Steel Empire (aka Cyber Empires)


Title		Steel Empire (aka Cyber Empires)
Game Type	Action Strategy
Players		1-4
Compatibility	All (not fast ram)
HD Installable	No
Submission	Angus Manwaring Profiled Reviewer

Review
There's some meaty strategy and tactical knowledge called for in this
action packed 2D Mech game. You can build armies from a wide range of Mech
like machines, fight for territory, and the resulting revenue, over a
variety of different terrains. Defensive battles range from attempting to
stand your ground with a lone Cyclops vehicle to eagerly beckoning
your foes forward from behind your  heavily fortified stronghold
bristling with Titan and Hercules class monsters. For myself though, few
things compare with storming through your opponents defences with your
assaulting force, and stomping his vital factories into the ground.

I remember this game was criticised for falling between two stools, on the
one hand being an action game, on the other, a contest of strategy.
Rubbish. The balance is excellent. There's some highly satisfying blasting
to be had, but in the end, being a master of joystick wiggling is not
going to help you if your tactics are all wrong. Similarly, while the
strategic part of the game is very nicely presented, and headache free,
you're going to pay the price if you're not flexible, efficient and
willing to take risks.  A highly underrated classic.

I like the game because I'm interested in the principles of warfare and
while Steel Empire ends up as a bit of a blast, you control the factors
that lead you to that blast. You determine what risks you take in invading
new countries; do you try and grab that desert country that will provide a
solid buffer against a counterattack with your only spare mech, or do you
choose caution, and consolidate until you feel strong enough to take the
offensive?

There are several different types of country, each with different
implications, while the industrial countries will provide more revenue,
they cannot be fortified. There is a tendency to try and grab them anyway,
but this often leads to great expense on both sides in what becomes a
"Stalingrad" situation. In a volcanic country, where the heat is so
intense, you can have a huge problem trying to weed out an enemy that is
sitting smugly behind his defences. I've held off virtual armies in this
situation with nothing more than a Dragon. This is where the Crossbow
comes into it's own, with it's awesome use of long range missiles.

I think the tactics in the actual fighting are probably overlooked too.
When you are assaulting (or defending) a country, commanding up to nine
other machines, you are able to influence the outcome in quite a wide
variety of ways. Although the control you have over your battlegroup as a
whole seems very simple; Advance, Retreat, and Stand fast, you are able to
"jump" into any of your machines at any time and influence events with
your own skills. You can also "program" your force with what their main
objective is and how strongly they should adhere to that aim.

The game is nicely presented throughout. It works superbly as a multiple
player game, but it is also great fun taking on the computer controlled
opponents, with their varaible degrees of "nastiness". Steel Empire is an
extremely accessible game, but beneath the surface there is a depth which
reflects many of the acknowledged principles of warfare, making it a
highly rewarding experience.


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