Powermonger (Second Review)

Title		Powermonger (Second Review)
Game Type	Management Sim
Players		1 (2 with link-up)
HD Installable  Yes (With Patch)
Compatibility	Not AGA (Patch available)
Submission	Daniel Miller

An unusual, ambitious effort that is not for everyone. I recall first
getting PowerMonger shortly after it was released around 1990. It was made
by Bullfrog, the same company that had come up with the all-time classic
god game Populous. It looked very exciting and I looked forward to trying
it. As I placed the floppy in my A500 with one meg of RAM and it booted
the game it was easy to be awestruck by the dramatic music and animation
that serves as a prelude to the game. They had obviously paid attention to
detail and this prelude was an almost theatrical experience. Then there
was an annoying (but necessary) copyright protection check to go through,
where I had to rifle through the manual and painstakingly key in some

The first thing to mention about the game itself must be the sound.
Bullfrog integrated sound into PowerMonger very deeply. The sound of
breathing signifies how well you are doing, the sound of war drums precede
an action you might take. Birds take flight in a rustle of flapping wings,
the "clink clank" of a workshop may be heard near towns, and your men give
a rather Germanic cheer on a successful conquest. The player is immersed
in these sounds as he or she plays PowerMonger, and it depends on your
personal tastes whether you like the sounds or not. You had best not turn
them off though if you want to win, because they alert you to game events.

Now as for the visuals... this is surely the most ambitious display method
ever tried on a game of this type, in that era and perhaps even ever
since. You look down at an angle on the landscape, and may rotate the
perspective to any of 8 points around the compass. So you view your men as
they monger for power, from your vantage point in the north or the south
or anywhere in between. Now this is ambitious and good in a way, but also
a bit awkward. Often you will find part of the display showing the
*underside* of the map owing to the perspective, and you don't really want
that but it seems to come with the concept. Sometimes also you can't see
your men battling very well. The response to this of course is "well,
rotate the map a bit" but it just is not that easy, certainly not for your
average or casual gamer.

On to the gameplay! Now is this a god game ala Populous or a war game? I
would have to say it's both, but more a god game. You control the actions
of your men with a bunch of icons, commanding them to attack, take food,
invent, equip invention, recruit men and so on. I found the icons a bit
less than intuitive. However when you learn how the game works they make
sense enough. On any map you are playing your object is to capture enough
settlements and men to tip the balance of power in your favor. There are
no doubt many strategies, but one thing that can work is to conquer a
village, recruit all the citizens as soldiers for your army, and proceed
thus strengthened to the next town. Lather, rinse, repeat. However this
strategy is far too basic for the more advanced maps.

In all, I find that PowerMonger is something of a flawed gem. The
difficulty level is a bit high for average folks and the graphic display
method can sometimes obscure important details, and lead to a bit of
frustration. However Bullfrog certainly set their sights high with
PowerMonger and they achieved a partial success. The old saying goes that
if you try to jump twice as far as the others and only make it halfway,
why, you're still right up there with everyone else.

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