Look for The Adversary On Your 8-Ball Break


8-Ball break

Extra made complex in method compared to 9-Ball, as several as 7 adversary spheres wait for each effective open 8-Ball break. All your challenger’s collection might develop threats on the table. Think about Number 1.

The gamer with red stripes is “prepared” to fire the 8-ball as well as win, having actually removed all their established from the cloth. Yet the apparent pocket “A” is absolutely obstructed by the 2- as well as 7-balls. Solids has actually played clever or obtained fortunate. The red stripes shooter should certainly have actually removed both as well as 7 long ago otherwise played the cue ball to one more place to pocket the 8-ball somewhere else.

Right away from the open break, these 2 solids must have been acutely thought about by both gamers. Crazy gamers cannot act prior to they are compelled to think about difficulty spheres.

8-Ball supplies 8 good friends as well as 7 opponents on each table of 15 things rounds. In this situation from our 8-Ball break data, “maintaining your good friends close as well as opponents closer” was the incorrect point to do!

Guard The Secret Sphere In all Prices!

Number 2 shows the crucial sphere concept in 8-Ball pool. Once more, the 8-ball will fit conveniently in Pocket A, yet which sphere will be the last strong played?

The 4-ball in this representation supplies the most effective fit, and also as soon as the cue ball comes to rest where the 4 currently rests, most likely taken with a quit shot rolling the 4 right into among the various other 3 pockets revealed, all is well and also right into the 8 for Pocket A. Video game over.

The 1-ball will certainly obviously should come off quickly, at some point long prior to the 4 to remove the course intented for the game-winning 8-ball. Yet the 4-ball is the crucial to the win as well as saved for next-to-last as this video game’s essential sphere.

Is it fine to strike a challenger’s round initially to play risk-free and also finish your inning? Is this “dirty pool” or a wise action when the challenger is not granted ball-in-hand?

The solution is it’s a wise relocation, and also commonly also when the challenger takes ball-in-hand. Gamers do not like it bet them, yet they additionally do not such as when others win!

Simply a couple of weeks back, I did the exact same point in a suit, dividing 2 close-by with each other red stripes as well as separating their feasible run for the win as I waited my following turn at the solids.

Expect upcoming posts on various other interesting elements of 8 Ball Pool. I have best recommend to use this 8 Ball Pool Hack tool generator actually educated 8 Ball pool for years and also am still discovering, as well. Planet’s most prominent pool video game likewise supplies a few of its inmost techniques.

Star Wars Episode I: The Gungan Frontier Review


Star Wars The Gungan Frontier

Many a sigh of relief has been breathed since the return of an old friend to the Macintosh platform. After leaving Mac users to exist without the joys of multiplayer X-Wing/TIE Fighter battles for so long, a return of any sort from the Lucas camp was sure to grab the attention of the Mac gaming community. One such title to recently hit the Mac shelves is Star Wars Episode I: The Gungan Frontier. It is important to realize that this game was made by Lucas Learning, Ltd. This is not Lucas Arts, the same company which brought us the Rebel Assault, X-Wing and TIE Fighter titles several years ago. If youre the sort of die-hard gamer who is used to such quality titles, you might want to start saving for Star Wars Episode I: Pod Racer, which is slated to arrive on the Mac later this year. The Gungan Frontier, although having several enthralling and detailed cinematic scenes, does not carry the same graphic punch characteristic of the Lucas Arts titles. Nor will the game appeal to the tried and tested simulation game fan. In the tradition of Lucas Learning Ltd., The Gungan Frontier is aimed toward a younger audience with the goal of providing an opportunity for learning, capturing the imagination and allowing creativity to flourish.

In the game, you assume the role of either Obi-Wan Kenobi (the less wrinkly version) or Queen Amidala (the kabuki dressed not-quite-as-luscious-looking-a-babe-while-meandering-on-Tatooine-but-still-a-babe version). The Gungans, like any normal sentient beings, have decided that they can no longer live in the area that Mother Nature made for them. Instead, in the Zerg-ish fashion, they have decided to expand their underwater realm to one of Naboos nearby moons. They have gathered creatures from all over the galaxy among which you may choose to populate the barren moon. Once you have established an ecosystem on the moon, the Gungans will then move in and begin pillaging and slaughtering all the plants and animals you have spent many turns building, all so the new Gungan city can thrive. Oops, hold on. Let me turn off my psycho environmentalist button. Put simply, your main goal is to establish a stable ecosystem on the moon, regulate the gathering of resources for the building of the new Gungan city, and to maintain the delicate balance between the two.

