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Head 2 Head Review-GUEST EDITION: Zeus: Master of Olympus

The Match-Up:
In our first Guest Edition of H2H, Mish speaks with Chris Weishaar- the Founding Editor and main reviewer of our favorite affiliate site, Outer-Edge.net!

Mish: ok let's get started.... today we have a special guest from our friends over at the Outer-Edge. Chris Weishaar is going to do a head 2 head review with us today on Zeus: Master of Olympus.

Outer-Edge: Thanks for the intro Mish. As you said, we are looking Zeus, the latest installment in Impressions Games popular city-building series. Zeus is based on Greek Mythology and all the legends contained within. In the game you deal with not only everyday city life, but the gods, goddesses, monsters and heroes themselves.

Mish: ok...i liked the game. the houses, the various industries, the houses, the landscape, even the gods and goddesses are very well detailed. The colours are nice. it is a good thing that impressions changed the overall colour scheme to aquas from the bland browns of pharaoh.

"Seeing the gods prancing through my city like it is a Santa Claus Day parade makes me laugh!"

Outer-Edge: I agree there. Although the visuals are not a huge change from Pharaoh, there is enough difference in animations, terrains, structures and color schemes to give Zeus a much more pleasing and polished look. I especially enjoyed the special effects, such as when a Hades appears and is surrounded by fire and smoke, or Zeus' clouds and lightning.

Mish: Yes!! And i love the humour. Seeing the gods prancing through my city like it is a Santa Claus day parade makes me laugh! Yes Hades is impressive as are the other gods. But when they take their vengeance on you, watch out! They will do it and there is nothing you can do but sit back and watch them. I have laughed my ass off so many times while playing this game. When right-mouse-button clicking into your people's minds, you read some of the funniest things. I peeked into the mind of one of my lumberjacks and he retorted: "...i'm a lumberjack and I'm OK" i almost died laughing!!

Outer-Edge: I know exactly what you mean! I have made sure I listened to every type of citizen in my city. Each one has a different saying and some are down right hilarious. I have to honestly say I did not think the workers voices were all topnotch, but I loved the gods, heroes and monsters. They just seem to personify them so well.

Mish: Oh yeah they were great! This is a great game but i have to say that i found it UNUSUALLY easy to play. It felt like i was making so much progress and....I WAS! I have never felt that way before. i have this impression (the upcoming pun is not intended) that Impressions overheard that Caesar 3, Pharoah and the Cleo exp. were hard and decided to drop the difficulty level a bit. Usually i struggle with my blossoming city on normal mode but now it just seems easier.

"I felt as if Impressions took the existing game model and trimmed the fat"

Outer-Edge: That is true. Zeus plays much easier than Pharaoh. I felt as if Impressions took the existing game model and trimmed the fat. There are fewer everything: industries, military structures, food ventures. But, this all makes the game simpler to play AND enjoy. I liked the feeling of knowing I didn't need to check up every minute on each industry. It allowed me time to build new areas or focus on what I enjoyed the most: The sanctuaries of the gods.

Mish: Yes that is it...you are right. It does feel like there is less of everything. you had a natural disaster occur in your playing, right? i never did. But i had gods attack me to no end! ahhhh, the sanctuaries....you build one, you have to build them all. There is just one thing that bothers me. Why? Why create a game that is just so much like their other ones? If it was not so damn fun this game probably would not have gotten a second glance from me.

Outer-Edge: I agree with the cookie cutter feel of it. But, I also love the game, so no complaints here. I also feel as though the gameplay is deeper than Pharaoh, despite the lack of options. As you said, I encountered a natural disaster in one scenario. I actually had a lava flow enter town and demolish a whole neighborhood. Not only was the land ruined for that scenario, but the whole campaign. Another example is the multiple possibilities with the mythology aspect. Not only can you build sanctuaries to certain gods in each scenario, but they will show up trying to woo you. Other times, gods will come and attack like you said. Certain gods can repel others, while others let them run wild. This applies to the monsters as well. I even encountered Zeus giving me a quest to find the golden fleece. I had to build a hall for Theseus and get him to do it. All these gameplay options makes the game highly addictive and replayable, despite the trimmed down features.

