Distributed by Electronic Arts
P.O. Box 57825
Webster, TX 77598
Color or monochrome $49.95
If you look on the back of Empire's box, you'll see the following:
"WARNING: This program is highly addictive. Considerable otherwise productive time might be lost. Play only during vacations."
And folks, they're not kidding. I know people who have become so wrapped up in this game that, out of desperation, they finally had to start budgeting their time, allowing only a limited number of hours per day to the playing of Empire. This is a game you have to tear yourself away from. I've even heard rumors that there's going to be a new branch of AA called "EA" (Empireolics Anonymous).
The scenario: Alliance space is under attack by the dreaded Krellan Empire. The United Galactic Alliance is getting nervous as, one by one, planets are falling prey to the invading forces. Your job as Captain William P. Brown is to begin a counterattack, to land on each planet where the Krellans have begun to build an empire and to defeat them by building your own dominating empire.
Basically, what we're talking about here is a war game, not unlike the famous Risk, where two or three opposing players try to take over an entire planet. But unlike Risk, Empire is very realistic. You cannot see what your enemy is up to unless you have pieces keeping you up to date on the other players' movements. In fact, at the beginning of a game, the entire board is a mystery—a blank slate that can be filled in only by constant exploration.
At the start, you've got one city and can "see" only those squares surrounding that city. Each time you move a piece, the area surrounding it is filled in. In this way, little by little, you begin to discover new cities to conquer, and eventually run into your enemy's forces (or they into you).
The playing board is a 100x60 square grid, the entire map being over four times the size of the screen. Since the map is drawn in a standard GEM window, you can scroll over the different areas using the window's scroll bars and arrows. In case you haven't guessed, it'll take you a long time to explore and conquer an entire map. Thank goodness you can save games in progress!
As I mentioned, you start out with one city and, since the cities are where all your production is done, it's imperative to quickly locate and conquer new ones. Once a city comes under your control, you decide what type of piece it should start producing: armies, fighters (jets), troop transports, destroyers, submarines, cruisers, battleships or aircraft carriers. Each piece takes a certain amount of time to produce—from a low of five turns for an army to a whopping 50 turns for a battleship—and each has its own attack, defense and move characteristics. For instance, armies may move only one square per turn, whereas fighters may move five, making them excellent tools for exploring the map.
It'll take many turns before your empire has grown into a force to be reckoned with, and during those beginning stages (typically 60 to 100 turns), you'll see little or no evidence of your enpmy's burgeoning power. But he's there, somewhere on the map, becoming stronger with each passing turn—just as you are.
Finally, either you'll stumble upon your opponent's shore or he upon yours, and the battle will begin. This is where the game gets really addicting, because, just as in a real battle, the pieces on the board are in a continual flux. Just because your fighter spotted an enemy troop transport a couple of squares offshore is no reason to believe that it'll still be there when you sail up with your battleship. You can see your enemy only in those areas surrounding your own pieces. (Although, once an enemy piece is spotted, its icon will remain in that square after the piece itself has been moved, indicating the location it was last spotted in.) This means planning your strategies under realistic restrictions.
This is one game you absolutely must have in your ST library. The programmers have covered every detail, including such turn-accelerating features as allowing multi-turn commands. (For example, you may place an army into a random movement mode so that it'll move automatically each turn, thus continually patrolling a particular area with no additional input from you. There's also a lot of keystroke commands to speed things up, such as pressing H to send a fighter back to its nearest friendly city.)
The graphics, though not as visually stunning as some ST games, are perfectly suited to the application. And the best news is that it'll run in both monochrome and color (unusual for a graphically oriented game), so nobody has to be left out of the fun. Also, the disk is not copy protected, so you can transfer all the files to a hard disk, should you own one.
To completely describe this game would take too much space (the manual is 72 pages), so I'll say no more and leave the rest to your discovery.
Recommendation: Buy it.