Champion of the Raj is Level 9's attempt to capture the intrigue of Imperial India. This coding team have proved their expertise in the field of adventures, but Champion takes them outside this realm, into a strategy and arcade world. Has the style swap been a success?
Champions rule India via a map. Through it they talk to, try to impress and battle each other. It ties the disparate elements of the game together, from arcade-
Champion equally stresses economic dexterity and battlefield ability. Firstly, India must be conquered by the force of the Red Coats, then kept law abiding, and industrialised and respected by competing rulers. The skills needed are juggling the tax expenditure through to waggling the joystick for the adventures - either arcade games or full battles.
The actual mechanics are simple in operation, but complex to plan. The states under your viceroy's command must be economically sound and military strong. Both industry and armies have to be built up, but bother both draw on the same resources. On top of these material elements comes prestige, which must be improved with pubic shows of wealth and valour. Undercutting these strategies lie the random element of the Thuggee cult, who lead rebellions and attempt assassinations.
Finding the correct tactics takes playing time, as you watch other rulers sweep to power. It then becomes apparent where cash should be spent, who to attack and when. It lets you get the feel of the sub-games, practice assures that they can be turned to your viceroy's advantage. A champion of the Raj has to be a jack of all trades, and a master of all.
The first hurdle for a would-be viceroy is the manual. It says much, but explains little. It lacks clear diagrams: it will readily give you a history lesson but shies away from a simple explanation, and advises players that hard disk installation improves game speed, but doesn't say what to do.
Champion is a melange of strategy, battlefield and arcade styles. All fulfill their avowed function, but, none of them are particularly strong. The arcade games are slow and are easily beaten, the battlefield allows little deep strategy above charge, retreat, encircle etc. The economy section lets you spend cash, but not determine how much is taxed in the first place.
All that glistens
Champion lacks speed. It loads each statistic screen for each state separately and takes time to switch between styles of play. Even the arcade sections lack speed, and getting in and out of these sub-games requires two more loads. It's annoyingly slow with two drives, but single drivers - - and the associated disk swapping - may feel the game's played in real time. And in Champion you've only one turn a year.
Graphically too, Champion falls flat. It tries to capture the colour of Imperial India using bright, single colours. Only 16 colours are used though, and while bright they appear flat. All the information is conveyed clearly, but when compared to similar arcade/
Champion works as a strategy/
Champion of the Raj works as a game, it simply doesn't play well enough or fast enough to maintain a viceroy's interest.