Game Over Online ~ Zeus: Master of Olympus

GameOver Game Reviews - Zeus: Master of Olympus (c) Sierra, Reviewed by - Fresh

Game & Publisher Zeus: Master of Olympus (c) Sierra
System Requirements Windows 9x, Pentium 166, 32MB Ram, 4x CD-ROM
Overall Rating 90%
Date Published Friday, October 20th, 2000 at 08:22 PM

Divider Left By: Fresh Divider Right

After playing quite a bit of Caesar 3, I became a total addict of the next city-building game from Impressions Games, Pharaoh. The only two games that caused a serious break in my playing time on this one were Metal Gear Solid and Diablo 2, so you can imagine how badly I wanted to try out the newest gem from Impressions, Zeus. I read a lot about this new game. Not only would it consist of the same successful gameplay, but it would also feature Greek mythology in it, which I am very fond of. So, as the release date of October 16th came near, I checked the common sites for that longing phrase: "Zeus: Master of Olympus - released!!!" The wait is over, I can finally pop in my copy and start a brand new addiction.

I fired it up, pressed start and immediately chose adventure and left the tutorials for what they were, because I considered myself an experienced player. I thought I would able to make out the little differences myself, but I was wrong. This game has the same concept, but lots of things have changed. The interface looks the same, but it works differently compared to Pharaoh and Caesar 3. Because I was so used to the shortcut-keys in the two previous games, I was a bit disappointed that my instinctive key-pressing didn't have any impact. There are no overseers anymore, which gave you the detailed information you needed, you now have to select the appropriate tab and click the magnifying glass to get detailed information. As I continued playing, I found out that this way works just as well and might be a better way to make this game even more appealing to novice players.

What is this game about? Like in Caesar 3 and Pharaoh, you must build a thriving city on a piece of land, using buildings and housing to raise culture, prosperity, respect of the kingdom and population. The key to a good city is balance. The better the housing, the more people fit on your turf, but in order to make better housing, you must provide them with food, water, goods and services. Those goods need to be imported or be manufactured by your city's industry, which needs labor and labor needs housing. Build too much housing at once and the result is unemployment, which causes riots. Waiting too long, to let the housing evolve, results in labor shortages, which leads to debt and the downfall of your city. In the meantime, you have to collect taxes. Also, watch out for buildings catching on fire or collapsing. As well, you have to keep your citizens and the gods happy, and providing food and goods to your own people and other cities that rely on you. To make sure you succeed in doing this, you must cleverly design your city, so that everyone has everything they desire and that you have little surpluses you can sell for a profit to cover your expenses of expanding your city.

In Caesar 3 and Pharaoh, each housing-block, working class or elite, started out as tents/huts. In Zeus, you can build two kinds of housing; elite housing and common housing. It makes more sense to me though, but I liked watching the huts evolve to manors and estates. Placing such a block was quite difficult because the people, who live in luxury housing, don't work, so when one of those houses became a luxury house, its residents sat down enjoying their fortune and the labor pool decreased in size. That was something you needed to take into account, because your city could deteriorate quickly when you were too hasty to make money, as the scribes pay loads of money. Each common housing plot is 2 by 2 and each elite housing plot is 4 by 4 instead of 1 by 1, which could evolve to 4 by 4 if it had space to evolve into bigger housing.

Each resident of working age is added to the labor pool and no matter where you put your industry, if you have a surplus of laborers in your city, it has the employees it needs, so there is no need to put a hut somewhere in your industry-block. This gives you the opportunity to even better design cities without these ugly little huts. The way culture is presented reminds me more of Caesar 3. You need to put colleges for philosophers in the city, as well as gymnasiums and a stadium, drama-schools and theaters to satisfy the culture needs of your citizens.

Another thing that has changed is food and trade. Food is considered food, period. You can farm onions, wheat, make cheese and other edible goodies, but the game considers it food. In Caesar 3 and Pharaoh, you needed to supply your housing with different types in order to make them evolve, but now that is no longer necessary. Food is spread by grand or common agoras, which have 6 or 3 traders of specific goods. You have to build a specific agora on a common or grand agora to supply the housing it has to cover. Trade has been revamped as well. Instead of merchants getting and leaving their goods at a storage yard, they now go to their specific trading-post, which is bigger than a normal storage yard. From there, the goods are spread along your city's storage yards. In a similar manner, piers have replaced docks, so the endless cart-pushing and trading ships piling up at your docks are nothing but a painful memory.

Religion is different too. You don't need to build temples or shrines anymore, but you need to make a sanctuary for an angry god in order to make him happy again. In one of the adventures that you play, a god has unleashed a monster in your city that crushes everything in its path, so it is not advised to build around it. In order for the monster to be slain, you need the help of a hero. The heroes are very picky and don't just come to any city. You need to make a hero's hall first to give him a home. This is not enough though, your city must meet the requirements the hero has set for you before he will come to the rescue.

Each city is divided in episodes. You need to meet requirements to get to the next episode and when you do, your city stays the same and you get to keep your profit (or debt). If you go to another city, you maintain your financial status as well. You don't need to make forts anymore. The soldiers live at home and can be called upon in times of need. Elite housing needs armor and horses for the residents to become horsemen, which makes your army stronger. You interact with other cities as well. You can help them, extort them, give gifts, raid them, conquer them, or make colonies so your influence in the world grows. When you do it wisely, you can be powerful, but fail to be cautioned and you can have angry allies plundering your city.

Impressions Games can be trusted to make the game look superb and with Zeus, they did just that. They again used a creative style to draw the housing, monuments, buildings and landscapes, and it all looks great. The walkers are very detailed and the monsters, heroes and gods look awesome too. The music and walkers' voices are excellent, just like in Zeus' predecessors. The ambient music is far from disturbing and adds to the gameplay. I never turned off the music in Pharaoh either, even those flute-songs can't annoy me after so much playing time. The voices show that the programmers had lots of fun and the actors did an excellent job. The best comment I've heard was by a boy who carried baskets to the agora. "So", the vendor began, "Hurry up with those goods", and the boy replied, "Whatever! The vendor is such a doric!". Of course it should have said 'dork', but did you ever hear of doric columns? A very cool detail!

I liked Caesar 3 and I absolutely love Pharaoh. I'm not quite sure Zeus is on the same level as Pharaoh, but it's damn good. Zeus is a game that is quite easy to learn, but incredibly difficult to master. Perhaps it's just me who needs to do a little adjusting, but I think newcomers to the city-building games are going to be in for a rough time. Even hardcore fans of Impressions' city-builders will find the game difficult. One thing that kept me playing the same scenarios in Pharaoh over and over again was the scoring system, which is not in Zeus. I really miss the 'accept none' button in the storage yards and there is an R item in the Q-section of the help (Ok, so I nit-picked on that one). Seriously though, Zeus is a fantastic game and fans of Impressions Games will not be disappointed at all.

[ 45/50 ] Gameplay
[ 09/10 ] Video
[ 10/10 ] Audio
[ 08/10 ] Controls
[ 08/10 ] Plotline
[ 10/10 ] Bugs


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