How would I describe Genesia . . . It's like Microids took a few elements from Civilization, Populous and Settlers. Threw them in a blender then poured out the result. Confused? Then read on.
At first glance you might be mistaken into thinking that Ultimate Domain is just a clone of Populous. Graphically I must admit it is on a par with it, but if you take the time to learn its deceivingly simple controls, you’ll find a gem of a strategy game.
Like most strategy games there is a goal, and Ultimate Domain is no different. Scattered across the land are nine jewels (the Crystals of Neort) which you and two other princes at a time are looking to acquire. Once seven of these jewels have been found and then brought to one of your churches, you will forever lift the curse that has fallen upon the land. To achieve this noble quest will require every inch of your cunning to manage your economy, technology and last but not least your military forces.
You start the game with only four settlers, each of which can be assigned to a number of tasks ranging from a farmer to an architect. Some of these roles do not commence immediately though. For example, when assigning woodsmen, you will have to wait a turn (season) before they get to work.
Ultimate Domain works under a turn based timed sequence. By this I mean that although the game is turned based you also have an hour glass off to one side which slowly empties. So if you just sit there and do nothing or you take too long in making a decision, you will soon find that your turn is over. This feature(?) is also present even if you choose not to play with a friend and just against the AI. Should the need arise, you can also end your turn early by pressing the small white square that sits atop of the hour glass.
The four seasons - summer, fall, winter and spring, are not there just for show. Each has an impact upon what you can do, and also what your people can do. For instance, you’ll see an increase of illnesses during winter, crops are harvested during spring time and when summer arrives, you’ll find that your available water will begin to dwindle.
Research is also available once you have had an architect construct a workshop. Within this building you will begin your path down the technological tree, but only once you have assigned at least one of your settlers to be an inventor. There is one thing that is impossible to notice on the research screen - although there is no indication of it, there are TWO pages! In order to access the second one, you have to press the right mouse button.
There are a number of devices and concepts that you can develop, and you will find them all to be of use. There really are no redundant or exotic branches to research. For instance, researching things like the Bow, will give you access to ranged units.
Raising an army is where things begin to get tricky, as you have to pick an existing member of your kingdom to become a soldier. This means that you can potentially use up every available settler that you have, should a conflict drag on for a prolonged time.
The sounds in the game are interesting, varied and appropriate. They really do add to the feel of the game. Sadly the same cannot be said for the music, which I am sure you will switch off, having heard the same tune repeated for the umpteenth time.
It will take a few games before you will begin to get the hang of how everything works, should you not have a manual to refer to. The AI will also seem to be more than adequate to the task. Unfortunately once you have a few games under your belt you’ll soon notice how shocking the AI truly is. It just never seems to launch any devastating military campaigns against you or any of the other players.
All in all Ultimate Domain is a fun game to play, moreso against your friends than the computer. Even if they’re not willing to look away whilst you make your moves!