As the game loads, you are provided a glimpse of the Gungan frontier environment with creatures of all shapes and sizes traveling across the screen. John Williams Jar Jars Introduction plays in the background. You can almost smell the swampy air and the piles of dung which are just waiting for Gungans named Jar Jar to step in. When a new game is started, one is hit with the standard Star Wars movie beginning as the story of the Gungans desperate plight scrolls up the screen. You are then provided a glimpse of Naboo and your vessel jetting toward the surface, just one more thing to make you feel a part of a movie event. Thus begins your discussion with Boss Nass where you are given further insight into the game and told what is expected of you. Whats this? R2-D2 is coming along? And Jar Jar Binks? Another companion will be the Kresch, a living clam-like creature who holds a bounty of valuable information. With over 200 entries about the creatures, the characters and the places that make up the Gungan Frontier, each with its own cross-referencing links, the Kresch is by far one of the most inventive in-game design encyclopedias Ive encountered. It makes the Civilization II Gold encyclopedia seem disjointed and incomplete.

Star Wars The Gungan

The Gungan Frontier follows the same formula as all its Sim predecessors. One must first establish a booming plant-filled moon surface and then populate it with creatures, slowly moving up the food chain to create a balanced ecosystem, making sure that one species does not destroy another. A variance to the formula is that the Gungans also need to harvest food and building resources from this fragile ecosystem. Doing so is not always as easy as it sounds, especially with the random disasters feature activated. These disasters can also be triggered at any time by the player and range from a devastating plague, a moon quake (complete with an R2-D2 scream and meaningless babble accompaniment from Jar Jar), and the accidental release of creatures and plants into the ecosystem (Jar Jars fault, of course. Meesa so sorry! Whatever, Jar Jar. Dont make me slap you around and join the web ring. You know the one Im talking about.)

Lets discuss for a moment the in-game design. R2-D2 provides updates on the creatures activities, population status (no SimLife Ooo-lala, unfortunately), and tells you when things may need your attention. Little R2 also recommends ways to stop these ecological problems before they get out of hand. If R2-D2 is your surface liaison, then Boss Nass is your contact for the underwater Gungan city. With enough yousa and meesa commentary to make the neighbors move, the Big Nassty one tells you how the city is faring. And again, theres Jar Jar. Meesa thinks yousa building a grand ecosystem. Thanks, Binks. There is no need for me to visit the www.diediediejarjar.com site any more than I already have (yes, the site exists). Lets see here… Settings menu, then down to the Jar Jar Sleep option. Ah, peace at last. The voices for these characters are done by the same people who did them for the movie, and their animations deserve kudos.

Whereas the introduction screens and movies are a treat to observe, the in-game animation of the moons surface and creatures are second rate. The creatures, plants and moons surface appear blocky and distorted, especially when the camera is zoomed in. Although the graphics are still good enough to be able to distinguish one specie from another, a little eye candy would not have hurt anything. I expected more in the graphics arena from a game bearing the Lucas name.

Within the game, one has access to population/time graphs which can track individual species or the ecosystem as a whole. The species charts also provide information on each species life cycle, methods of living, and food chain placement. A counter in the upper right-hand corner of the screen shows you your current bio-score and Gungan population, providing a quick reference as to whether or not your planetary manipulations are successful. There is also a button allowing you to switch from the surface camera to a view of the underwater city. Unfortunately, there is not much going on there besides the ability to see the current Gungan citys size and growth. Some additional game play features allowing more advanced or older players to interact with the citys growth would have been nice. The tool selector allows you to stun, capture, place and track the health and status of individual members of a specie. Access to the Kresch and harvest controls are easily obtained. There is also a zoom meter, but again, it gets ugly up close. And Im not just talking about the Rancor.

