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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Strategy

 

Publisher

Strategy First

 

Developer

Indie Games Production

 

ESRB

E (Everyone)

 

Released

March 2007

 

 

- Numerous starting options promise replayability (if not playability)

- Feels more historically faithful than many comparable games

 

 

- So convoluted and baffling that itís virtually unplayable

- The skimpy manual and broken tutorial make learning the game difficult

- Underwhelming graphics and sound

 

 

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Great Invasions: The Dark Ages "350 - 1066 A.D."

Score: 5.0 / 10

 

Rather than giving me insight into what it was like to be a ruler during the historical period that Strategy First / Nobilis and Indie Games Productionsí Great Invasions covers, the game actually gave me more insight into being a Dark Ages peasant Ė because after experiencing the baffling complexity of being a Dark Ages ruler in G.I., I think Iíd far prefer the life of a lowly serf, hoeing a line of potatoes.

 

great invasions the dark ages          great invasions the dark ages

 

Iím not entirely joking here.  Great Invasions is yet another foreign import (French, this time) that hasnít safely made the voyage over the pond.  To start, the minimal manual and broken tutorial are a huge problem with a strategy game this convoluted and difficult Ė a deal breaker, in my opinion.  Iíve dealt with some baffling games but havenít encountered anything quite this frustrating in a while.  With no ready explanations, the initial learning curve becomes more of a learning cliff.  My trial-and-error fumblings during my first attempts only left me more confused, and I was never able to tell the good from the bad from the indifferent in the flood of information the game dumps on you.  There may be a great game buried deep in here which a real manual and working tutorial would help me discover, but unfortunately Iím just not up to digging for it.

 

One unique feature of Great Invasions is that it requires the player to act as a ďteamĒ leader, governing a group of ideologically or culturally united provinces against other groupings controlled by the AI (or other players online), bidding for

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unaligned provinces.  Different starting periods allow for different faction match-ups, and various historical and fantasy settings allow a range of play possibilities.  Winning relies on achieving faction-specific victory points.  This is all great in theory and maybe reflects more historical accuracy than similar (and more fun) strategy games that simplify or distort history (ie. Total

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War series), but itís all irrelevant if the game in question is virtually unplayable.

 

Though Iím not as much of a graphics fetishist as many gamers these days, especially when it comes to strategy games, and Iíve even become a fan of elegant simplicity lately, I have to say that Great Invasionsí graphics are pretty darn uninspired, and made me think, if anything, of a middle school history project.  And while the Dark Ages wasnít a period known for its rocking tunes, the music is a bit underwhelming too. 

 

Finally, I have to direct a little criticism at the gameís co-publisher, Strategy First, whom Iíve been a fan of for years but lately have begun a disturbing trend of dumping D-list import lemons like this on gamers, many of whom probably buy them because of the S.F. brand.  I really hope that in future Strategy First will move away from this practice back to publishing the quality games they built their reputation on.

 

My 5.0 score here reflects the possibility that I havenít given this title sufficient benefit of the doubt (otherwise it would get a 3.)  I donít want to discourage the intrepid few who might find some real pleasures here or are so excited about the time period that theyíre willing to endure Great Invasionsí abundant frustrations.  But I do want to discourage virtually everyone else.  As for me, if anyone needs me, Iíll be out hoeing my potato patch.

 

- John Tait

(July 3, 2007)

 

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