Mega-Lo-Mania. (computer game) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Paul Schuytema
What traits are most important in a computer-game god? Good judgment? Perhaps unquestioning benevolence? No, a powerful cybernetic deity is only a deity at all because he or she can and will conquer unbelievers by mashing the poor pawns into submission. If a deific crunch-fest is what you're in the mood for, Mega-lo-Mania might provide just the tonic you need.
Set against a backdrop of sweeping space, a young planet is born, populated with primitive human life which is in serious need of some guidance. Enter a rough-and-tumble bunch of deities, each wanting the world for his or her own. So how is the decision made? By war of course, using the malleable and gullible humans as pawns.
You start the game by choosing one of four rival deities, and you must battle through 27 islands of conflict, until the 28th, the "mother of battles" is reached. If you emerge victorious, you're given dominion over the planet.
The islands are played in sets of three, with each set representing an epoch of time. You start play in the Stone Age and end with nuclear and spaceflight technology. For each battle you're allocated a pool of men from the bank, 100 per epoch (but more may be accumulated by underpopulating the lower level conflicts and bringing the balance forward). Choose a home sector, and you're ready to go off to fight some battles.
Each island varies in size, terrain type, and which enemy deities must be tackled. To win, you must completely wipe out the men your rival diety controls. You've got to use your men, the natural resources in your sector, and your tactical acumen to design and implement successful defensive and offensive capabilities.
The earliest battles are fairly easy: It's easy enough to research the rock weapon and set up an all-offensive force that will go out and hurl rocks at your opponent's fortifications. In the later epochs, resource management and defensive posturing become important. But you shouldn't forget that he who throws the first rock usually wins.
Mega-lo-Mania is an attractive game with a rather obtuse icon interface. Once you master the icons (with little help from an exceptionally poor and hard-to-read manual), the game plays very smoothly.
Unfortunately, Mega-lo-Mania isn't the strategic challenge it first appears to be. Basically, being the first to develop weapons and deploy them is tantamount to invincibility. To be first, you must have your strategy figured out before the play for a given island begins. The speed of weapon development is dictated by two things: manpower and resources. Manpower is under direct player control, but the resource-generating ability of a sector is only discovered during actual play. A dry-run peek at a sector will tell at a glance whether it will perform well or not, and if not, quitting the sector and moving on isn't a bad option.
In a strange quirk of blindness during development, Ubi Soft neglected to factor in any way to leave the game - you can't quit back to DOS! Your only option is to reboot the computer to escape the crazed god-struggle of the nether universe.
While Mega-lo-Mania suffers from a lack of depth and sloppy quality control, the game does offer an interesting gaming experience. Perhaps my favorite aspect of the game is the varying tech levels which can be present at any one time: You can make a biplane attack on a castle defended with archers, and you may be forced to use catapults to fend off an incoming jet fighter. As a nonbenevolent, no-brainer game, Mega-lo-Mania delivers.