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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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.