Imperium. (computer game) (evaluation)
by Jonathan Bell
Control of the Throygon Empire rests in your hands. As Emperor Amarillus, you expand your empire from its pitiful beginnings to galactic dominance. Accomplish this by colonizing productive worlds, some of which will, hopefully, produce nostrum, a drug that extends your life span and that of your compatriots. Nostrum means life--humans usually live less than a century, but you want to rule for 1000 years.
Competing empires are led by the same motives as yours, which means you face a constant struggle. And law requires that an election be held every 50 years. So stay sharp and don't do anything rash, or your people will vote you out, and you'll be emperor no more.
Imperium requires more than just military prowess and politicdal charm; several economic and diplomatic factors must be taken into account. Your predecessor, though, has left an intelligence report describing the responsibilities of an emperor at every game turn.
Within a single turn you make decisions about economic factors that will affect the welath of your empire, as well as oversee the military and handle diplomatic affairs. You face decisions about which planets to subsidize so they will become more productive, which empires to attack and which to befriend, and how high or low import taxes should be.
Balancing all those factors is daunting at first, but you can delegate day-to-day control to subordinates, leaving you with the responsibilities of initiative and intervention. Do be careful; some of your subordinates are incompetent or even disloyal, though they may improve with awards and promotion.
You'll need to intervene often anyway if you expect to win the game. Assuming your empire isn't destroyed (or you don't die from a lack of nostrum), Imperium lasts for 1000 years or until you conquer all other empires. Both veteran game players and novices should find Imperium addictive, but mastering the game will take time and effort no matter what your level of experience. Expect to spend several weekends mastering the subtleties of dictatorship. The developers help you out here by including a complete reference to every game function in the Imperium manual. Read the italicized hints and save your game often as you try different strategies.
Control your empire using the icon bar at the top of the screen. From this bar you pull down menus that provide access to areas of concern--the military, economy, alliances, colony ships, subordinates, and so on. This graphical user interface is a long way from the ease of use proclaimed by its programmers. In a world with Microsoft Windows and the Apple Macintosh, Imperium's GUI is frustrating by comparison. It requires too many keystrokes and mouse clicks to navigate. For example, Imperium demands at least six keystrokes to enter the copy protection information.
Unfortunately, Imperium has another major failing in the way of graphics. Almost everything appears in monochrome no matter what the video mode is. Does gray scale interest you when you have a VGA card? Probably not.
I will give credit, however, to the sound and graphics of the title screen. The color graphic is a fair reproduction of the package art. And if you have a sound card installed, Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata comes across well, too. Despite its outward appearances, Imperium should keep anyone who appreciates a challenge addicted--especially those with galactic ambitions.