Created by the makers of Settlers II, Cultures follows a similar strategic community building vein, with stronger emphasis on combat (these are Vikings, after all). It also draws comparisons to a variety of other strategy, simulation and management titles, such as Age of Empires or 1602 A.D. And in a fashion similar to The Sims and Tropico, each character possesses individual names, skills, and needs.
The designers have done an admirable job of modeling the hour-to-hour development and progress of your Viking outpost village, creating a detailed system of individual training and social interaction. Depending on the player's dedication to detail and control, however, Cultures is either an engrossing winner or an irritating exercise in micromanagement.
Those easily irritated will find the level of involvement with each individual member of the village more tedious than interesting. Rather than feeling you are controlling events, it often seems you are being forced to jump through a lengthy series of hoops to accomplish goals. This gives the game a very slow pace, taking a considerable amount of time just to create a simple settlement. In addition, the campaign scenarios require you rebuild many of the same structures time and again, so the action is not only slow, it's repetitive.
Some may be turned off by the sexist nature of the game as well, with women characters doing little more than making lunches and babies. Whether this is a realistic portrayal of the role of women in a patriarchal Viking society or not, surely the game designers could have come up with a more interesting (and less stereotypical) division of labor.
Graphics: Cultures is appealing, visually, with detailed animated landscapes and behaviors for each of your cute Viking minions. Each action that the cartoon-like characters engage in is well represented with an individual animation. While tracking game, for example, you can watch the hunter go after a rabbit with his spear, turning it into meat for the tribe. The game menus and interface are attractive as well, looking appropriately carved out of wood and stone. Given the amount of information that is available, the status displays and control icons were relatively easy to decipher. The vibrant graphics are perhaps the strongest feature of the game.
Sound: The sounds were low key but mostly pleasant, with a variety of appropriate incidental sounds for character actions and events.
Enjoyment: Beyond any visual pleasures that the bright and motion-filled game universe has to share, I found it hard to feel like my time was well spent with Cultures. The mark of a well-constructed real-time strategy game is not necessarily the level of detail and management built into the game, but the successful balance of that detail with the game's pacing and player involvement. For my tastes, Cultures missed the mark.
Replay Value: I'm not sure that most players will have the patience to make it through the thirteen campaign scenarios that the game provides even one time through, let alone coming back to them again; I suspect that many casual gamers wouldn't bother to go all the way through the tutorial levels. There is a multiplayer option, however, that will allow for fans to play against each other online, adding to replay value.
People who downloaded Cultures have also downloaded:
Cultures 2: The Gates of Asgard, Cutthroats: Terror on the High Seas, Corsairs: Conquest at Sea, ANNO 1602: Creation of a new world, Dark Reign 2, Dungeon Keeper 2, Cossacks II: Battle for Europe, Northland
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