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Master Of The Empire- by Lief Clennon
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Lief Clennon is a computer hobbyist and Team OS/2 member currently residing in Albuquerque, NM. He can usually be found badgering his friends on IRC.

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Summary: Another in the "Civilization" style of games, this game is has less to keep track of, which has the effect of being a much faster paced ride.

A large and hallowed genre of computer games was created in the '80s by a man named Sid Meier. His game, "Civilizations", was an extension of the classic tabletop war simulation to include city management and technological growth. Since then, the "Civ-style" genre has grown in various directions, including realtime simulation with Blizzard's WarCraft, and deep-space exploration with Stardock's Galactic Civilizations for OS/2. And now entering the arena is this game: Master Of The Empire.


Unlike most games in the genre, MOTE does not have progressive technology; you start the game knowing everything you're ever going to know, there's no way to research new army types and production methods. This makes for a far more fast-paced game, concentrating on tactical warfare more than on long-term expansion plans. Also, there is no way to create a new city in MOTE: your only hope for expansion is to conquer others.

You begin a game of MOTE with one to five cities, with a few thousand Zubles (the unit of currency) in the coffers of each and one unit of your choice in your capital city. Each of your four computer-controlled opponents will have the same beginning setup as you do (although of course, their cities are in other places). The area of the map around your cities is revealed to you; the rest of it is vague rumors of shorelines and forests that must be explored.

From this point on, it's up to you to control the fate of your empire. Absolute supremacy and total annihilation are your only options.

All of this and some of that: a lesson in cat skinning

There are several types of units available for you to command. Infantry is the heart of your army, able to do a great many useful things that more specialized units cannot accomplish. Tanks are the land-based powerhouses of your military, able to quickly overrun and occupy enemy cities. Various aircraft exist and are the only units which can cross mountains; the troop transport can carry paratroopers along with it, to sack cities naturally fortified by their surroundings.

The various units are each useful enough, but also each sufficiently specialized, that successful playing styles can be developed that emphasize or exclude one or more. For instance, a tank-based offensive is an obvious and fairly efficient tactic; but airborne assault has a significant advantage on rough terrain, and a tremendous army of infantry can be amassed quickly and at little expense. This creates replay value; when you get tired of one method, you can simply try another.

An expensive but useful unit is the spy, which can not only report on a city's defenses, but also has the capability to turn that city to your side with a bribe. Economics play a large part in MOTE, adding a layer of complexity that can't be ignored; units require money and resources to sustain them, and will suffer attrition if their needs are not met. Resources like oil and uranium can be traded on the global market -- but the more factions you're waging outright war with, the fewer resources are available for purchase.

The spoils of war

MOTE's simplicity is its greatest asset: because there are only a handful of things to keep track of compared to other games in the genre, it is easy to learn and easy to play. It harks back to the tabletop war games that are its ancestors, but its icons and buttons (GIF, 90k) are far easier to keep track of than the plastic models and cardboard tokens of old. And, since a game will likely last only an hour or so, it's not nearly as bad a thing to become addicted to as other Civilization-style games, which can sometimes last for days. It can also be played fast-and-loose, both because there is less to keep track of than in other Civ-style games, and also because the time investment is so much less; losing isn't quite as much of a disappointment, especially if you decide to go down in a burst of glory.

All in all, it's a highly enjoyable game. Because of its fast pace, it can be used as an idle distraction, an alternative to Solitaire; but a hardcore gamer won't be at all disappointed.

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Master Of The Empire

by Trilliun Software Products
Copyright © 1998 - Falcon Networking ISSN 1203-5696
December 16, 1998