Based on the famous book by Philip Jose Farmer, RiverWorld brings a rich atmosphere to build a intuitive realtime strategy with some complex role playing concepts. In a very lush 3D enviroment you will need to create, defend, and conquer the various territories and advance your people through the ages.
You are Sir Richard Francis Burton, the famous English explorer from the 18th century. You came, and saw, and died, yet somehow you are here. You explored the Nile, visited Mecca, but now you have been resurrected along with other famous characters on this strange and artificial "RiverWorld." Surrounded by the unknown, you decide to strike out and build an empire and advance your people through the ages.
From the moment I started up the game, I was intrigued. It looked like Myth, handled like Age of Empires, and was dark and mysterious. First off, I was confused. I had some people, but there were all these unclaimed people on my screen, so I decided I'd start building houses. Lo and behold, the people started flocking to my little town. You assign citizens to do various tasks, from collecting resources, to training other citizens to do specialized work such as workers and scientists.
It runs along very similar to Age of Empires, as you progress, you build laboratories and armories to advance your civilization and defend it from attack. The Grail Stone is the center of all territories. In order to capture a territory, you must attack the Grail Stone. Burton is the only one that can do so, so the armies you build will have to see to it that he's successful. Burton can never die, but he is resurrected back at his starting place, so it's in your best interest to make sure he captures the Grail.
The game is broken down into four levels. This doesn't sound like much, but each level has quite a few territories to capture and it's not exactly a fast process in doing so. You have limited populations in each territory so it makes it somewhat hard to just create a huge army and go stomp on someone else. The biggest issue I found in this game was that in order to advance to the next age, you needed to find a special character to teach your people this new age. I found it extremely difficult to find this person and spent way too much of the game time searching for him, while my computer opponents easily advanced to the next ages and took over the territories. They should have colored the special units in a different color so they'd be easier to spot. Like I said before, the worlds are huge and the people aren't. I found hunting down every white dot in the game a little too frustrating.
The advancing from each age is very interesting. You start in the Wood Age, progress to the Stone Age, then to more modern ages, and on into the future. There's eleven ages in all, but you only have access to four ages in each world. Each age has its own vehicles, weapons, buildings, and resources. Each territory only has one age and it does not advance to a new age, so you must conquer an advanced age in order to gain the benefits of being trained in this age. All of the ages are visually distinguished which makes it easy to tell which age is which. Of course, each age is also more powerful then its predecessor. This means you will need to push for advancement in order to achieve anything further in the game.
Graphically, it's quite good. It supports 3DFX and Direct3D and appears to be hardware accelerated only, so for all of you without the graphic power, you'll have to hold off for awhile. The water wasn't transparent, but it had a metallic reflective effect that was pretty nice. Explosions could have been better, it tended to be smoke and noise and no flames. Destruction was somewhat similar to Wargames since the buildings didn't have a realistic collapse or explosion. It's all 3D modeled so no sprites here. Objects are nicely rendered, but far from the best I've seen. The people working do work although they have no tools in their hands to use. The action is good but it looks unfinished without objects in their hands. The console looks nice and fits well with the gameplay.
It seemed to lack a lot sound effects. It had some, but it just didn't seem like enough. It also was strangely devoid of speech. All player interaction was done through pop-up boxes. Maybe it was just me, but I didn't hear any speech and didn't see any options for it. The music is done through CD Audio and should easily fit the mood of the game.
It was perplexing. I was very interested in the way the game took shape. I wanted to progress as quickly as possible, but it seemed to never work out the way I wanted it to. I found it challenging to accomplish the goals to progress to the next level before my opponents overpowered me and left me with nothing. The view screen is pretty well done. You have an overhead map with your local area, along with a map of the entire world. If you click on points in those maps or your main display, it will move the camera to that position. From here you can spin around with your mouse and move the angle up and down. You can also click on people and the camera will follow them as they move. It will also allow you to see through the eyes of your people, which sort of seemed a little disconcerting, but somewhat similar to Dungeon Keeper.
It's long and complicated. It's definitely not going to entertain the mass of average gamers. It gets frustrating trying to find these special people to advance your empire, especially since your opponents are rapidly growing closer to you. It may be a desirable game to fans of Myth and AoE, but it seems too slow to really appeal to that category either. It's definitely a different game that doesn't mesh too well with other games in its genre. This sets it apart, but a lot of times being set apart doesn't make it a fun game.
The storyline is very well done. It is for the most part interesting. I'm now interested in the book this is based on. Even if it is famous, I've never heard of it, but the game seems like I should take a peak.
RiverWorld is definitely not a game everyone will enjoy. It seems to be a game that will get some diehard fans while everyone else will just look at them funny. It's intriguing and interesting enough at first. It is very deep and any player that is up to the challenge and can make it far enough into the game is bound to enjoy it.
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