of how to play Centerbase. However, you will find all this worthwhile once you start playing, you'll also realise that this isn't a game to while away a few hours, its complex and challenging.
Play is set in the future with questions being posed as: what sort of infrastructure will develop from the continuous world population growth? The sort of thing which would be asked at a UN meeting. Centerbase is in fact an economic simulation based in a city of the future, it's played in real time which means making moves will immediately effect circumstances. There are four centerbase sectors, North, South, East and West which are each controlled by a sector manger. Up to four human players can compete, or there is a mixture option of humans and computers. As manager of one sector you have a choice of three different missions:
1) Most tenants in five years. This shows after game years (corresponding to 60 months) which player had the most tenants during the whole time period, he is then the winner.
2) More than half of all the parcels. The first player to get more than 50% of all lots (parcels) is the winner.
3) Owner of the whole Centerbase. The game ends when one player acquires all lots(parcels) in the whole centerbase and so eliminates all other players. This option is recommended for experienced players only, as achieving all this can take several days.
After making the initial selections a screen will appear depicting a man or women sitting behind a desk. This is meant to represent you, the ozone layer has definitely gone haywire since your face is crimson! Out of the window you will be able to see your sector including buildings (if you've got any). Your office is quite poorly equipped but as you acquire more capital and power the furnishings will improve, and, if you're extremely wealthy your safe in the wall will contain several gold bars. If you own robots these will be shown as little figures on your shelf, a robot symbol will appear on your desk if you own more than nine. For easy recognition each player is allocated a colour which is shown on the statue on the desk. Control of the game is essentially with mouse, but joystick or keyboard can also be used, and in some instances joystick is essential. The main player interface is the terminal, a sort of viewdata of the future. To the left, next to the vector graphic display are six blue buttons in a vertical column. On the right of each button is a corresponding menu item which is activated when the mouse arrow is clicked on it. Apart from the Terminal, the Transmitter (activated from the terminal) also plays a significant part in the game, as it is the method of transporting you to various places in the city.
The terminal is broken down into the following sectors:
A map of the entire Centerbase is shown, you will note that it is broken down into four sectors which are the four points of the compass. Each sector contains six lots, called parcels. In addition there are buildings such as food factories, waterworks, power stations, the stock exchange. West End and the main tower. (I told you this wasn't a simple game!) Information on these buildings is available from the archives option.
This enables you to establish contact with the TV Sat data base. If there is a message for you during the game a line reading "Message from satellite coming in" is displayed on the terminal.
This option speaks for itself, stats are provided on all your available apartments.
Again self explanatory, current information and forecasts are available. As in the real world weathermen sometimes get it wrong, something which Centerbase cleverly incorporates.
This is an important menu item used to perform actions such as building houses, selling rent prices or controlling the robots. You are also responsible for controlling the food, water and energy requirements, all of which is dependant on the number of your tenants and the age old problem of weather.
Robots play an important role in your life and need to be carefully controlled. There are many types which can be used for various things such as: repairing damage or providing provisions. They can even occupy and acquire enemy lots. This area is so complex that you are referred to a chapter in the instructions called "Robot Control".
Now onto the other main user function the Transmitter. Even top managers have to leave their offices, and you are no exception! Since Centerbase is a Science Fiction simulator you're not going to use cars or taxis. The transmitter transports (beams) you to all the main locations almost instantaneously. Locations are the Stock Exchange. Food factory. Waterworks. Power plant and the West End. As with Robot Control, there are chapters in the manual detailing the role these places play in your strategy.
Centerbase is in essence an economic simulation a fact demonstrated by the two options Finances and Real Estate Management. The finances section could be made into a game itself! It's that complex. Your current financial situation is broken down into things like: value of your investments, monthly income comprising rents and interest, current stocks of water, food and energy, maintenance costs etc. All this needs to be carefully looked after. Management of Real Estate involves the building and administration of your apartments.
As you can see a lot of time, patience, strategy and skill are required. I could have written far more pages reviewing this game, however, it's safe to say that you will find Centerbase a compelling game with a healthy addiction factor. Control by mouse is simple and on screen instructions are clear and concise. Graphics are superb and attractive, sound is good too.
Strategy and Simulation fans will enjoy Centerbase, but be prepared for long stints at the keyboards!
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