I have decided that I have become far too important and busy to waste my time playing complicated strategy games. So for the purpose of this review, I am going to employa stunt reviewer.
(Enter a six-foot, slimly built, brownhaired figure with a persecuted air about him. From a distance, if he was moving fast enough, he could almost to be mistaken for Jonathan Davies. He begins to speak).
"Hello. Er. God sims, eh? And that is just was Genesia is. How do you pronounce that, by the way? Gen-ess-ia? Or Gen-ee-sia"? I phoned up Mindscape to ask them about 'Gen-ess-ia... Gen-ee-sia... or however you say it', but they did not take the bait. (I think they thought it was stupid, actually). Maybe it is obvious if you are a fan of a particular heavy metal group, or read a certain sort of fantasy book, but for some reason I could not get my tongue around it. Luckily you do not need to say it to play it, of course.
It is a god sim, you see (did I mention that?), and god sims just happen to be my favourite sort of game. I used to play a lot of board game conversions - Mah Jong ones being a particular favourite, although I still have not worked out exactly how the rules work, and all the Chinese writing gets me confused - but... oh yes, god sims.
Genesia will hold few surprises for you if you have played lots of this sort of thing before. It has got the usual Populous-style 3D landscape, rendered in delightfully pretty graphics which change with the seasons, of which you own a square-shaped chunk. You start off with just a couple of people living in little houses, and from there you have got to huild up a mighty empire. Impeding you are two other players, who begin in similar circumstances, and can be controlled either by the computer or by a couple of strategy-loving mates. In the latter case you both need to type in your names so the user interface may converse informally with you, although I still have not worked out how to get it coming out as anything other than ' ', which looks a bit stupid. "Your go, ," it says.
So what can you actually do in this 'go' of yours? Well, you cannot alter the terrain in any way - it is fixed into place. What you can do is appoint tasks to the people living in your village. You can make some of them architects, who build things; some can be farmers, wo make food; some can be woodcutters, who cut down trees; some can be carpenters, who make the trees into planks; some can be inventors, who invent the vehicles and weapons you will need once you start conquering things that take ages by the way and it will be several days before you even manage to get your population into double figures if you are anything like me; some can be blacksmiths who help the inventors to make things; but you cannot have sandwich men, whoch seems a shame. Or behavioural psychologists.
And once you tire of such peaceful creativity, and your blood-letting instincts begin to take a hold, you can begin to build a war machine. This involves recruiting an army and equipping them with the fruits of your inventors' labours, and also protecting your village (or city, as it will probably be by now) by building walls around it.
You have got to build up a mighty empire
Your task is to either a) kill everyone else, and take over the whole map, or b) seek out - and this is where Genesia's adventurely element comes in - seven mystical jewels (or similar) that are scattered around the... Argh!
(The helicopter which, as he was speaking, he had grabbed hold of and been carried several hundred feet into the air by, becomes entangles with a flock of migrating geese, loses a rotor blade, pirouettes into the sea and explodes. He dies).
Damn. Oh well, at least I get to keep all the money this way.
I did have a bit of a go on Genesia myself, actually, and it seemd pretty much okay. The graphics are, indeed, quite lovely, as are the sound effects, which (like the graphics) change depending on the time of year and what you are looking at, and it makes for a reasonably absorbing hour-eater.
I could only find three tangible flaws in it, in fact, and even these are not that major: 1) the disk accessing that occurs when you click on just about anything, which I really cannot see the need for; 2) the way the players all have to take it in turns, even when you are playing only against the computer, which lends the proceedings a much more tedious wargamey air than is strictly necessary; and 3) the way it takes an absolute eternity to get anywhere - there are only five levels, but conquering just one of them will be the work of several evenings, making it all the more frustrating if things start to go wrong and you begin wondering if you are going to win or whether you would be better off starting again.
Oh yeah, and there is just one other thing: there is nothing actually new here. It is yet another variation on the old Populous/Powermonger/Mega-lo-Mania/whatever theme with the variables tweaked slightly. The jewel-collecting stuff does add an extra dimension , it is true. But even so, if you have already got two out of the games mentioned above, you would have to be a very special sort of person to want this one as well.
Basically pretty great all round, then, nothing new, and it will only truly appeal to professionally-trained strategy buffs who already have all the necessary safety equipment.