Set sail for Victory! Your fledgling Nation's hopes rest with your expert guidance and their fate hangs on your every decision.
It is the Year 1500, and equipped with a few ships, some skilled civilians and a few measly coins, you must set forth and expand your Empire, feeding your people, defending your territory and advancing your cause for superiority.
The original Imperialism was a fairly good game, with an emphasis on Old World (Europe) control, but somewhat limited graphics.
This updated game from SSI (1999) brought forays into the New World (The Americas), advanced Diplomacy functions and better graphics.
So to the Game itself - a few technical bits of junk first:
Being an old game, it only needs 16Mb of free RAM, a 4x CD Drive to play, a Pentium I chip, and Windows 95 or newer to run.
There are no graphics options within the control screen, and the only video sequence is the opening credits that run on Direct X 6.1.
The main screen presents you with a number of options: including Multiplayer (up to 6 players), and control options: changing the difficulty levels, individual settings for technology, diplomacy and exploration, and information notices that help you vary the speed and control of the game to suit you.
The first thing you need to do, after going through the very helpful and well-paced Tutorial is to enter the Map screen and choose the Nation you want to rule, and it's location: either in a stylised 16th Century Europe, or a randomly generated map, where landmasses and resources are scattered randomly.
The Nations on offer were all major powers of the time, and display stereotypical defaults in decision-making (unless disabled in the Options screen).
England: Naval Power, Sweden: Passive explorers, Holland: Aggressive Traders, Spain: Naval and Aggressive New World conquerors, Portugal: Explorers, keen to form Alliances, France: Arrogant expansionists.
You can visit a map and choose (Random map only) the location of your Capital city: you should aim to maximise resources in it's radius, and allow ease of access to the rest of your country.
The basic materials in the game are a mixture of visible ones: Grain, Cattle, Sheep and Wood, and those for which you need an Explorer to find: Iron Ore, Tin, Copper, and Coal.
Aims: You have to develop your Nation - using Engineers to build roads, Builders to develop resources, and Ships to transport goods. For instance, 2 units of Wool make 1 unit of Fabric which is used for recruiting civilians and soldiers. Iron and later Steel (Iron Ore + Coal), are necessary to train and build Military units, which you will need to conquer Minor Nations (Scotland, Italy etc), and the New World, as well as defend yourself from the rapacious Enemy Powers!
The Mouse is your main control and allows you to access 5 screens beyond the main game screen (where you move your units about and plot your victory.
The Transport screen shows you how much of each unit you are bringing in by land and by sea.
The Resources screen allows you to allocate workers to produce goods, recruit new units, train workers (using luxury goods like Sugar Cane and Tobacco) who are more efficient in their output, and produce Ships and Military Units.
The Trade screen allows you to Offer and Buy units to either fill shortfalls in your resources or to sell off excess goods for a profit.
The Diplomacy screen allows you to set your plan in motion: choosing Alliances, offering Subsidies and Grants, and declaring War or Peace with your fellow Nations.
The Technology screen is where you decide which technologies you want to learn and which order. For instance: to make Apprentice Workers you need to research Sugar Cane making, and Level 1 Deficit Spending. You can set Goals and a path will be highlighted for your technologies. Spies in enemy countries will help you learn unknown technologies quicker.
Military Action: when you need to smite a foe - you can either let the Computer fight the battle or do it yourself. Either way, the right mix of Infantry, Cavalry and Artillery is necessary to win - depending on the type of Fort you are besieging and the strength of the Enemies' forces. Naval battles: Buccaneering, Blockading etc are carried out automatically.
There are dozens of units available, with 4 levels of technology according to the general time they were in prominence. Sail the seas with Galleons, Men'O'War, Clippers and Fluytes. Conquer lands with Sharpshooters, Light Artillery, Hussars and Musketeers.
Their recruiting costs rise sharply with each advance, as do their fighting abilities.
By conquering New World territory, you gain access to rich luxury resources wealth: Furs, Gems, Gold, Spices etc, all of which will help expand your Nation more quickly than your opponents.
Ultimate Victory involves controlling more than half of the Old World Provinces: so you will need to form an Alliance or two and bully a weaker Nation into submission!
Overall: this game has addictive gameplay, the random maps and unexplored regions make for a unique game every time, and the level of complexity you can tailor into each game allows for a multitude of experiences: you can expand peacefully by buying up land in the New World and paying Minor Nations to join you, or you can build a huge set of Armies and wipe out your weaker foes.
With good graphics and ease of understanding the basic concepts of gameplay: Imperialism II is a great time-absorbing endeavour. Also: now that the game makers are no longer producing software using this engine, it's essentially freeware, and available on the Net for nothing!
The New World unfolds before you. Your objective is to skilfully parlay discovery into riches and amass enough power to dominate Europe's political landscape. Combining elements of resource management, economic trade, exploration, diplomatic manoeuvring and military conquest, this multi-faceted strategy game challenges you to leverage New World riches into Old World dominance. To achieve victory, you must employ a web of intricate strategies. When diplomacy is the order of the day, dispatch envoys to develop critical trade relations whilst secretly deploying spies to undermine your enemies. If diplomacy fails, build an invincible military machine with an unquenchable thirst for conquest. Skilfully manoeuvre your nation and don't forget: the object is to unite Europe under one flag.