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Imperial Glory Review

publisher: Eidos Interactive
developer: Pyro Studios
genre: Strategy

PIII 1000, 256MB RAM, 2.5GB HDD, 64MB video card
ESRB rating: T

release date: May 17, 05
» All About Imperial Glory on ActionTrip

June 14, 2005
Branka "Nikerym" Todorovic

On Life, Death, Zen, and the Next Turn button.

Zen Buddhism has a very interesting way of dealing with death and, more importantly, killing. I guess it is rather difficult for a Westerner to come to terms with the doctrine of identifying the killer with the victim, as well as with the weapon and finally, with the act itself. "Nobody commits the act of killing, just as nobody suffers it," a saying goes, concluding, "Combat should still be avoided at all costs." Being able to recognize the time to live, the time to die and to act according to that tenant - living to the fullest and being ready to die at any moment - are the required skills of a Samurai. The Western philosophy tends to be more abstract, more cautious, and prone to defining life and death as two separate and often contradictory terms.

Pyro's latest strategy Imperial Glory also has a very interesting way of dealing with one of the most turbulent periods in human history. (The Disco wasteland that was the 1970's? -Ed) Alas, their approach is neither too engaging nor too original in its intent to follow the set path of Total War, as many have already noticed. Its low learning curve, intuitive interface, and simple commands make it attractive at first, but its general repetitiveness and the dullness of combat gradually ruin the deceptively positive first impression.

Imperial Glory comes with several standard modes, the campaign obviously being the core of the game. You won't need the tutorial to get things going, and it's only the naval battles that might require a bit more time to master. Once you've started the campaign, you will be able to choose between five countries, each with their own pros and cons and different starting resources. Each country has a bonus that gives it an advantage over others, so for example Russia starts with five provinces and has a slightly easier starting position, while France has lower resources, which come with balanced production. (And tasty breads and cheeses. - Ed) The interesting strategic position of Great Britain allows this country better defense against an enemy invasion, but it also makes the invasion of rival countries more difficult. What I found truly lacking is the fact only five countries, namely Great Britain, France, Austria, Prussia, and Russia, are available for play. There are a dozen of other countries - the Ottoman Empire, Egypt, Lombardy, Two Sicilys, Latvia, Sweden, and others - but all these are non-playable, which is a pity because many of them feature unique units not available to other countries. (I smell an expansion pack in the near future. -Ed)

Imperial Glory plays as a typical board game, with the turn-based segment, which allows you to manage the diplomacy, research, and quest screen, as well as to manage your troops. There are several basic resources featured in the game, these being gold, raw materials, population, and food. The trick is to keep all these resources balanced without going lacking in any of them, meaning you won't be able to recruit new units if you do not have enough resources to support them, and the same goes for buildings. However, there'll always be resources you'll be lacking, so you can provide them by trading with other countries. Another effective way of gathering more resources is by capturing new territories and making them a part of your growing empire. At first, you are able to build only one or two basic units, but with time, you will be granted several infantry, cavalry, artillery, commander, as well as naval units. The vital part in the process presents the research tree, which allows you to research new technologies and gain bonuses by erecting buildings they provide. For example, Vaccination allows you to build local hospitals, which, in turn, give you a population increase. Then again, some technologies provide you with quests, so the first country to fulfill a quest gets a specific bonus. Some of these are temporary, while some have long-lasting effects. Thus completing the Medical Revolution Quest allows you to build local hospitals in all your provinces at no cost.

The basic building is the military academy, which is erected at your capital province. Buildings necessary for obtaining more advanced units (which are built in your capital province), while others, like the aforementioned hospitals, may be erected all over your empire. As you are not allowed to build barracks outside your capital province, this naturally limits your army production to your capital. This is not a concept I favored, but I soon got over it, as it forces the player to think of their strategy in advance. Your troops must be assigned to a leader, and a commander unit may lead three or more units depending on their rank. All units gain experience, which would enable them to fight better only if they weren't so damn stupid (more about that later). Your troops are also allowed to move only one field per move, meaning you are only allowed to move your troops to an adjacent province. All this makes the game have that typical board game feel, with a concept that is fairly simple and effective and yet rather lacking in content. I could not shake the feeling I was constantly hitting the Next Turn button without actually doing anything. The turn-based segment, apart from being nicely conceived, seems to lack material, so with time, your role is reduced to mechanically producing new units and managing them on the map when the occasion arises. The slow pace and the slight monotony of this element made me incite unnecessary wars in order to get things going, but the game proved to lack excitement in this field as well.

Once the real-time 3D combat is engaged (think Total War series), you are allowed to deploy your troops before the battle starts. Once this is done and over with, the battle commences and you manage your troops on the battlefield, positioning them in an effort to carry out the first attack. Unfortunately, your troops seem unwilling to fight, being prone to standing lost in their own thoughts or gazing with melancholy at the battlefield filled with human bodies. If they aren't given specific orders, your units will never attack the enemy, not even if it's right in front of them (unless they are attacked themselves). Even if their comrades are attacked, they will only stand motionlessly and wait until the enemy threatens to turn them into a bloody mess. On the other hand, your enemy is as reluctant to fight as you are, so you will often be granted a bizarre view of two armies lined one against each other, with not a single soldier daring to make a move. You attack their artillery with your cavalry - they just stand and look; they in turn attack your cavalry with their infantry - your units don't even blink. The environments are in their turn designed in a very satisfactory way, with many good strategic points and empty buildings useful for positioning your infantry, but the effect is completely ruined by the criminally dense AI. I'm not sure my soldiers would be able to kill themselves even if they tried, having the trouble to locate the tip of their sword with the help of an atlas.

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5.7   Okay

Detailed and functional diplomacy system, interesting quest system, nicely conceived research tree, (mostly) intuitive interface;

Awful AI, lack of more interesting content, cannot pause the game during combat; it's just not fun enough.


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