Star Wars The Gungan Frontier

Another game feature that is outstanding is the Create-A-Critter option. Create a color scheme, determine its ways of living and give it a name. Ever dreamt of making your own little Star Wars creature out of something more than Play-Doh? Well, now you can. =)

In my opinion, even with the advanced game and mission features, this game just cant hold the attention of an adult gamer. I found little challenge in the game, even when playing the most difficult missions. But it is important to remember that the stated games target audience is for ages 9 and up. Thus, it made sense to me to take the game over to a neighbors house so that her 10 and 13 year old could play the game and give me some feedback on what they thought.

They loved the game! With all the various creatures with which they could play and the ability to bring on a moon quake with the click of a button, they were simply enthralled. It comes down to this: kids like Star Wars, thus theyll like playing The Gungan Frontier. (The same probably applies to insane Star Wars fanatics. You know, the ones who keep the Darth Maul Pizza Hut box covers hanging on their wall?)

Taking this review in a slightly different direction, because the game is sold with the premise that children can learn something by playing and that Im finishing my degree in elementary education, I decided to put it to the test. Once the children and I had a stable ecosystem going, I asked them what they thought would happen if we suddenly unleash a horde of Rancor upon the population, or if we changed the Gungan harvesting amount to Most for all the species on the moon. The children agreed that the planet would not function as well as it was currently, and that some of the creatures and plants would die. Pretty astute, kids! People in education know that one has to set up an environment for learning. Just giving your children this game will teach them very little. However, if you provide them with some scenarios and ask them open ended questions, I think youll be surprised how much theyll want to discover.

As for the Rancor, they wiped out everything and destroyed the ecosystem. The children knew it would happen, but it was good to let them see such things in action. We then spent some time discussing why the ecosystem crashed and what we could have done to prevent it, and how this game might parallel the real world. Is this game really educational? You bet, if placed in the hands of a parent or teacher who is willing to set up a learning environment while using the game as a tool. A willing teacher and a fantastic Star Wars setting are the perfect mix to grab a childs imagination. I plan to use this game in my classroom.

Although the upper teen and adult Mac gamer might easily become bored, this does not detract from the games value. For the target age group, The Gungan Frontier provides a wonderful world for them to explore. I only wish the game had come packaged with a set of lesson plans or discussion questions to help adults enhance the games educational potential. If you know someone in the games target audience, The Gungan Frontier is a perfect gift.

Escape from Monkey Island – Strong Series of Adventure Games


Escape from Monkey Island

Adventure gaming remains a gem, even in todays world of Quake, Half-Life, and Starcraft. Even though the genre has been tapped more than most (as veteran gamers of the early and mid 1990s are aware), todays adventure games tend to be faithful to their origins, yet fresh enough to thoroughly entertain. LucasArts Escape from Monkey Island is no exception. Not since Yosemite Entertainments Quest for Glory V has this gamer had so much fun with a third-person 3-D adventure.

For the unaware, the Monkey Island series has been one of LucasArts most-loved genres. The player assumes the role of Guybrush Threepwood, the Cosmo Kramer of pirates, if you will. His adventures have taken him from island to island in search of famous treasures, such as Big Whoop, while being chased by his arch-nemesis, the Ghost Pirate LeChuck. The series is known for its unique tongue-in-cheek humor (which both adult and younger players are able to appreciate, as the jokes resonate on a number of different levels), as well as its decidedly characteristic musical score. During its early days, Monkey Island was the comic relief in a lineup of otherwise serious games (Indiana Jones, X-Wing, Dark Forces, etc) and enjoyed much success among both Mac and PC gamers. Monkey Island II, often credited as being the best of the bunch, was the last offering that LucasArts made to the Mac faithful, however.

When Aspyr Media announced at the AspyrWorld party in October of 2000 that Monkey Island would be returning to the Mac platform, this gamer quite literally yelped with joy (I quickly regained composure, however, and looked quizzically at the people around me in a pitiful attempt to pretend it was someone else). To say that a sense of trepidation was not present would be an understatement however. Was the story up to par with its predecessors? Was the humor in step with the rest of the series? The series had since changed hands to a new creative team; just because this game carried the Monkey Island moniker didnt necessarily mean that it was deserving.

