I read a tot of computer magazines every month, including several covering the MS-DOS world. Rarely do any of these magazines even mention the Commodore 64, mainly because their readership, understandably, wants to read about the machines they own. Recently, though, I've seen the 64 mentioned twice, and both instances were a little infuriating.
One magazine was reviewing Commodore's PC40-III. The reviewer cited Commodore as the company that put the Commodore 64 into over a million households. A million? Last I heard, sales had surpassed 7 million. Even with two in some households, there must still be 64s in at least 5 million homes.
A more recent reference has a respected columnist calling the 64 "dopey." Now, compared to some of the $9,000 machines some of these people recommend, the 64 is indeed quite dopey. But he was suggesting that low-end MS-DOS machines continue to sell because they are all that some users need. Just like the dopey 64.
The 64 Itself is anything but dopey, especially in comparison to the machines to which it's being compared. Those machines are predominantly monochrome or have lousy four-color graphics. They also have plinks and bleeps for sound, nothing like the 64's SID chip. Admittedly, these machines have more memory, but the operating system and the programs often chew up most of that memory. And only recently have the machines been as low as three times the 64's price.
Well, its finally here. Available for years on mainframe computers, Empire (Interstel, P.O. Box 57835, Webster, Texas 77598; 713-486-4163; $39.95) showed up a few years ago for the Atari ST and the Amiga. Now it's been released for the Commodore 64/128.
Empire's box warns, "This program is highly addictive! Considerable otherwise productive time might be lost." It sounds like hype, but the warning is completely accurate. I've played this game for hours on other computers, and now on the 64; and on all the machines, this game is deadly. One turn leads to another, then to another, then to another, and so on and so on and so.…
Empire is a strategy game in which three nations vie for control of a world. You play one force, while either the computer or other players control the other two. You begin with only one army, and you can see a limited portion of the land. As you move around, more of the continent becomes revealed to you. Eventually, using army, navy, and air force movement, you learn the layout of the world and the location of the enemy nations.
Many games give lip service to the need for combined arms, but Empire makes it mandatory. You must build transports if you hope to conquer anything, and these transports need protection from destroyers and aircraft. In turn, the transports are useless without land forces to carry, and land forces need naval bombardment and air strikes to help them. Within minutes after starting, you'll be moving your forces like a veteran. Within half an hour, you'll be hopelessly addicted.
COMPUTE! Publications Features Editor Keith Ferrell told me he had to remove the MS-DOS version of Empire from his hard drive because he couldn't stop playing it. All you 64/128 owners will want to make sure the game stays in another room, used only as a reward for getting other work done. As far as I'm concerned, Empire is the most addictive computer game ever.