Top positive review
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The best city-builder... bar none!
on 23 November 2000
Another (perhaps the final) chapter in the ever-impressive City-Building Series, Impressions' latest offering is an absolute gem. Somehow they have taken the genre, picked out all the fun parts, and thrown them all together in the same game.
The whole feel of the game is somehow different, in an almost whimsical way. You really do feel that you have been transported back to ancient Greece (or at least, a romanticized version thereof). Anyone who says city-building is dull or formulaic should take a look at Zeus, and then admit they were wrong!
Gameplay: The engine is largely based on the Caesar 3 and Pharaoh engines. This means you get the same view of the world, and still place a load of buildings that generate various walkers to perform functions in your city. That is about where the similarities end. The gameplay is very much more streamlined in Zeus, with the emphasis shifted somewhat away from micromanagement. You still have to take care of your citizens basic needs: (healthcare, food, clothing, olive oil(?), and assorted cultural diversions), and prevent your buildings from burning to the ground, but the whole distribution system has been tweaked, and a few judicious changes made elsewhere. The result is something that seems so much more intuitive and easier to manage.
The interface has also been substantially improved, with all the city information now very much at your fingertips.
Of course, the shift away from micromanagement would be a bad thing if there were nothing in its place. And, naturally, there is. The best, without a shadow of a doubt, improvement to Zeus is the world interaction. Now you no longer have to listen to the man upstairs; you are your own master. That is not to say you can do whatever you like. Your actions all have repercussions on the world political scene.
This adds enormous replay value to the game: there are just so many ways you can accomplish the mission goals. If you need a particular item, you can beg, buy, or steal it. If a rival leader irritates you, you can send your army to find out how much he likes paying you tribute! Of course, should you fail in your attempted conquest...
I seem to have got this far without mentioning the mythology. Clumsy me. This is another fantastic feature. The immortals no longer just dictate their will from on high: they will actively solicit your worship. And should you irritate them, you might be 'rewarded' with a visitation: either in person, in through the medium of an unpleasant monster. And when the latter happens, just call on the likes of Jason, Hercules and Odysseus to help you out.
Graphics: Well. Those of you with experience of previous city-building games will know what to expect. You will be pleasantly surprised. In keeping with the mythological feel, Zeus has a distinctly cartoonish air about. The buildings are, well, whimsical, and the landscapes painted in an almost washed-out palette. But, once again, it is a superbly-crafted game, with the usual astonishing attention to detail (right down to the little suits of armour and horses in the smartest of homes).
Add to that the various Gods, Monsters and Heroes, all of whom are distinctly larger than life, and you get a game that is graphically sumptuous, even by previous City-Building standards.
Sound: The sound for this game is a work of art. The background sounds, a mixture of decidedly eclectic music and occasional ambient sounds, again fit the mood perfectly. The individual sound effects (the voices of the people) show the same meticulous attention to detail that set the graphics aside. From the wine vendor who can't keep his hands of his own products right through to the big man (Zeus) himself, every single one them is a (usually comic) character. And not one of them seems out of place; the tone of the game is maintained throughout. And what a great tone it is.