Archimedean Dynasty was one of those games that, as a kid, you couldn't get enough of. The seedy storylines, the free-roaming gameplay, and the colorful characters came together to create a genuinely vibrant and intriguing world. The first of a series of "Sub-Surface Simulations," it set the benchmark for future games such as AquaNox and Sub Culture. Anyone who was a fan of Wing Commander: Privateer should make every effort to get hold of a copy.
Plot: In the distant future, the world has become a nuclear wasteland, leaving the surface uninhabitable. Instead of opting for the usual sci-fi cliché of finding a new planet, mankind descends into the briny deep for its salvation, where a company called EnTrOx develops a monopoly on clean water, air, and high-speed underwater travel. You are Emerald 'DeadEye' Flint, a mercenary trying to scrape together a living by escorting convoys and mopping up pirates since your release from prison. During a relatively benign mission to escort a sulfur transport, all hell breaks loose when the Shogunate, a radical pirate faction, appears... leaving our protagonist the sole survivor and hostage of the infamous Hong Long. After a brief stint at her pleasure, Flint is ejected in an escape pod which is summarily collected by a passing freighter and deposited at the underwater city of Magellan, where El Topo, an *ahem* associate of yours, is waiting for an explanation of what happened to his sulfur. You have to make this up, and fast! From the initial missions, our protagonist will venture on a journey all over the globe through the murky waters (being careful to avoid the nuclear fallout of the surface), conspiring with pirates, radicals, the Atlantic Federation, and even the occasional deity, to unravel the mystery of the "Bionts" and the threat they pose to every sub-jockey out there.
Graphics: At the time, the 3D undersea world and interactive cityscapes were second to none, and even today they can be said to be head-and-shoulders above other sim games of the era, utilizing SVGA and a 640x480 resolution. The cutscenes are, although a little fuzzy in places, outstanding and really add to the sense of depth you feel in the game.
Sound & Music: Eerie music, very much what you'd imagine in a post-apocalyptic sub-surface civilization, which adds to the suspense and darker side of the game. Dialogue is voice-acted well, adding another level of immersion.
Gameplay: Like an adventure game, Archimedean Dynasty has a large and detailed environment to explore. The advanced dialog system has some multiple choices and digitized speech, which lets you decide the next course of action, and whom to trust. You interact with over one hundred characters. You can get the information you need, make the right decisions, equip your ship, then take the controls and navigate to the appropriate coordinates.
You have to deal with political elements, opposing powers, companies, and religious groups. You can choose your allies, but be careful, your choices have their consequences. Hints in the game and in the way characters talk and act should help you to decipher who is to be trusted and who is not. Moving about is done by clicking on hot spots which lead to other locations in the game.
Combat and exploration in the underworld are pretty straightforward, with the familiar elements of a cockpit viewport, indicators of damage on enemy systems, and all the trappings of a flight simulator. Money gained from successful missions is used to upgrade your present submarine. There are two dozens of torpedo types, decoys, a dozen different guns, several shield types, and other devices that you can use to outfit the ship with. The combat simulator is very similar to a flight combat simulator with joystick control. Currents and reverse thrust are two differences however. Currents carry the craft about without any controls being activated, and reverse thrust will actually allow you to back up.
In many ways this game resembles Wing Commander: Privateer and its sequel The Darkening. You can roam around and do whatever you like; accept contracts or not, and explore the entire underwater world.
An electronic notebook of happenings is another device that helps you keep track of the game. The notebook has a world map, a map of the local zone you are in, and the conversation hints gathered. It also keeps track of present tasks and missions.
Downsides: The only major downside in my opinion is the lack of vessels you get to pilot throughout the game, as there are only four. Having said that, however, it does help to reinforce the harsh realities of mankind's situation in the game, and the fact that technology is strictly controlled by the shadowy EnTrOx Corp.
Overall: In my humble opinion, this is one of the finest simulation games to come out of the ‘90s, seamlessly combining elements of simulation, adventure, and RPG to create a truly unique and satisfying gaming experience.
This game gets a 10/10 if you love your simulation/adventure games, and even if you don't, it's definitely worth a look for its unique storyline and colorful characters.
An impressive 470 MB of movies and some audio tracks were ripped out from this version. And for that we're deeply sorry, but it's the only way to get it up on Abandonia.
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