Title Utopia (Third Review) Game Type Management Sim Players 1 Compatibility All (See below) Submission Joona Palaste (firstname.lastname@example.org) Profiled Reviewer Review The first thing one notices about Utopia is its broadness and sheer ambition. Getting past the lovely artwork on the cover, the blurb on the back of the box reads "Can you create Utopia? Now's your chance to find out." With a claim that impressive, you expect the game to back it up. And back it up it does, in a way. Utopia is a colony simulation blended with an action strategy game. You, as the colony leader, have to manage first hundreds, then thousands of colonists, providing living quarters, sufficient food and air, and amusements too. Not a trivial task by itself, but there are also a malevolent alien race on the planet, and they are intent on your total destruction. You have to retaliate in order to survive. The game is scenario-based. There are ten scenarios on the disks, with ten new, more taxing scenarios provided on a data disk, which is a separate product. You start a scenario with practically nothing: a command centre, a launchpad, the bare minimum of living quarters and food/air production, and little else. You have to start building up defenses quite early, or else you are in danger of being obliterated by the aliens. Your first priority is to start production and get it rolling at a steady rate. Then you must build your defence forces, and expand the colony to provide room for the ever-procreating colonists. Visually the game is impressive, while not exactly breathtaking. The isometric graphics are colourful, but while they are realistic enough to make the game addictive, don't expect photographic quality. A uniform style of purple buttons with yellow images has been used throughout the game's many GUI panels, which is a nice touch. The playing experience is improved further by offering a choice of four background themes: a classical piece, two modern tunes, and the game's main theme music. Sound effects are sparse, but well done. Initially, the game is extremely addictive. If you get it going right, expect to be hooked for months, trying to survive against the aliens. I remember playing the tenth and most difficult scenario on the original disks, frantically switching between active command centres to keep the aliens from cutting vital functions of my colony. Of course it was a futile effort, and this was in the very beginning of the scenario. The old cliché "a minute to learn, a lifetime to master" fits, mutatis mutandis. However, after you've got the best of the aliens, you may become aware of how irregular the game's difficulty curve is. Finally exterminating the alien race eases the game way too much, because then there is nothing whatsoever left to pose a threat to a colony. Some random attacks by another race orbiting the planet, or just simple natural disasters, would have been a nice touch. Also, the difficulty slope between the scenarios is way too steep. I beat the first race in less than a decade (game time), which left me thinking "that was way too easy, I didn't even get to use the warships". In contrast, the sixth or seventh alien races never fail to kick the living daylights out of my forces and lay waste to my colony. Also, even though the game had the broadest scope in the time it was released, it looks a little simplistic by today's standards. Why aren't there more buildings to build, more varieties of tanks and spaceships to construct? Why is the map too small? Most importantly, interplanetary flight is impossible. When you play the game, the reason for this is obvious, but it would have added a whole new element to the game. While the aforementioned things are a pity, they don't greatly affect the quality of the game. It had me playing for years in the beginning of the 90's, and I stopped only because I upgraded to a new Amiga, on which the game had a few minor compatibility problems. Now this has been fixed with the arrival of a WHDLoad-compatible hard drive installer, and I'm hooked again, for months at least. In my mind, Utopia is a genuine classic. Note While Utopia loads and plays fine with most, if not all, Amigas, it has a minor compatibility problem with KS2.x or KS3.x computers. It can't find the necessary memory addresses to store the music, making the music option unavailable. The WHDLoad installer fixes this.