Up to five players slog it out with a large range of cyborgs over an entire continent of 72 countries, setting up supply lines, factories, fortresses and lines of strategic defence, with an option to view and fight each battle personally. The intro sequence gives a rundown of the various cyborgs and their particular weapons systems and terrain compatibility, it is worth making a note of these, though they can be accessed from the factory screen. Once past the data protection, players are confronted with three options: full game, strategic game, and battle practice.
The practice game offers two scenarios for test piloting a cyborg, one scenario shows a cyborg's abilities on its own, the other shows how to run a group of cyborgs. The strategic game option owes a great deal to games like Risk: up to five can play, the computer can play in any unoccupied positions, or they can be toggled off, plus the competence levels can be set for the computer to stop it winning all the time, which is just as well really. Each player is allocated a country and a sum of money and must build a factory to produce cyborgs, with cyborgs built, the next round can be used to occupy neighbouring countries. The more countries occupied during the initial stage of the game the greater the income and the more factories, forts, and cyborgs possible. Of course it is possible to spread forces too thinly, risking severance of supply lines and loss of valuable facilities when the fur starts to fly. Fighting starts when one empire moves its forces into a to fumble around with the disc, slowing everything down noticeably.
The full game combines the practice and strategic options; when the doors slide across players are given the opportunity to lead their troops country occupied by the forces of another country (understandably enough). At the end of each game round, blast doors slide across the screen, obscuring the map, the computer informs everyone that everyone else is plotting their destruction while muffled battle noises come from behind the doors. When the screens slide back, everyone finds out who won what, whether their invasion plans worked, and who has invaded whom. A sampled female voice says "well done" if anyone has pulled off a particularly brilliant coup, she laughs unpleasantly if anyone has been severely beaten. In really dire circumstances she announces that "the situation is critical", and when someone loses she says "you have been crushed" - charmed I'm sure. Frankly she gets to be a bit of a pain in the wossname; every time the message changes the computer has into battle, time spent on the practice stage shows its true worth, the displays are (as usual) confusing to the uninitiated.
Invading generals can target capitals, fortifications, cyborg forces and factories, while defenders can marshal their own forces in what they hope will be the most effective formations. In battle, generals can switch from one cyborg to the next or stay with one in particular, displays show state of ammunition, temperature (they'll stop moving until they cool down enough) and armour condition. Players who do not wish to fight can leave it up to the 'sim' option, but won't be able to view the battle, the outcome of which will be decided by the computer.
A huge game, which can take several hours to play out: the game takes ages to load (a hard drive might be a good idea), and is filled with long pauses as it consults disc drives between moves. The easily confused should read the manual very carefully, but once mastered the whole thing is immensely satisfying. The areas where improvements could be made are in the between game moves: the blast doors are irritating, the game would lose nothing by providing a view of movements as they take place. Computer competence should be split between strategic and combat, allowing those of us with poor motor skills and good strategy to set high IQ for overall planning and a more realistic (or perhaps slower) combat level. Compelling and involving.
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