Escape from Monkey Island Review

Fortunately, Escape from Monkey Island is a great addition to a very strong series of adventure games. As we join our hero, Guybrush is now the husband of Governor Elaine Marley. Unfortunately, Elaine has been away from her constituency for so long that she has been presumed dead. She is forced to campaign for re-election against a sinister opponent who bears a striking resemblance to the evil ghost pirate LeChuck. The adventure takes you across many islands, both familiar and new, and the humor is thankfully fresh and vibrant. Escape from Monkey Islands creators have abstained from recycling old jokes, while at the same time creating a game that is very aware of its heritage (off-hand references to earlier plots and characters will put a smile on the veteran player).

Escape from Monkey Island not only exceeded my expectations, but renewed my love for adventure games as a whole. The games control and feel has been executed with precision. The graphics, while somewhat simplistic with respect to characters, retain the look and feel of the genre, and look great on even a modestly-powered Macintosh. Unfortunately, the game only runs reliably under Mac OS 9, and plans for Mac OS X compatibility have been scrapped. Had a Mac OS X version been released, Escape from Monkey Island would have received an atomic 5 out of 5 rating: a true rarity. Nonetheless, Aspyr and LucasArts have a real gem in Escape from Monkey Island. If youve never played a game from the series before, or even if youre a longtime veteran, pick the game up; you wont be disappointed.

Dark Vengeance Review – the only really unique point


Dark Vengeance

Reality Bytes has had an interesting struggle for identity over the course of their game designing career. Their first title, Sensory Overload, came when Doom was the #1 selling game in the history ofwell, of anything, really, and the Mac was starved for first-person 3D shooters. (Yes, there was a time, and it wasn’t that long ago.) Sensory Overload was the first 3D shooter on the Mac to try for a reality-based scenario; the enemies were digitized photos of human actors, the levels were set in office corridors and subway terminals, and the music was modern and upbeat.

Their second effort, Havoc, revealed how creative they could truly be when working on an original title. Havoc, a game of vehicular combat, raised the bar for multiplayer gaming. It was the first Mac title to take advantage of QuickDraw 3D acceleration, and it was one of the first multiplay title available on the Mac or anywhere else to support 2 players right out of the box. The lesson was clear: Reality Bytes does best when innovating, rather than when conglomerating.

Unfortunately, while still compelling in its own right, Dark Vengeance offers little to no evidence that this lesson has been learned. What tries to be an innovative new entry into the realm of 3D gaming feels like a cross between Tomb Raider, The Untouchable, and Hexan wrapped up with a new custom interface.

Dark Vengeance Review

The back story is fairly standard stuff for fantasy themed games; an evil empire long taken for dead has arisen and it’s up to you to single-handedly save The World As We Know It. However, to somewhat differentiate DV from every other fantasy game since the dawn of silicon, the three characters in DV are each given personal motivations for wreaking havoc on the Kingdom of the Dark Elves; this battle is not fought out of any sense of heroism or altruism, but because there is a score to settle. The archtypical Warrior and Warlock join us, as does a new character, the Trickster, a jack of all trades and master of none.

The game’s approach to combat is the only really unique point, and while a little rough around the edges it shows promise. Rather than simply running, jumping, and shooting like some relic-hunting heroines we won’t mention, the characters in DV have a wide variety of moves. These are executed through a surprisingly small number of keys by judicious use of chording (combining 2 or more keys to achieve one function) and while it keeps the number of keys to keep track of surprisingly low, it does make executing a series of moves more difficult. This combines with a lack of InputSprocket support (and in this day and age, there is little to no excuse for that) to make setting up joysticks nearly impossible.

DV’s combat focus is on hand-to-hand fighting. Swinging a weapon draws a swath of color on the screen that indicates the arc of your weapon; a yellow swath indicates a miss, the red a hit. This emphasis, however, creates an unfair bias in character selection; because the Warrior not only takes the most punishment before toppling but deals the most in combat he becomes the obvious choice, and is highly recommended for new players. The Warlock is next because he is the only character to begin the game with a missile weapon; the best way to avoid taking damage is to stay out of your opponents’ strike range, and this more than compensates for the fact that he has the lowest life total of the three. But the Trickster not only has the smallest initial weapon (and, by extension, the smallest area of attack), she also feels the hits of the Dark Elves the hardest, making combat with her a drawn out dance that requires copious use of the game’s dodge controls and very, very careful timing of commands – stack up too many attacks and dodging becomes impossible. Unfortunate, given that of the three, the Trickster has the most compelling personality.

