Global Domination

I like conquest games.  I think it's lots of fun to start out small, stockpile some money and force, and go forth and kick the hell out of anything misguided enough to stand in my way.  Apparently, I'm not the only one who enjoys this sort of anti-social gaming, as there is no shortage of quality conquest games for the PC.  (And there's a good supply of worthless ones, too.)  One of the many is the new Impressions title, Global Domination.

I knew early on that I was in for a less-than-perfect gaming experience when G.D. refused to install.  Since the installation program was only a simple batch file I decided to take a look at it and see if I could determine the problem.  Fortunately, a diploma from M.I.T. was not necessary to find the bug.  Global Domination comes in a compressed form, like most games do now, and uses the shareware file compression program LHA to uncompress itself onto the hard drive.  Unfortunately, Impressions forgot to put the LHA executable file on the Global Domination disk.  A phone call to the Impressions office verified that they are aware of this mistake, and are more than a little embarrassed.  To their credit, they have sent out disks containing LHA.EXE to many software stores, posted notices on Compuserve, and are going to make the needed file available on the new Impressions BBS, which should be up and running by the time you read this. As its name implies, Global Domination is a game in which the object is to gain complete military control of the world.  The world map is divided into territories, most of which are undefended neutral areas at the start of the game.  Starting with one territory and a limited budget, the player must extend his influence until he is a formidable world power, and then take pleasure in crushing the competition.  If this seems a little familiar to you, join the club.

At the start of the game, the player selects his opponents from a list, taking into consideration the personality descriptions of the enemy leaders found in the manual.  The game's box states that one of the leaders you can play against is Hitler, but this is an error.  The only place he and his bad mustache show up in this game is that little blurb on the back panel.  Although this mistake is duly noted in the documentation, if I'd bought this game specifically so I could play against Hitler I'd be plenty irritated.

You may choose to play using earth as the battleground, or you may have the program generate a random map.  This feature is not nearly as powerful as the random map generators of several other conquest games, but it does do a good deal in increasing G.D.'s replay value.

Once you have made your selections, the game begins.  The majority of the game is played from a series of map views of the world.  The main map shows a global view of the world with the owners of the territories identified by a color code.  Clicking on an icon zooms the view in to show a smaller, more detailed portion of the world.  Here the player can inspect each territory individually.  Each territory has a city which is either small, medium, or large.  The size of the city indicates how much money the territory produces.  From here the player can also move armies, but first they need to be created.

From the icon bar on the right side of the screen the player can access the logistics screen.  Here is where the player budgets his money and keeps track of his income.  To move your armies around the map you must invest money in both land and fleet transport.  Setting aside money for intelligence work will come in handy, too.  From the logistics screen the player also creates armies.  Along the bottom of the screen are six identical army icons, representing the pre-designed army types, which can be modified to suit the player's military and financial needs.  I thought it was a little irritating that all six army icons were identical.  Even if they don't accurately reflect their army's makeup, it's nice to see a little variety.

The map-based mobilizing of your armies to defend your territories and attack your enemies is definitely the high point of the game.  As enjoyable as it is, however, it is not especially original.  In fact, Global Domination plays very similarly to a certain Parker Brothers board game; I won't mention the game by name, but let's just say it ends with a "K".

To flesh out the game a bit and make it seem less like a board game on a computer, G.D. adds the options of playing with diplomatic and intelligence concerns.  The diplomacy screen will allow you to interact with the competing leaders.  From here you can form an alliance with a leader to keep from being attacked (at least until someone breaks the alliance), gang up one of your hapless foes, or use your special forces to attempt to de-stabilize an enemy leader.  If a leader is de-stabilized enough, he will go insane; this is an area where I really miss Hitler's presence.  Although the diplomacy section of the game is nice and adds a little depth to the gameplay, it's not very crucial to the outcome of the game.

To get anything out of the intelligence option, you must allocate an intelligence budget from your territory-based income.  Spies don't work for peanuts, so you're probably better off waiting until you have a substantial cash flow before you start indulging heavily in intelligence work.  Once you have a good spy network to rely on, the information they provide can be quite useful in determining which of your enemies to attack and which to leave alone.  With enough money at their disposal, spies are able to tell you about the personality of an enemy leader, determine whether or not they are insane, and report on the financial and political state of their empire.  This is a nice touch, as it gives you enough information to make a strategic decision about how and where to expand your borders, and what the repercussions are likely to be.

At the highest level of game complexity, G.D. will allow you to fight over each territory taken by force on an overhead tactical battle screen.  This would have added a good deal of fun to my game, if I had enjoyed this battle screen at all, which I didn't.  The graphics are fairly poor, miles away from their lofty description on the game box.  (What's that thing over there?  Oh, it's an infantryman.  Why is he as big as a tank?)  Moving each military unit is quite easy, but getting them to attack is another deal altogether.  The only piece that you can select a target for is the artillery, which lets you select a target area an then automatically fires at the "most important" target in that area.  All other pieces must attack by moving into a very close proximity with an enemy unit; this is difficult to do because the enemy units are usually moving themselves, and your units don't obey orders very well.  Your units are supposed to be intelligent enough to help defend nearby units; if they are, they sure fooled me.  My fighter planes refused to launch when their airstrip came under attack, and my tanks did nothing to help when an enemy tank rolled up to my poor mechanized infantry and started blasting away.  The only thing I saw my units do on their own accord was turn tail and run as soon as they were shot at, which can be very irritating when trying to get into a good position to attack the enemy base.  Sound effects of the battle were good, but didn't seem keyed to any on-screen action, and occasionally the soundtrack went completely dead, regardless of what was happening on the battlefield.  I have promised myself never to use the tactical combat option again.

All in all, I enjoyed playing Global Domination, but I can't really call it a good game.  Some of its options are good, while others are a complete waste of time.  The map-based play is where I found my fun; it's not a heavy tactical exercise, but it can be a pleasant diversion if you're in the mood for some light entertainment.  I didn't get a chance to play against another person via modem connection, but I think this would add an extra thrill to the game.  I think what's going to kill this game is the fact that there are so many better strategy conquest games out there which offer better sound, better graphics, more options, more complex tactics, and more rewarding gameplay.  Commercial games aside, the shareware market has a good selection of map-based conquest games that play just as good as Global Domination.  I had fun playing G.D., but keep in mind that I received a free copy for review purposes.  Had I paid full price for this game, I have the feeling I would have been greatly disappointed.