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Space Empires IV
by Shrapnel Games
Previewer: Michael Lafferty
Preview Date: 08/31/2000
...the type of game that does require patience to learn, and brain power to win.


The universe is a small place, and not a very nice one at that. Think you have what it takes to rule a world, and expand into the regions of darkness that surround your small planet?

If so, then Space Empires IV, from Malfador Machinations and Shrapnel Games, might be what you are looking for. This program is akin to Risk with elements of civ games thrown in. You must manage resources, build and explore. You will encounter hostile races, which you must combat or negotiate with.

There are several paths to victory: you can be the first player to reach a designated number of points; or it can depend on the number of years elapsed; you win if you have ‘x’ amount of point higher than second place; percentage of tech areas researched is a factor; your quadrant is at peace for ‘x’ amount of years; or the victory conditions outlined previously come into play after ‘x’ amount of years.

This is a turn-based game, and can support up to 20 players, either human or computer AI. There are things to discover such as black holes, binary stars and asteroid belts; the program has 18 races with the capability of designing your own race. Will your colony be peace-loving artisan, or barbarian psychics?

The program features more than 300 tech facilities that can be built, and even has surprise elements - such as earthquakes or supernovas - a la civilization games.

The options package on this program is quite extensive. You will be asked to determine seemingly minute detail about your race. Then you will have to build up your cash reserves to build ships to travel outward from your world. Staying at home and pretending the universe doesn’t exist won’t win the game. And the game board in this program is huge. There are more than 100 solar systems consisting of 15 planets each.

Graphically the game is fairly well rendered. The elements have a three-dimensional feel to them. If there is any singular problem it is that this game is rather static. There are not very many moving elements. It is a board game, brought to life on the computer. But as such, it retains that feel of non-motion. And the sound elements aren’t anything to write home about. In fact, there is little sound in this program.

There is an in-game tutorial, consisting of more than 42 pages that will walk you through the elements of the program. It is somewhat pedantic, and redundant at times, but does give a solid feel for the program. The controls are not hard to learn, or master. This program utilizes the point and click style that makes it accessible to anyone.

Space Empires IV is the type of game that does require patience to learn, and brain power to win. It is not the type of game that will dazzle with sensory-based rewards, but instead will delight those who enjoy the challenge of a video chess match realized against the backdrop of deep space with all its intrigues and diverse races.

The system requirements for this program are not huge. The game, thus far, only requires a Pentium class computer with 120 megs of hard drive space and 32 megs of RAM. It does have solid on-line support for customized ships and other graphical elements.

Estimated release date is October 1st.

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