Carthage


Title:		Carthage
Publisher:	Psygnosis (1990)
Game Type:	Action Strategy
Players:	1
HD Installable:	Yes (With WHDLoad)
Compatibility:	OCS (All with WHDLoad patch)
Submission:	John Burns (john@jgb.abelgratis.co.uk) Profiled Reviewer

Review
This is a game set during the Punic Wars, the period when Rome was
expanding into the Phoenician controlled area of the world. Chief amongst
their cities was Carthage a wealthy trading city situated on the Gulf of
Tunis. Three wars followed. As the name suggests you are not on the Roman
side and it is your character, Diogenes, goal to teach these pesky
invading Romans a lesson they won't soon forget and save the city and its
surrounding towns from assimilation into the Roman Empire.

For the strategic parts of the game a top down map is used. (This features
some nice 3D fractal routines). Unrealistic maybe but you can access the
enemy forces and positions from here (Okay we'll assume it's the result of
spying). This enables you to tailor your own forces to counter the threat
by creating armies from city reserves. Normally, armies will be composed
of just infantry and archers though you can add some specialised units
such as elephants and catapults. One important point here is that
catapults cannot be created, they are obtained from scattered positions
around the land and as such you'll have to get to them before the Romans
do. As you'd expect in a strategy game an army's stats increase and
decrease depending on the outcome of battles. Wins will increase their
loyalty, strength and experience points. Fatigue on the other hand will
make a negative impact and force you to rest that army. So bear this in
mind when moving your units around the field of play.

As always things aren't as easy as they first appear and you have the
added burden of paying for and maintenance of your armies. To deal with
this you'll need to ensure that you have an income and this is obtained by
trading with merchant ships that visit your land. Spending your money
often and not hoarding it seems to encourage more trade and hence more
cash to flow in. However, this cash isn't pooled into a national bank with
branches in every town, here it is up to you to move it from your coastal
towns to the places where you need to spend. This is done by moving it via
chariot to each required city.

By dragging your character's icon to a city you will visit that place.
This then is the arcade bit, a joystick controlled racing game. You must
manoeuvre your chariot along a winding road, carefully avoiding the rocks
which lie scattered around which, if hit, cause some of your precious gold
to jump out of the chariot. As if that wasn't enough there are also Roman
chariots to contend with. These chariots appear from time to time and
cause a change from the first person into the screen racing view to an
overhead view of both chariots. By Using a combination of whip and
wheelspikes on your opponent's chariot you must run the guy off the road.
However, if he is the victor in the contest then you lose all of your gold
and go back to the city you started from.

Overall the graphics are pretty good as is the sound. The arcade racing
section in terms of graphics and control compares favourably with many
dedicated racing games which use a similar style. If you're a racing fan
then this part of the game will no doubt be a welcome respite from
strategy concerns, whereas if your more into the strategy side then these
frequent arcade sections may become annoying - it would have been nice if
there had been some way to turn this section on or off. Likewise the
overhead viewed chariot battle parts are well catered for in both control
and graphics. Outside of these arcade sections your character and other
armies are signified on the map by icons, clearly and efficiently. The
method of viewing the tactical map is also well-designed. If for example
you ask for a new angle or zoom level then the program remembers it and
lists it as a mini graphic on a separate screen from where you can
re-select it later - nice, handy touch.

There are problems though; the arcade section (even if you like it)
quickly becomes a chore due to the frequency with which it occurs and this
frequent repetition spoils what could have been a nice feature if used
sparingly. On the strategy front there are also problems in that
tactically there seems little substance to the battles their being
resolved in favour of "might is right" so if you're outnumbered you'll
lose and vice versa. The manual tends to support my view of this oversight
as it says little about tactics, there being a mere mention of the
advantage of height, wow!

So there we have it, Psygnosis have produced an offering which shows the
effort which has gone into the graphics, sound and presentation but sadly
these elements no matter how good cannot mask the lack of gameplay which
ultimately lies within. The merging of arcade and strategy genres is
rarely achieved well and this is yet another example of why. I do wish
the publishers had stayed away from this "let's attract some more players
by adding..." attitude and concentrated more on making the core game a
winner instead. When one looks at acknowledged classics such as Civ,
Populous, Lemmings, Worms etc. we see that it is this single focus
approach which yields the true volume of sales and not the addition of
some extro-genre feature.

Much as I would have liked to recommend this game and extol its virtues
(for it does have some) unfortunately there is just too little to commend
it and these deficiencies overrule any other consideration.




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