Dark Vengeance Review Combat

The game’s appearance and presentation highlight at the same time some of it’s greatest strengths and weaknesses. The graphics are very well done; the game has a very dark ambiance that is unlike anything else in the current crop of titles, with menacing music (albeit MIDI, rather than CD audio) that underscores it quite well. The fire and smoke effects are also some of the best in any title to date, rivaling even the ultra-realism of Unreal. Alas, if only as much attention had been paid to the levels’ geometry. Periodically characters will walk right through closed doors (don’t let them close on you, though – that will earn you an instant and unforgiving death sentence) or fall through invisible cracks in the floor and plunge into a bottomless pit of inky darkness from which there is no escape but to abort the game.

Like all 3D games of late, DV features a multiplayer mode. While we didn’t get a chance to test this, the specs look impressive; the game supports up to 32 players in one deathmatch or flag capture game, with up to another 32 simply serving as spectators. Network play is only supported over the Internet, but you can elect to simply search for available servers if you don’t know a specific IP address. Sadly, Reality Bytes forgot the lessons leared with Havoc; you can only do net play if each player has a full registered version of the game, flying in the face of such examples as Marathon, WarCraft, Myth, and Reality Bytes’ own Havoc, which feature installations to allow two or three people to play netgames with only one license.

Overall, Dark Vengeance simply feels like it was released a little too early. A little bit of time and testing would have cleared up the problems with “holes” in the levels; the addition of a CD audio score would have improved the music quality a thousand fold; the inclusion of a network client would have increased the overall value enormously. As it stands Dark Vengeance is still an interesting title, but the rough spots prevent it from being the truly world-class title Reality Bytes was hoping for -and the level designers are just as stingy with powerups and health as they were with Sensory Overload all those years ago. Certainly worthy of consideration, but be sure to give this one a test drive.

Harpoon 3 – Learn it and Join the Navy


harpoon 3

If you are a hard-core modern wargamer (and I’m talking about a love for complex simulations of modern, high-tech combat) you already like Tom Clancy novels such as RED STORM RISING and RED OCTOBER. You folks should add two cooling towers to my review rating–die hard wargamers will overlook the many interface shortcomings of this game and gobble up the in-depth simulation and gritty, command-bridge look and feel of Harpoon 3.

Everyone else should stay away

This game does such a good job of capturing the look and performance of the contemporary battle management system used by our Navy that the Navy itself uses it in training, much as a version of Doom and a version of F-16 Fighting Falcon are used by the military to get training done on the cheap.

For your average gamer, this isn’t a great thing. The map interface is brutally simple, as you can see in the screenshots. The game designer takes pride in closely the look and feel of how this sort of thing looks on the command bridge of a naval task force–too bad the microcomputer Harpoon 3 is running on can do much better (at least from a graphical standpoint). The game is presented using one of two symbol sets. Terrain is drawn with green lines, enemies appear in red, friends in blue, and unknowns in yellow. You give orders to the ships and aircraft under your command using a semi-friendly interface.

Clearly, this game’s strengths lie in its enormous database of equipment and weapons, which inlcudes subtle variations on how sonar works through and around the thermal layer under the sea, and how elevation affects radar performance.

Gimme a Pack o’ Planes Already

Nothing beats the thrill of commanding a large force of naval vessels and aircraft in a do or die mission against a determined and powerful enemy, unless you’re a bookworm and enjoy the prospect of wading through a 300+ page manual to find out how to do it. Unfortunately, it is difficult to get the most out of this game without mastering the intricacies of forming missions and arraying your ships using the formation editor.

There are a series of tutorials, but they fall short of being comprehensive, and it is possible to play them successfully and still feel unsure about the material the tutorial was supposed to have forced you to master. This is due in part to the lack of feedback, and also due to the many ways one can accomplish the same task. Want to order a strike against an enemy ship? You can use the mission editor or do it manually. If you do it manually, you can arrange for the strike any one of three ways.

