With the success of Bullfrog's god-game Populous, fans of the world conquering/building genre eagerly anticipated the release of PowerMonger. Unlike Populous in respect to the player having god-like control over the world and population, PowerMonger puts you into the world as a leader of troops which ironically introduces situations where the player ends up exerting even more power than in Populous. Even if that weren't the case, the realism factor is a little more down to earth and satisfaction of strategically outsmarting and outgunning the opposition is very rewarding.
The game world is vast but it is only accessible in small increments. Basically, PowerMonger is played a little bit at a time as you work your way through 195 unrelated plots of land to conquer. In amplification, it should be noted that the lands are unrelated in the respect that what you accomplish in one land has no affect on the next one; the only connection is that once victorious in any land, you are limited to advancing only to land that is adjacent to the one just vanquished. In this manner, you work your way through the 195 lands to the ultimate goal of total conquest. While Populous was limited to interaction with the terrain and population as a manipulative means to an end, PowerMonger presents a much earthier grass-roots involvement in which you deal with a living world where sheep can be slaughtered for food, the seasons change, troops are recruited and even carrier pigeons function as a communications device. Even better, there is a definite need for a strategic approach (many is the time your troops will be outnumbered) to the major activity, namely wiping the enemy troops off the map. Only when totally in control (not necessarily by exterminating every enemy) of a land, can you move on. It's this interaction with enemy troops while maintaining your own through use of a simple phalanx of commands (e.g., move, get food, invent, trade, spy, attack and more) that makes PowerMonger so endearing.
The interface is easy (on-screen information can be had at the right click of a mouse button) and intuitive and the "look" of the game is extremely pleasant. The sense of frenetic and daunting out-of-control activity is not foremost as in Populous but the player involvement is nonetheless total and fascinating in PowerMonger. Relevant to the commands available to the player is the added strategic choice of demeanor (aggressive, neutral or passive) when giving orders and surprisingly this can be a major factor in the outcome of any encounter. Exploring, recruiting, sustenance, invention, weapons supply, battle and many more factors are at the core of the game's enjoyment but the varied elements of strategy and execution of your plans are the highlights in this delightful game. The few flaws in the game are minor and the positive points far outweigh them anyway. An option to delegate orders, the game's marvelous use of terrain, and the smooth interface add to the quality of PowerMonger as an entertaining product.
Graphics: Clear, funny and detailed. Nice presentation.
Sound: Complement game play nicely.
Enjoyment: If you like strategy and control of miniature armies, PowerMonger delivers. The sense of involvement grows as does the difficulty and complexity of the lands as you advance through them.
Replay Value: Even if you finish all 195 lands, there is still plenty of ground to cover by going back and using different techniques and strategies.
Powermonger takes the basic design and concepts of Bullfrog's previous game Populous, and places it in a war context. The game cast the player as a dispossessed warlord plundering his way through 195 territories on the way to world conquest. Several other leaders have the same goal.
The gameworld is now made up of polygons, so the view can be rotated and moved with greater freedom than Populous. Trade, diplomacy, inventions, and scorched earth invasions all play a key role in how the player progressed through the game. Two-player games via modem links are available on computer versions.
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