Zeus: Master of Olympus Review

Duke Ferris
Zeus: Master of Olympus Info

genre

  • Strategy

players

  • N/A

Publisher

  • Sierra

Developer

  • N/A

Release Date

  • 01/01/1970
  • Out Now

Platform

  • PC

rating

Perhaps it’s wearing off.

I’ve been playing violent video games for most of my life. So according to a whole

slew of expensive quack psychologists, I should probably be constantly eager for

death and blood. Look out, I could snap at any minute. No, really. I swear.

But the other day I sat down at a computer in the vast Game Revolution Compound,

and had the sudden urge not to destroy (don’t worry, I’ll eventually

get over it). My eyes glazed over when I read the list of first-person shooters

available right on the desktop: Counterstrike,

Undying, Serious Sam

but none of those were what I wanted. I yearned to build rather than to tear

down. I get like that sometimes.

So I went to the game shelves and found one that didn’t get so much free advertising

from the media, a city building game from Sierra called Zeus: Master of Olympus.

I figured not only would I get to create, but I could also write about the game

for all you other nice folks out there who didn’t snap into a violent rage today.

I hear that there are still one or two of you left.

And, Zeus, it turns out, is a pleasant surprise. It’s a laid-back,

cartoonish game with surprising depth. But the first surprise was that I didn’t

get to be Zeus.

The game is deveoped by Impressions, the ones responsible for other building-strategy

games like Caesar and Pharoah. It’s part Sim City, part

Civilization, and just a bit of capitalism thrown in for good measure.

Despite the fact that they look like little cartoons, those ancient Greeks were

pretty sharp. They invented democracy, doctors, wine, and fraternity houses.

So as the ruler of a ‘new’ ancient Greek city, you have your work cut out for

you.

Like the Sim City games you need to build roads, zone areas for housing

and maintain utilities and public buildings. And like Sim City, you have no

control over your little virtual city dwellers as they go about their daily

business. However, unlike those “Sims” each and every little Greek moving around

is actually doing something. Houses need water, but they don’t get it

unless the water delivery man actually goes there and delivers the water. First,

build enough fountains throughout your city and then, if you wanted to, you

could watch him make every delivery with a big jug of water.

This is only the first sign of the game’s complexity. Food, for example, is

even more complicated. Build a farm to produce wheat… easy enough. But to

get it into people’s mouths, the wheat must first be delivered to granaries

for distribution, then taken to the city agoras (markets), and finally brought

from the markets to people’s homes by the peddlers. And that’s just for food.

You’ll also need maintenance workers, healers, guards, philosophers, actors,

noblemen, vintners, olive-oil makers, stonecutters, artisans, armorers, tax

collectors, sailors, noblemen, horse breeders, traders, athletes and more. You

can raise and lower city taxes or wages , manage your unemployment rate, trade

with neighboring cities, or make war with them.

However, all this

is not quite as difficult as it sounds. You just have to build the buildings,

and those crafty little Greeks take care of everything else. Make sure your

city has a good balance of structures, and everything practically runs itself.

Of course, this is still a complicated game. Having to learn the uses of each

structure and figuring out how to ensure good resource flow is demanding. And

often, it’s more work than fun.

You’ll also need some heroes and the benevolent gaze of at least one of the

pantheon of Greek gods, just about all of whom make an appearance in Zeus.

Hercules and Jason, Aphrodite and Aries; they’re all there, and they all want

temples. Just don’t piss off the wrong gods, because unlike your contemporary

hands-off, holier-than-thou gods, the old Greek ones weren’t afraid of showing

up in person and kicking a little ass.

The first mission makes you the founder of ancient Thebes, a city which you

will continue to grow through the entire campaign. I liked this feature a lot

after playing too many strategy games where you have to start every new level

with just one peasant. You never lose all your hard work in Zeus, and

can grow your city to become the wonder of the Hellenic world. And Thebes is

only the first city of many to manage.

There’s even a smattering of real Greek mythology and history in there, but

it’s all mixed with made-up stuff, so don’t trust it for a test or an erudite

fact at a cocktail party. Speaking of learning, you won’t learn much from the

thick but fanciful manual. Figuring out the nitty gritty will be left mostly

up to you.

In the end, Zeus is a nice diversion and has enough missions to last

you until the next Bronze age. Plus you can always just build cities free-form.

But I found my trigger finger getting itchy at the end of the day. Zeus

is certainly engrossing, but it’s just not quite fun enough.

I’m sick of sacrificing chickens to Zeus. Now I want to be Zeus

and hurl some lightning around. Well, maybe not. As I recall, he had to eat

his father to get the job.

 

REVOLUTION REPORT CARD

3.5
Rating
Cool little cartoon Greeks
Lots of depth
Hercules!
A little too convoluted
But no Xena, Warrior Princess