In general, feedback is weak in the tutorials and in the game itself. This, despite the fact you have a capable staff on hand to help you with the details…

harpoon 3

Your Staff

The computer will manage six different types of details for you, configurable at your option. Too bad they feel compelled to yammer away at you in such detail that unless you set their reporting to you OFF in the preferences, you will invariably spend a LONG time acknowledging various messages. The number of messages might be tolerable if your staff had the ability to tell you what a group of planes, for example, was doing, instead of insisting on telling you what each one is up to. Send a group of eight planes to launch anti-ship missiles at those naughty Soviets, and when they turn for home you’ll get eight, count ’em, EIGHT little message boxes, each telling you one plane is out of applicable ammo and is heading home.


On the other hand, your staff is fully capable and brings the daunting task of managing a modern battlegroup easily within your reach. Whether you’ve got the cojones to grasp that management task is up to you. Special note: if you “lose” one of these “click me” dialogue boxes behind your map, you won’t be able to set the time compression to anything but 1-1, a little problem it took me more than an hour to figure out.

If Only I Had a Manual

Unless you’re willing to print out 300+ pages of Harpoon manual, you’ll be stuck flipping back and forth between the game and the manual to look things up…or spending a lot of time reading on-screen text. One of these options might have been attractive, except for the fact the fellow who has taken over the venerable Harpoon name and source code (and updated it fairly well, it seems) didn’t bother to re-polish the manual. Ignore all references to Harpoon 2, you’re told. Harpoon 3 is pretty much the same thing.

And one would buy Harpoon 3 because… ?

In any case, the manual itself is quite good, despite the fact it isn’t on paper and it is labelled Harpoon 2. Improvements in Harpoon 3 seem to mainly take the form of a greatly expanded database and a much more accurate map.

Boy, I hate not having manual in-hand when I play a game. I can’t count the number of times when I really wanted to put the game on hold and flip a few pages to check how to do something…but couldn’t, unless I wanted to run Adobe Acrobat in the background.

harpoon 3


The game, which is only available via mail-order, is clearly a one-man band effort. Building on the well-known Larry Bond game, Spears has managed to do some good things with Harpoon 3–but he is still just one guy. Which is no doubt why the game, as shipped, is riddled with errors and should not be run without the most recent update. The database of weapons, weapon platforms, and other machines of war is full of errors, omissions, and other cute problems.

While released first for the Mac, the game lacks many interface elements which would have made it much easier to play. Many commands are non-intuitive (when you model the military method…) and even after more than twenty hours of play, I still couldn’t figure out how to do certain desirable things. The database is full of nifty pictures and has tons of keen details about weapons, planes, and ships–but it is inaccessible except via a window. So if you’re trying to figure out what weapons to load on your Hornets, and you see half-dozen weapons named inexplicable things, you have to note them down, close that dialogue window, bring up the database window, and check it out. Aggravating and slow, and needlessly so.

To make matters even more difficult, surfing the Harpoon 3 web site is an exercise in “huh?” You won’t find the necessary update labelled as such–it’s under “Designer’s Notes.” Wha?

Sadly, there’s no multiplayer capability just yet, though this game has great promise in that area. Exchanging the data necessary to pit two live players against each other over the internet would not require a lot of bandwidth, and the basic aspect of “hidden movement” that is integral to the game would make it a blast to play interactively.

So Close

As an old-time player of wargames, both on the hex paper battlefield and on the phosphor battlefield, I enjoyed playing Harpoon 3. I’ve got the background to appreciate it (thanks to my “Sub Battle Simulator” training, I aced the “Submarine” tutorial first time out) and to work around the kinks. But Harpoon 3 is just too clunky to make it with mainstream computer gamers who relish a quick game of Myth II or Starcraft. If you’ve got the wargaming bug, and I mean the real simulate reality with dice and charts and big maps bug, then add two cooling towers to my score and order Harpoon 3 today. Don’t wait: it takes a long time to arrive and poor Mr. Spears isn’t set up to take credit cards. Get the most recent update as soon as Harpoon arrives and fire up this sucker.

Anyone who knows the thrill of piling ten Harpoon missiles onto the Kirov as she sits fifty miles off Florida, or the fist-pumping joy of dropping big tonnage onto Havana’s airport, will appreciate this game. Too bad there are so few of us out there: most Mac gamers just won’t get Harpoon 3, and should stay away.

Ceaser III – The same as that of most City Builders


Ceaser III

Someone asked me to sum up Ceaser III in one sentence, and I told them “SimCity meets the Roman Empire.” This is true as far as it goes, but my girlfriend’s observation is correct: I don’t normally enjoy SimCity games. That doesn’t change the fact that I have yet to sit down to a Ceaser III session and get up less than 6 hours later. It’s that compelling.

