Score: 6.0 / 10
I've never gravitated towards turn-based strategy for the simple reason that it seems less frantic and action packed than their real-time counterparts. While I have enjoyed the greats of the turn based canon, I've never really been wowed by one. Domination is apparently the sequel to Massive Assault, a game that I have never heard of previous to this, which I'm sure will be to the disdain of fans of the series reading this. The strategic elements in Domination are akin to the challenges in playing chess; deductive reasoning and logical thinking will prevail. Seeing as how I stink at chess, although I love the challenge, it would take some serious flaws for me not to love a game with similar challenges.
Domination does just that; it has an excellent, simple yet elegant,
gameplay concept. You are presented with a playing field where each
space is a hexagon. Each unit can move a certain number of spaces, has a
firing range of a certain number of spaces, has a given amount of hit
points and can do a certain number of damage. The layout can present
obstacles where you can be blocked by the terrain, or if there is a
bottleneck, you can use your units to block the enemies advancing units
should you need to. As the genre implies, you and your opponent take
turns moving, and firing your units. By moving your units, using your
units to fire on enemy units, or through the absence of action, in each
turn, you must attempt to destroy your enemy units, or in some cases
hold a position, or ensure that certain units survive. While this all
sounds simple, it quickly gets complicated as you must plan well in
advance your strategy as even on the normal difficulty setting I found
the game extremely challenging. Luckily there is a nifty rewind and undo
feature that lets you take back bonehead moves when playing against the
computer. Also, there is an autosave that saves after each of your
on the game type there are also additional actions that can be taken on
your turn. Scattered throughout a terrain, there are countries with a
building that represents its headquarters. By capturing this building,
you will be able to generate revenue which you can use to buy more units
during the recruitment phase of your turn, which is after you have moved
and fired your units. There is also the disclosure phase which occurs in
some game modes. A player can begin the game with a number of secret
allies that are unknown to the opponent. During the start of the
player's turn, they must reveal one of their secret allies' countries.
At that point, that country will be shown to as a new enemy country to
the opponent and that countries units are deployed. These extra turn
events present an additional strategic element and provide a deeper
richness and an element of randomness to the hard logic of the standard
units that can be recruited are quite varied given that there are only
two races, or in this case, sides to choose from. There are land, air
and sea units. Each unit has its strengths and weaknesses and selecting
the right combination of units can be important to victory. This coupled
with the terrain aspect of the game can make for some interesting
One thing that is great about Domination though is the sheer amount of gameplay options that you have available. There are no less than five single player options. You have the regular single player campaigns for each side, a World War mode where you must capture as many countries as possible, an Assault mode where you must destroy the opponent completely, a Scenario mode where there are given missions with different objectives, and lastly a Career mode. Also there is an online mode as well where you can play via LAN, or internet. You can also play against a friend on the same computer. It's worth mentioning here as well that while you can play online for free, after 4 months, you will need to begin paying subscription fees to continue.
While all this gameplay is offered, and the core strategic elements of the game are sound, the game is crippled by its mediocre production values. The graphics are decidedly lackluster and have an aura of a home brew game. There is no theme or style to the units which makes them uniquely beautiful in a gaming sort of way. The lines are dull and straight but not sharp and crisp leaving you feeling like you are looking at a game from a few years ago. The campaign
portion is voice acted and scripted with still portraits of the characters. This would be OK, even given the fact that most games now have animated portraits, but the writing for the dialogue and the narration is so poor, that it is only overshadowed by the downright painful delivery from the voice actors. Words are mispronounced, accents are horribly wrong, and the acting is no more convincing than an elementary school play put on at Christmas by Grade 4 kids. While none of this takes away from the fact that there is a lot of good gaming offered from Domination, it does mean that the overall effect when you are playing the game makes less of an impact. While this won't bother die hard turn based fans, to create a simple illustration of how this can affect a game; I'm sure most hardcore gamers will remember playing Battlechess and not the first time they played Chessmaster and I'm sure they will cherish the former more. The reason is presentation; it can make a game more enjoyable, or in this case detract from its potent ional to be enjoyed.
Lastly, there have been some complaints about some technical issues, however, my now aging PC was able to aptly handle the game and only crashed a couple of times. Since then a 60+ MB patch has been released and the game has been solid since then. For turn based fans, there isn't a lot that is offered on the gaming market. The last time I remember a big name turn-based game released other than Civilizations 3 was Disciples 2. While this may mean that I'm just out to lunch, it appears to me that there isn't a lot to choose from in this realm of gaming. If you must have a turn based game this quarter, I suppose that Domination is the choice to have, but otherwise, if you can play a real-time game there are better titles out there now worth your money. Playing Domination was enjoyable, and I might be inclined to follow the series provided that the next game is better than this one.
- Mark Leung
(April 7, 2005)
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