Bandit Kings of Ancient China. (computer game) (evaluation)
by Robert Du Gaue
One of the earliest computer games was Hanurabi, which put you in charge of a kingdom and let you try to win your subjects' loyalty by balancing the resources in your land. Bandit Kings of Ancient China takes this concept several steps further. Based on a historical Chinese novel, Shui Hu Zhuan, Bandit Kings takes place in the twelfth century just as the Song Dynasty was on the verge of collapse. Imperial Minister Gao Qui was wrestled control from the Emperor. As one of the remaining heroes of the land, it's your job to build up strength and loyalty among your followers, awaiting the Emperor's edict to seek out and crush Gao Qui.
Before you get started, you must choose your character, called a Good Fellow. There are ten Good Fellows in the Dynasty, and you can choose to play from one to seven of them, depending upon which of the four scenarios you choose. As you settle a land, you can recruit Bandits residing in your territory, each of whom can direct up to 100 men. You can assign tasks to your Bandit and use him to defend or attack your enemies. In all there are 255 characters, each with different attributes, giving you a wide variety from which to choose.
Bandit King's main screen is divided into four sections. One section displays a picture of your Good Fellow, along with the amount of gold, men, food, and a number of other statistics about your prefecture (province). Another displays a map of China divided into the 49 prefectures, all color-coded to show which Good Fellow is in control of that area. As the game progresses, prefectures will change owners several times. A small portion of the screen is devoted to messages, while humorous animations and pictures depicting moves and interactions with other characters are shown below your prefecture data. These animations can vary from hunting a boar to sending your men off to war. Several sampled sounds and many catchy tunes and add to this already elaborate simulation.
Bandit Kings does have a few minor problems. Messages sometimes disappear before you have a chance to read them. An option in the menu allows you to set the delay time between messages, but even the longest delay time seems too fast. Occassionally the pull-down menus became transparent, making the menus difficult to read. Another annoyance is the manual. While it's well written and full of historical notes and character information, it's obviously not written for the Amiga. Instead, a six-page Amiga reference leaflet is provided.
These minor problems aside. Bandit Kings of Ancient China is still one the most complete and entertaining role-playing simulations available. From the detailed drawing of each of the characters to the colorful hexagon battlefield, you'll be captivated for many hours. The game is sure to become another must-have among strategy game and role-playing game lovers. Bandit Kings isn't copy-protected and requires 1.6MB of hard disk space to install.