Mish: This game has lots of replayability potential. You can sit and play one map/campaign for hours and then move on to the next one for another few hours. My fave are the sandboxes. There are a few different types where you just go into the map and build and build to your heart's content. They are open concept maps but each one stresses on an infrastructure a bit more than the others. I was surprised to see that the gods had little side projects for me to handle. And i was so glad that i did not have to plan and schedule festivals like in pharoah....oh how many Egyptian gods wanted to wipe my little cities clear off of the map b/c i forgot a festival. That brings me to another point (and a reiteration of yours), the gods are much more personable. They have bodies not just demands. and as you said, they woo you.

Outer-Edge: The gods being more personable make the game as a whole more so. It feels more like a mythology game when they gods appear in your city, or defend it for you from invaders. As you said, there is no need to plan festivals. The sanctuaries take care of everything you need. Although, should you not have food for sacrifices, it is possible to still anger the gods. To stress your point about playing for hours, I agree you 100%. I also found it possible to play the scenarios for as much or as little as you wish. Some scenarios are easy to complete, but you may not want to because in campaigns, the cities carry over. This makes city management and efficiency a must. Something Pharaoh lacked as you could build "just enough to get by." One of the things I found great about playing for hours on end was the great music included. Zeus has some of the calmest, most peaceful music I have heard in a simulation game. It makes the experience pleasant and very enjoyable.

"Zeus has some of the calmest, most peaceful music i have heard in a simulation game..."

Mish: I have to agree with you on the music...very nice choice. Some people do not even notice the music but i take it seriously. I think music can make or break a game and i thought this soundtrack was great.

Outer-Edge: I also believe good music is a must. Bad music can and does ruin a good experience in a game. Impressions games got it right though, so no harm done. In fact, the only thing in the game I was disappointed with, was a lack of interaction amongst gods. They will fight invading gods, monsters and such, but never squabble with each other in a city. I would have once liked Athena to be walking and run into Ares, causing the two to fight it out, destroying parts of the city in the process. This would have made city layout more important in the game. As is though, if you can build the sanctuary, they will come... peacefully.

Mish: That is so true!! i have only seen the gods fight invading gods...i have not seen them fight amongst themselves. I too would have liked to produce my own mini-Illiad out there on the field. That would have been wicked. Well as a classicist, i have to say that it is reasonably accurate (no, gods did not walk through the streets in the ancient times :D). Overall i think that the game is really good. i love the humour and the fun. this game surprised me....i did not expect it to be as much fun as it was. Unfortunately, i have to take into consideration that the game is not that original. It has been done not once but a few times before it in almost the same way. This game is for someone who really enjoyed the others and cannot get enough of the genre or for someone starting out in the genre that is, someone who has never played a simulation.

Outer-Edge: I am with you on the liking the game. I think it is the best in the series so far. It is highly addicting and entertaining. Even though it is very similar to other titles, I still think Zeus shines as one of the best. The strongest point for me was the that Zeus is a great game for both the hardcore fan and the casual gamer, like you said. It is easy to play and learn, but there is a lot of deeper gameplay options if you pursue them.

 

Mish's Mark
Mish's Final Words
Outer Edge's Final Words
Outer Edge's Mark
80%
Fun, but it's been done. But, i repeat, it is fun.
One of the best out there for this genre. Well polished.
90%

Olympian Plights:

Demeter walks the barren streets of this young town...you better treat the gods nicely when they stay at your house.

 

Ahh, the same town-a little older...so Zeus takes Demeter up on her good advice and decides to stay awhile himself. Now THIS is one guy you don't wanna piss off while he's a houseguest of yours.