Game Over Online ~ Pharaoh

GameOver Game Reviews - Pharaoh (c) Sierra, Reviewed by - Fresh

Game & Publisher Pharaoh (c) Sierra
System Requirements Pentium 166, 32MB Ram, 4x CD-ROM
Overall Rating 90%
Date Published Tuesday, November 30th, 1999 at 12:00 AM

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Last year Sierra released Caesar 3, a game which I played for a long time and enjoyed so very much. In Caesar 3, your goal was to build a prosperous city in which all requirements, which Caesar himself had set for you, were met. In order to achieve this you had to build housing and roads and create a vast number of structures, like farms, temples, workshops, raw materials, theaters and others. Each time you began building a new city, you got a little money to start building the basics people needed to live in your city and stay there. Once areas started to evolve, the citizens became more and more demanding of certain structures, like temples and entertainment to make living in the city more pleasant. Of course this cost some money, so you had to find a way to earn more. Therefore you had to build docks to trade goods with other Roman cities, but you had to watch the conditions of the structures and housing carefully, for a fire could break out and a building could collapse. If that wasn’t enough, you had to share your city with the local wild-life, such as sheep, wolves and zebras. Sometimes a foreign army attacked your city and while putting up a defense, you had to comply with Caesar when he was requesting goods from you.

Pharaoh is no different. At first glance, nothing has changed. Take all Roman structures, convert them to Egyptian structures and you have Pharaoh. Fortunately, this formula isn’t entire true. The formula Sierra used to create Caesar 3 was a success and they built a whole new game around it and fixed some bugs from Caesar 3. In Caesar 3, it was possible that certain people, like merchants, prefectures and engineers walked to an area they didn’t belong in. In Pharaoh, it is possible to build roadblocks to keep the people in one area, providing the goods the area needs. There is a downside to this, however. Once you set up a roadblock, only people with a destination can pass through it, like farmers who deliver their harvested crops to the granaries and merchants who get supplies from stockyards and granaries. Almost every structure needs labor. When you build a structure, a worker starts to walk around in search of people willing to work. When this worker encounters a roadblock, he turns around and tries another route. So if you’re not careful, some structures have no access to labor which means this structure is useless without you noticing right away.

In Caesar 3, you had entertainment structures like theaters, amphitheaters, coliseums and hippodromes. In Pharaoh, you integrate entertainment with the infrastructure. You can build booths in which a juggler will perform, a bandstand on which jugglers and musicians will entertain the locals, and a pavilion on which dancers try to please the citizens in that particular area. For those who played Caesar 3, this causes a slight change in planning housing. New in Pharaoh is the festival square, where festivals to a chosen god are held. People like to live nearby these structures which make the area more desirable, and as a result they pave the roads. These roads are upgradable to plaza, an even more desirable type of road, which makes the area evolve to better stature. In Caesar 3, it was possible to turn every type of road into plaza. In Pharaoh, you have to make the area desirable, which is quite difficult sometimes, so this area won’t eveolve as fast. This was one of the differences that makes Pharaoh a little more difficult than Caesar 3, but finally you can set the difficulty-level. On the easiest level, building structures cost less and housing and other structures don’t require much looking after, so you can concentrate on other things like trade and building additional areas to your city.

One of the things that made ancient Egypt famous were the enormous monuments they built. Of course you can build these structures in this game. Unlike the other structures, it takes a lot of time, labor and resources to build a monument. In many cases you need to import the resources to build a monument, so you have to be sure you have the traderoute open to get the materials you need.

I can go on for days, mentioning differences and describing everything you can build, trade and the different things you can do. There is just so much. In order to make the city worthy within the kingdom, the Pharaoh has set certain ratings your city must reach in order to proceed to the next city: population (each time you have to build a city with a certain amount of citizens in it), prosperity (this rating gets higher if your city earns more money than it spends and the quality of housing is high), monument (the amount of monuments in the city) and kingdom (what do the Pharaoh and the other cities think about you). In order to achieve these ratings you can consult your overseers to get statistics on your city, or you could use a different overlay to see the desirability in an area for example.

Just like in Caesar 3, every structure in the game has it’s own distinctive sound, making the city come alive. This is done very well again, although I think you don’t hear these sounds frequently enough, like in Caesar 3. In Caesar 3, a certain soundtrack played according to the amount of citizens your city had. In Pharaoh, it’s chosen more randomly, which makes it more diverse. Some of the tracks have an annoying flute in it, but still it contributes to the illusion you are living in this era.

The graphics are great again. It is easy to see the differences between the citizen’s occupations and structures. The structures have animations again and citizens walk in a natural way. All is done with great detail, making your city fun to watch. It is possible to change your view in order to see the structures and people, when a building is blocking your view.

Having been a Caesar 3-addict for quite some time and being accustomed with the interface, I found that it takes too much time to get to the good stuff. You have to wrestle through 9 cities before the game gets interesting for the hardcore Caesar 3-players. Building monuments takes a great deal of time and governing a small city that cannot evolve to greater stature is not interesting, but you have to wait until your mustaba is built in order to proceed. That’s one of the few things I didn’t like about Pharoah. Tiny flaws aside, Impressions and Sierra has created a fabulous game that captures the era to perfection.


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