I'm gonna' take your territory cards and chop off your head!
All right so it's Risk. You remember the game, that staple of rainy day entertainment. Everyone divided up the board into their own territories, placed their armies, and then spent the next 36 hours battling until someone controlled everything, at which point all of the game players agreed that they would never play Risk again.
This experience is a lot like Risk, the computer game. You sit down with the intent to play for maybe 45 minutes, and suddenly all sense of time is lost and it is four hours later. How can any computer program based on a board game end up being so addictive?
Easy, you take the original idea, include it, and then also create a new spin on the classic that blows everyone away. They call it "ultimate risk". What it allows the player to do is build forts, create generals, and launch battles using real military movements, not rolls of the dice. What this means is that the success of your attack depends on the tactic that your opponent chooses vs. the one that you choose. For instance, defending from an entrenched position works wonders against a frontal assault by a superior force, but would be completely vulnerable to a flank attack from left or right.
The forts are cool, too. They allow you to protect key territories that you do not want to lose, like say the one in which your capital has been placed. What this means is that an opponent cannot just sweep in using one spectacular roll of the dice and clean out an entire legion that is placed at your capital. It would take him a couple turns to wipe out a fortress, time enough for you to place reinforcements.
The game board is fairly dynamic too, giving the player an option to battle for 19th century Europe and Asia, 18thcentury North America, and the world. For those nostalgic for the old game, the designers threw in the classic game board as well. If you play the "ultimate" game previously described, the board comes alive. I call this the rotating skull turn, as denoted by the bit-mapped skull in the top left corner of the screen. During this point, random events such as storms, epidemics, and mutinies occur. This keeps the game from becoming static, with players hiding behind impenetrable defenses. There is always something happening, always a rebellion, always an opportunity to take advantage of a opposing player's misfortune.
This game is quite impressive graphically. The board is recreated beautifully, with detailed coastlines, small forests, and mountains. During the battle sequences, there are animations of men fighting and dying, forts being shelled, and armies surrendering or gloating in victory. When you destroy an opponent, the cut-scene shows a hapless prisoner being led to a guillotine in the town square.
Sound also adds to this game, with battle noises, the crackling of burning flags as you take over a territory, and the sickening slice of a blade through someone's neck.
Unfortunately the interface leaves a bit to be desired. it is confusing at firs and forces you to cycle through too many options just to get through a turn. Anyone who remembers playing the old Mac version knows what a simple clean interface can do for Risk. The GUI (graphical user interface) on this newest version actually adds time to the length of games.
The multiplayer screen is good, as the game gives you the option to play over modem, network, or simply on one computer with several people in the room. Everything in the game has a simple point-and-click interface, including all of the menu screens preceding the game. My only complaint was that the multiplayer function does not allow the player to use all of the flags for specific countries that are available on the map.
Finally, if all of that were not enough, the game's designers included a number of actual scenarios for each type of board used in the game. Special missions in Europe and the World center around the Napoleonic Wars, while Asia looks at the period of the first colonialization of the region in the 1790's, and you get to play the Americans or the British in 1800's North America. This game is very nice, simply in terms of playability, challenge, features, graphics, and its considerable lack of problems. Why couldn't every game be like this one?