"There's No Time Like The First Time"
Sequels, the divine right of any good genius to royally [expletive deleted
due to oppressive internet censorship] up a damn good game. Think Road
Rash 3D or Test Drive 4. In Deadlock 2: Shrine Wars, the follow-up
to the hit 1995 strategy game that was one of the first big net games, developer
Cyberlore has exercised their noble right to do so. As much as I support unlimited
liberties for all peoples and house pets, it doesn't stop me from declaring
that this is one disappointing game.
was harsh! Well, to calm down and stop taking the purple amphetamine pills for
a moment, this is indeed a disappointing game but it is not an entirely wasted
chunk of 0's and 1's.
Deadlock 2 is basically a conquer-the-universe-one-world-at-a-time with
a mixture of SimCity style city building and population control, a turn based
tactical wargame, and a little Civilization style diplomacy. At least the SimCity
style elements aren't too bad, however, what we have here is actually not too
much more than a fancy add-on pack.
The graphics are the same as they were back when the game was originally released.
Apparently Cyberlore did not notice that the passage of three years brought
with it a lot of tech advances that most new PC games actually bother to feature.
What's worse is that the scrolling, over the 2-D representation of the world,
is jerky. The game looks as though a 486 could run it comfortably and it still
The major changes to the game are the inclusion of a new plot (having to do
with a race between 7 races to conquer mystical, powerful, shrines ), a new
streamlined interface, 14 new buildings, 13 new technologies, 2 new world types,
redesigned AI… (…that really sucks), Diplomacy, Internet Play, New Victory Conditions,
A Map builder, and a Colony Assistant (task automaton). Which would be pretty
good for an add-on pack, but not great for a full blown sequel.
One of the things that most mars this game is the sorry state of the game's
AI. Deadlock 2 makes the player depend heavily upon AI since the tactical
battles are non-interactive. You assign your units goals/tasks and then the
battle is played out, without you even watching. You can watch a replay later,
but for the most part, you rely on the AI of your units to win a battle. It's
a pity that they really haven't got any. Nearly all of the battles lost in this
game are due to insufficient brain-dead AI.
It doesn't stop there either. The diplomatic AI for the other races is nonsensical
and random. Within 5 turns of playing the first mission I had 3 wars declared
upon me and then withdrawn the next turn, no explanation for any of them, no
borders being crossed, no hostilities created. Just a little case of 'why not
declare war?' and then 'I'm bored. Why not drop the sodden thing?'
with this unhappy puppy is that the interface could really use some work. They
say the redesigned it and they did. This is definitely different from the original
Deadlock but it still lacks a crucial streamlining that you find in games
like SimCity 2000. Important options and commands are hiding under yet
another layer of windows just out of reach.
Ah, that's another thing. The original game ran in a nice, un-intrusive windowed
mode. This one runs like an old DOS game at full screen 640x480; this is what
we call a great leap backwards.
One other little thing is that you begin each mission with your tech level
set down to nothing. Near the end of the game's 42 missions (for each of the
game's 7 races) you may find yourself having to wait 30 or 40 turns just to
reach the tech level from the last mission. Not to mention the level you need
to even think about completing this one. However the game does let you select
your own path on the tech tree at the beginning of the mission so although it
may take awhile, it's not a great chore.
I must note that the SimCity-like segments of the game are well done. You begin
with a grid of squares, each one with an attribute (forests, geo-thermal sites,
etc) that favors the placement of a particular building. Since the grid is very
limited in size, as is your population, cities must be very carefully managed
to be productive centers for your war effort. Although, perhaps a little to
carefully managed; it seems that almost any morale rating under 100% is considered
bad. If that were the case in the US, we would have had anarchy years ago.
Multiplayer is only supported through TCP/IP. Accolade has their NetAccolade
server up and running, but with the length of time that multiplayer Deadlock
2 games can last due to their turn based nature, they tend to get a little long
for net play. LAN would have been preferable.
Perhaps I have been a bit over-harsh in my review so far. Deadlock 2
is not a complete disaster. Despite many problems, there are some good elements
and it actually is entertaining. However, it is a lousy sequel. On the whole,
it is not all that much worse than the original game and fans of Deadlock
could definitely do worse than take a look at this one. The city building is
still fairly solid and the whole game is still fun... not good... but fun.