Dominions: Priest, Prophets and Pretenders
Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 09/22/02 | Genre: Strategy
Dominions is one of the more unique titles I have come across in some time. With a few notable exceptions, I have found most strategy titles on the market lately to rather cookie-cutter or just too simple. There is plenty of depth to Dominions though. The basic premise behind the game is the competition between gods as they vie for control of their world. This takes place through the development of your domain, magic, heroes, and armies.
The players gods are designed from the ground up. Every detail of creation has been included from physical appearance to their effect on your population. The shape and details of them has a great effect of how you use them in a game. For example, stationary and imposing sphinx might be great on the battlefield at a higher cost. This might mean you have less points to spend on your domain influence (how your people view you), and magical abilities. The player really must know how they want to run their game. Do they want a large Cyclops pounding down enemy troops, or a floating head hard at work in the arcane laboratory.
It is a very customizable game. The game comes with the ability to edit new maps and monster. I was personally very happy to see the game runable on a Windows, Linux, Mac OS X or Solaris operation system from the same disk. The variety of units is a welcome change, my troops charging into an unknown territory might find a group of centaurs waiting. Without additions, there are over 600 units, 400 spells, and 300 magic items.
The game does have a learning curve, but includes adequate documentation. Your first game will probably be like mine. I built my dominion and pretender, and set out to conquer my local provinces. All goes well for awhile, but ultimately lose badly to the neighbors. It gets much easier from here, as you learn the ins-and-outs of your dominion's advantages (although I still have trouble beating Ermor alone).
The use of a "Hall of Heroes" is interesting. As heroes travel with armies and endure battles they grow more abilities. As they grow, the acquire special weapons and enhancements to support your dominion. In addition to creating troops locally from citizen levies and recruitment, troops can be hired on a global market or summoned. One such incident was with the before mentioned war with Ermor. On the eve of battle, I offered up enough gold to turn a particular units of elephants to my army. Thus eliminating the need to fight them next turn, and give my local troops more support. Mercenaries can backfire if you fail to keep up the bidding war though.
All battles orders are set during the turn so battles are watched (or just reported if you choose) after a turn is updated. Leaders and troops are set to assignments. A leader might spend the battle casting, while his knights protect him. His pike men might surge forward to drive back the enemy while longbow men fire and flee. The graphics and sound are not outstanding. This is obvious on the first load, but surprisingly I did not find it as important as I initially thought.
It is clear that the development time with Dominions was focused on a details and depth of play, at which they clearly succeed. It is a title that requires a bit more attention to the learning curve then most games. I like the ability to customize my game to all extremes, and square off in a multi-player arena. The graphics and attention to detail may drive off some players, but those who remain will find a enjoyable strategy game.