Powermonger may have been seen as the follow-up to the incredibly successful Populous - this is not the case. Programmed by Bullfrog. Powermonger is indeed a game of conquest and strategy, but places you in the role of an exiled warrior with twenty men under your command. You're out to establish yourself, having come ashore on strange and foreign (is)lands. To reach this somewhat formidable goal, you must successfully conquer each of the 195 areas that make up the world of Powermonger.
As you progress, the status of your leader (displayed as a large character behind the main play area) will vary according to the orders issued to each character under your control. As with Populous, each of these characters moves independently unless specifically commanded, although success inevitably depends upon certain orders being issued.
Unlike Populous, the range of controls does not extend to causing 'natural' disasters, revolving instead around husbandry (livestock, dependent plant-life), invention and the odd battle or two. Whilst earlier islands are relatively easily won by force, many inhabitants are less than prepared to submit, preferring to either trade, bribe or persuade in order to gain alliance - (which of these methods you should employ may be decided by spying on opponents to discover weaknesses or requirements) - for instance, other leaders may have advanced their weaponry and supplies beyond yours, when your own troops may be starving and inadequately armed.
Before attempting any destruction, you must commission and equip an army. Having done so, you may then select from 3 levels of aggression (or posture), pick your destination, launch your attack and observe the resulting battle. A defeated captain will be directly under your command and may subsequently lead an independent body of followers to further your regime, (although orders are sent via pigeon, so take some time to be carried out).
Physical opponents aside, continually changing weather may wildly alter your intended course of action, or even render plans completely useless, (try mounting an attack during the winter and watch the driving snow discourage your armies to the point of desertion!) and coupled with various geographical structures, often pose considerable problems. For example, any attempt to attack from either an open plain or the top of a hill will see your chances of success decrease, as the enemy will have observed your intentions and preplanned defences. Alternatively, attacking from the cover of a forest or the brow of a hill increases your chances of success due to your having the element of surprise!
The complexity involved in producing the fully manipulate polygon landscapes that make up Powermonger's 195 areas, must be regarded as an achievement. The zoom and rotate facilities are not only excellently implemented, but add an extra twist, allowing full views of each game aspect, geographical and otherwise. Icon control is easily learned, although mastering the game itself will take considerably longer. Graphically, Powermonger is in a class of its own. Not only are there thousands of independent characters (all well designed), but elemental disruptions and dozens of land formations combine to provide variety and maintain interest. Colour is appropriately used to enhance realistic scenery. Sound is both realistic and informative and nearby activities may be recognised aurally, so influencing a player's actions.
A sublime example of the art of computer gaming, and an essential download.
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