Theocracy has endured a tumultuous past. Developed by Philos
Labs, it was originally going to be published by Interactive Magic
before they changed their gaming focus towards the online
community. As the development cycle came closer to the end, it
appeared as though Interactive Magic didn't feel as strongly
towards the game as they had before and there was some
confusion as to whether Theocracy had in fact been cancelled. In
either case, as Interactive Magic made their gaming transition,
they sold a number of properties to Ubi Soft including Theocracy.
Although the game was reportedly finished, this meant the release
date would have to be pushed back in order for Ubi Soft to give it
the attention it deserved. To make a long story short, Theocracy
has finally made it's way into the gaming market. The bad news,
apparently all those extra months of possible development time
went to waste as the game is quite the disappointment.
Theocracy is a real-time strategy game in which you take control
of one of the Aztec tribes in the 14th century. The objective of the
game is to develop the tribe to its ultimate destiny and resist the
Spanish conquistadors. En route to the epic battle, you'll have to
establish trade routes between neighbouring states, develop
diplomatic relations with other provinces, conquer new territories
and develop your economy and your empire. At the one hundred
year mark, you're empire will hopefully be strong enough to resist
the fierce assault of the Spanish because they've got nothing but
carnage on their minds.
Theocracy opens with an animated introduction that pales in
comparison with some of the flashy cut-scenes seen in other
strategy games. What's even worse is you can't skip the
introductory sequence. Every time you fire up the game, you have
to sit through it. Once you're done that, you can begin by
completing a set of tutorial scenarios that teach the basis elements
of the game. Moving units around the terrain, gathering troops into
battle formations, gathering resources and gaining manage from
temples are all areas that are covered in the tutorials. Once you've
learnt the inner workings of the game, you can jump into the
Unfortunately, jumping into the action that is Theocracy is like
jumping off a house and landing on a bicycle seat, neither is
particularly enjoyable to say the least. Why, do you ask? Well,
hopefully the bike one is self-explanatory, so let's run through
For starters, the interface and viewpoints are poorly implemented.
You can view the action from two different levels, a strategic view
and a tactical view. When zoomed into the action, the tactical
view, you can watch your armies move from province to province,
follow your workmen as they mine and deliver resources or glare
as your military training barracks are being created. The problem
is, the clock doesn't tick in this view. In other words, although
there is action going on, time isn't passing by, it only does so when
you zoom back out into the strategic view. So what's the problem
with the strategic view? There's no detail, that's the problem.
Troops, caravans and other units become coloured pixels with no
detail to them whatsoever. Technically, you can't watch your tribe
develop and have time elapse together. Another problem with the
tactical view is the lack of an overall map. Finding specific troops
actually requires a province wide search. If you lose track of
caravans or particular armies, you'll be hard pressed to find them
in order to re-assign them orders. Why the developers didn't
include a map while in the tactical view, or allow for time to
elapse while in that view either, is beyond me.
Those aren't the only gameplay issues, there are plenty of others
as well. Resource management is one of them. Resources in the
game include stone, wood, grain, meat and gold but there's no
option to get an overview of your resources in any or all of your
provinces. You'll find the same to be true regarding armies and
buildings as well. There doesn't appear to be a way to get reports
regarding your progression in terms of overall numbers.
Combat is another element that seems to be poorly designed.
Before beginning a battle, you can select from a number of
combat formations and even customize some of those formations.
Once the battles begin though, all the rules seem to go right out
the window as troops constantly break formation and simply begin
to run wild on their foes. There's little strategy to a battle which,
combined with the lack of combat units to begin with, make for
some horrible combat sequences. Theocracy seems to attempt to
make up for the lack of unit variety by introducing magic types into
the fray. There are five spheres or areas of magic including star,
moon, fire, nature and soul. However, the lack of control during
combat makes it very difficult to use priests and their magical
abilities. There's no speed control during combat nor can you
pause combat in order to re-organize your troops.
Considering the long development cycle, it comes as no surprise
that Theocracy falls a little short of the standard graphics these
days. While the level of detail seems quite high, the animations
are rather poor. There only seems to be a few animations per unit.
The problem with Theocracy isn't really poor graphics though, it's
poor use of graphics. The graphics only play a large role in the
game while in the tactical view but the game doesn't progress
while in that view. The game only advances while in the strategic
view at which point the graphics don't play a role at all. In terms of
audio, Theocracy doesn't particular deliver well here either. Many
of the sounds seem muffled and many of the effects are very basic
and uninspiring. Overall, the audio experience is rather average
with little innovations or highlights to speak of.
In terms of multiplayer, Theocracy allows you to play with up to six
players over a LAN or the Internet. When you've got titles such as
Age of Empires II out there though, I can't see Theocracy taking
playing time away from those. There are just too many issues that
get in the way of an enjoyable gaming experience here.
Theocracy presents an evocative backdrop but fails in its design. It
offers many of the regular features found in any real-time strategy
title but they all seem to be poorly implemented. Considering
Theocracy was supposedly going to give Age of Empires II a run
for its money, the end result is extremely disappointing. It's a story
we've heard and seen a million times before it, a game loaded
with potential that just fails to deliver.
[ 10/20 ] Graphics
[ 08/15 ] Sound
[ 11/30 ] Gameplay
[ 07/20 ] Fun Factor
[ 02/05 ] Multiplayer
[ 04/10 ] Overall Impression