When I first started out to play Imperialism, it reminded me of Conquest of the New World by MacPlay. The illustrations in the manual have the same old-fashioned feel (albeit based in the 1800s for Imperialism and the 1600s for Conquest). But, as I got deeper into the game, I realized that the games had almost nothing in common except some minor similarities in how various interests (mining, logging, etc.) grow.
Players start out as one of seven countries struggling to become the supreme power in the world. To this end, you must muster your own commodities, troops and diplomats in the fight. Since you are recovering from a long war (the Napoleonic War, if you are playing on the Europe Map), your first business is to build up your industries, open lines of trade with other nations and so on.
Conflict is usually limited to the arena of trade and commodities at first, only to branch out into real war later on. But to survive those later wars, you must make your country strong first.
To be honest, the trade part of the game grew boring very quickly for me. The art of deciding which commodities to make and where to put my available manpower was familliar from other games, including Conquest of the New World, Civilization, Master of Orion II and other similar world-building strategy games. Only Imperialism failed to make it as interesting as the other games.
The computer AI is challenging, no matter what level you initially play on, and it does take time to learn what the game wants for you to achieve total victory, but the early part of the game really put me to sleep. It seemed like I played that part over and over again for the same results.
This game covers much of the same ground that other world-building strategy games do, but in a much duller and less interesting fashion. Save your money and purchase one of the Civilization games or even an older game like Master of Orion. You'll be glad you did. While this game is solid, you'll find yourself yawning as you play.
Graphics: These graphics are not very impressive. It can be hard to tell different units apart.
Sound: Not much, and nothing to write home about. It fades into the background.
Enjoyment: The earlier part of the game is as much fun as having your teeth pulled, and boring to boot. It does shape up in the later turns.
Replay Value: The different levels of difficulty will give you something to shoot for, but this is not a game you'll be playing often.
What was Imperialism historically? It was the period in 19th century where major powers (Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Japan, USA, Belgium, Holland...) decided to devide the "undeveloped" countries of the world under their rule. It was a time of industrialization that brought great changes to society and the world.
Imperialism by SSI attempts to recreate this period. Starting in 1820 you find yourself as ruler of a country starting to industrialize. Along with you are 6 other nations, played by computer or humans, that compete with you for world domination. You have to make sure that your ressources are connected to your railroad system or can be sent by ship to your capital. In your capital you hire workers, build industries and manufacture ships, weapons, goods. You can sell your goods and ressources on world markets, but make sure your trading fleet is big enough! And you have to balance transportation of ressources and what they will be used for.
You can lure minor countries to accept your investors that buy land with ressources that will give you additional income. Maybe the country will even become a colony and will be economically tied to you? After all, you would have a market for your goods and a source for ressources.
And you shouldn't forget to buy the latest scientific marvels that enhance your industry, ressource production, or your army. You don't want to fall behind in the arms race, do you?
When battle occurs, the game switches to tactical mode and offers a mediocre way of playing the battle. It seems like a very stripped down version of the General series. Sea battles are handled abstractly buy giving the losses.
Overall, the game is pretty mediocre. On easy level you can just conquer the world, on higher levels the AI will gang up on you and beat you down. Plus, the gameplay neglects many factors of the time - local uprisings, social issues (the game only lets your wrokers strike, even if they starve), and occurences like civil wars are absolutely missing. Too bad, as this game had a lot of potential. Rather play Colonization or Risk instead.
People who downloaded Imperialism have also downloaded:
Imperialism 2: The Age of Exploration, Caesar 3, Gary Grigsby's World At War, Age of Empires 2: The Age of Kings, History Line: 1914-1918 (a.k.a. Great War: 1914-1918, The), History of The World, High Command: Europe 1939-1945, Gary Grigsby's Pacific War (2000)
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