The premise is the same as that of most city builders: you are the governor of a city and are responsible for turning a plot of empty land into a thriving megalopolis, all while working with bugetary constraints, avoiding man-made disasters and cleaning up after natural ones, appeasing five wrathful gods, and finding some way to keep the ever-so-demanding citizenry happy. But Ceaser III has not only improved on the previous titles in its own series by streamlining and adding new elements, it has also addressed every single complaint I had with SimCity, making it hands down the most compelling empire builder I have seen yet.

Ceaser III has two modes of play. The Construction Set mode is a free form city building experience, with no goals, no expectations, and no limitations, other than building the best city you can. You choose one of several historical sites for cities in the Roman empire, each with different resources and limitations. The other option is the Career mode, in which you take on a series of assignments to build specific cities to specific requirements laid out by Ceaser. The progression here is not unlike that in Warcraft II; your initial missions exist mostly to get you famiilar with how the game works, and then you are rapidly thrust into a competative environment in which you have to apply what you have learned as expertly as possible.

After playing the game for some time, however, the introductory missions of the Career mode turned out to be the most frustrating in the game. The reason why is simple enough; in an effort to keep the learning curve down, several options are simply disabled until you progress to higher levels. Frustratingly enough, however, the game keeps offering advice of what you should add to your city to fix the problems you are encountering invariably, its suggestions are options you don’t have access to yet.

Ceaser III

The interaction model of the game is very complex and interrelated, and while it means that the learning curve is somewhat steeper than for most titles in the genre, overall it makes for a more enjoyable game. One of my complaints with SimCity was that the problems you encountered (too much traffic, needing more zoning of a certain category, etc) seemed seperate from the overall flow of the city. Ceaser III feels like its algorythms are much more interrelated. You also have much more precise control over how you build your city than in most other such games. The only “zoning” you do is by designating certain areas as housing. All other structures — hospitals, temples, bath houses, aqueducts, you name it — are placed individually and exactly where you want them. This makes solving specific issues in the city much easier.

There are 2 major aspects of your city that must be built up for it to be successful. The first, obviously, is revenue. Though you are empowered to tax your citizenry, they tend to rebel against high tax levels, making this at best an ineffecient and at worst a dangerous source of primary income. For your city to grow you must quickly establish trade routes to neighboring cities and export goods to them.

The second is housing. As in all city building games, the only control you have over housing is to designate certain regions of the city site as residential. Depending on how well you balance the other factors in your city, the computer assigns people to live in certain areas. As conditions in a given area improve, so will the population density, and more people means better housing. A nice enhancement to this game over other city builders is the info-click (aka command-click). Info-clicking a building will tell you how well it’s doing, and will also give you a detailed analysis of what that building requires to advance to the next level. Roman citizens have no source of transportation beyond their own two feet, so it is vital to ensure that they have easy access to your city’s services. Nor can Rome subsist on bread alone; ensuring that your citizenry have access to each of work, food, health care, aesthetics, entertainment, education, and religion is vital for a house to evolve to it’s highest possible level.

The manual, though very large, is informative and clearly written and it is worth pointing out that there is absolutely no platform bias evident in its pages, a rarity that should be commended. Note as well that you simply will not construct a successful city without at least taking a glance at it. Part of this is because you need to learn how to zone your city; some buildings will improve the value of a neighborhood, others will degrade it, and as valuable housing is one of the keys to doing well in this game, this is vital information to know. Part of it too is that you will not be able to grow your city beyond certain low levels without establishing trade routes, and while this is not a difficult process, neither is it overly intuitive — especially in the early stages of the Career Mode, where your access to trading is limited at best.

The game is beautiful, with highly detailed graphics and very immersive sounds. All this comes at a cost, however. The system requirements are fairly steep; a 604e/200 playing at 800×600 had some noticable slowdowns, especially during crisis moments such as fires or invasions, and though a 603 is listed as the minimum requirement, I would not want to try it there. The support files are also intensive. The smallest install is 140 megabytes, and the game can gobble up as much as half a gig if you let it. Impressions did include a few corrupt files on the CD but they have already posted a fix on their page.