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The Nations Review
publisher: JoWooD Productions
developer: JoWooD Productions
P233, 64MB RAM, 700MB HDD, 16MB 3D accelerator
|ESRB rating: T
release date: n/a
|» All About The Nations on ActionTrip|
Branislav "Bane" Babovic
The German gaming industry has always been traditionally productive when it comes to control sim. games. Jowood Productions did some work on their last year's code and presented us with The Nations, a sequel to their Alien Nations (a.k.a. Amazons and Aliens). This game achieved a cult status on the German market and Jowood had an interesting presentation on this year's E3. The Nations is one of those games that you can play for months without them loosing their initial charm. This has been achieved using great cartoon-like design, but the game still has too many flaws, the biggest of them being that it is incapable of providing lasting and exciting gameplay.
The background story is as coherent as in any of these games: In a parallel dimension, three spaceships carried the seed of life of one nation each. Their mission was to take each nation to a separate planet and make it their new home, but they all happened to land on the same greenish-blue planet. The three nations were born: Amazons, Pimmons and Sajikis (no, I'm not on crack... yet). It may be futile to even mention that you assume the role of a superior being, which leads one of the nations to prosperous future, but I did it anyway. Oh, and each of the nations is broken into several tribes you have to unite.
That brings a totally new strategic aspect to the game. The player takes control over one of the tribes, and his main goal is to satisfy members of that particular tribe. Once this has been accomplished, members of other tribes will join. It is quite satisfying when an entire tribe decides to give you total control of their lives.
The Fukari, one of the Sajiki tribes, define their quality of life in having enough Tequila in the evening. For the Vikari, another Sajiki tribe, Tequila is also one of the most important things in life - when they drink to their successful intrigues. The Pimmons settled in the inhospitable and barren north, where hard work presents their only chance for survival. The Stjus tribe, on the other hand was that lazy that they never even bothered to move from where they landed, and you will personally have to take care all of their work is done. The Galadrianen and their beautiful chieftain Amazone Gabrielle are that beautiful that they make queen Rosetta envious, because the Aristokas prefer watching their beauty in the mirror.
The game has a single and a multiplayer mode. The single player mode contains an in-depth tutorial, campaigns and custom games under predefined terms and conditions (limited resources, island terrains, time limit and death-match). The campaigns are different for all nations. Each nation has a specific strategy and AI. The Amazons are a wild female tribe, which focuses on combat. Pimmons are blue humanoid creatures and they are hardest to play with as they are a peace-loving nation, bent on technology and consuming food. Sajikis are insect-like creatures and their way of life is somewhere between the ways of the first two nations. Their strange looking buildings and weird logic make them hard to get used to.
Unlike Alien Nations, this game is a serious state management simulation. This makes the game pretty hard. When you start the game, you only get the "founder" which builds the town hall on its predefined position. Once he is done, you will get some workers and a limited resource supply. The workers are your base units and they are capable of constructing twenty-five different buildings. In order to get more workers, you will have to build more homes (upgraded homes can support up to nine inhabitants). Of course, all of them have to grow up, and go to school before they specialize for a certain occupation. All this fortunately takes only a couple of (game-time) days (the game has night and day changes, the only distinction between the two being that before each night-day change you get a pop-up screen telling you what time of day it is)...
The next structures you will have to build are the laboratory and the school. The laboratory is used for researching new technologies and buildings. For instance, when you develop "Law" you can build a police station and train policemen, when you develop "Temple" you can build churches and train priests, and even build a monument. Research is being financed from a special fund. You will at no time in the game have direct control over your subjects - each of them has his own AI, and is capable of doing less than predictable things.
School is a highly important facility, as it lets you train your citizens in new professions as you advance in technology. All your money comes from the taxes paid by the citizens - the more citizens you have the more money you get.
Apart from the basic structures, the game also features advanced structures like the carpenters shop, distillery, or soap factory.
You will take care of finances in a special game menu. Here, you can see the money you spent on motivating your citizens, research, and common expenditures - employees' wages. The money is gathered in equal time-intervals and distributed automatically according to this menu. Apart from money, you will have to cope with dozens of other resources. All nations have different resource models.
You will have to pay great heed to all things that influence the mood of your subjects, as they indirectly influence overall production and taxes. Your people will have special requirements at times, like places to go out to (so you have to build them a tavern or circus), juice (you have to build a mushroom-juice factory) and even women J. The most important thing is to keep them well fed, as hungry citizens easily become criminals and imperil the kingdom. Criminals are out of control and they will keep attacking citizens and taking their goods. You can get rid of them by building a police station and hiring policemen. Your farmers and hunters will provide the basic food resources that would later be turned into proper food in bakery and meat-shop. Foraging is also a good way to get food in the beginning. Your only defense against both enemies and traitors are your hunters and policemen. You will occasionally receive an offer from wandering warriors to defend your kingdom. In order to receive these offers, you will have to build the stronghold first. In fact, practically all professions will require you to build a certain structure before you can train them.
Even though you can attack your neighbors, the developers obviously focused on peaceful solutions. Instead of waging war against your enemies, you can settle your interest clashes using the whole lot of diplomatic options. Trade is the key to international relations in this game, and you can control it through the trade market on which you can offer or demand any goods. The Flying Merchant is there to buy your unwanted goods at low prices, but he can sometimes help you achieve victory over your opponents.
Hours of fun it has to offer, complex tech-tree, being as good as the settlers, possibly even better, excellent animations and graphics altogether;
Too complex for most players, a lot of bugs, poor AI, eight-year-old concept.
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