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     " Build buildings to gather villagers and then watch them panic when you tear them down. Feign compassion for their plights and then tax the holy living hell out of them. Bwahahahaha! "

      Title: Zeus: Master of Olympus by Sierra

      Format: PC Strategy Game

      Reviewing Monkey: Dungapult

      The Hype: Part of their City Building series (Caesar III, Pharaoh, etc.), Zeus puts you in charge of colonizing and city building in ancient Greece.

      What This Monkey Thought...

      Graphics: Graphics is absolutely not the strong suit of these city building games…but it was never meant to be either. Cute little cartoonish characters run around and build little limited icon items…and that’s about it. Not impressive by any stretch of the imagination, but it also doesn’t detract from game play. As a bonus, the toned down graphics also let it run on as low as an early Pentium 166, which is nice. 2 out of 5

      Sound: Idle background music will motivate you to begin with, then annoy you some what, then force you to turn down the sound and turn up your stereo. A benign, somewhat limited soundtrack adds to the very predictable and thoroughly non-game enhancing basic effects (faint hammers hitting nails, generic grunts and groans of combat, etc.) leave you a long way from wanting the CD for your stereo. The real problem, though, is that you can’t turn off the sound in exchange for your favorite tunes because often the only real warning you get to major events is the audible one, unfortunate at best. 1.5 out of 5

      Game Play: I, quite honestly, have always enjoyed these city builder games and the omnipotent power over the world they give you. Build buildings to gather villagers and then watch them panic when you tear them down. Feign compassion for their plights and then tax the holy living hell out of them. Bwahahahaha! It also gives you some fun tech trees to explore, some cool options of how you put together your city, and lots of fun things to click and create. The down sides, though, really come in three forms: The first is that the tech tree, while fun, is basically linear. True, you don’t have to do things in order…but it makes it much, much harder to succeed. Not to mention, if you don’t build up they way they tell you, you’ll never get the good stuff. Compare that to games like Warzone 2100, which had a truly open tree and you end up a little wanting. The second is the complete lack of a comprehensive instruction on what to build when…, which I hate. If you know you’re going to make me build four houses and then a mall…Tell me up front what order they have to be in and what resources I’m going to need. It doesn’t detract from game play and it makes me much less frustrated, always a big bone of contention on these kinds of games. Finally, is the ever-present unforeseen threat. You will, at all times, be under constant scrutiny by any number of evil forces…None of which you can ever seem to successfully appease. For example, let's say you build a temple to Aphrodite. That’s all well and good, and your people will love you for it. But, eventually, another god will get pissed off and start attacking you. Once that happens, you’re screwed, end of story. Plus, while all that’s happening, the Huns or whatever will invade and keep you struggling just to fend off and rebuild, much less advance, very uncool. It had me restarting far more levels than I would have liked to. 3.5 out of 5

      Level and Environment Designs: You know, the only thing that ever really changes in these games is the color of the layouts. Still, that being said, there is a great mix of capitalizing on natural assets to let you plan out strategy and have some fun. Having been to Greece more than my fair share of times, I got a kick out of the way you could farm, fish, and mine the land. Sort of reminded this big Greek Monkey of home…if home was a flat green plain with rocks jutting up for no particular reason. 3.5 out of 5

      Multiplayer: None. And, frankly, you wouldn’t want any…those would be some long, boring games.

      Replayability: If the constantly hostile and dominating presences don’t frustrate you, you’ll probably log a lot of fun hours on Zeus. And, like all other games in the genre, it tends to eat away time you didn’t know you had. Typically cutting out unimportant things like sleep. 3.5 out of 5

      Story/Dramatics: Bah. Another disappointment in this category. Greeks invented drama…so couldn’t you bother to put some in? And, for the record, little windows saying, "Your people aren’t happy" don’t count. 1 out of 5

      Instructions and Learning Curve: Major loss of points here for the stupid lack of a tech tree hand out. Since, as I said, there’s nothing I hate more than slogging through game after game trying to memorize the order I need to build crap in so that I can get what I want. And that’s what you’ll end up doing way, way too much. 2 out of 5

      Installation and Real System Requirements: They say Zeus’ll run on a 166…And I didn’t see any reason to call them liars. Simple, tight, and relatively bug free…this should run on anything you have. 5 out of 5

      The Verdict:

       In the end, Zeus is fun but neither ground breaking nor original. It’s cool to build, expand and conquer, but very uncool to be limited by all the same factors as all the games to come before you.

      The Good: Build cities, mount armies, and screw with the world.

      The Bad: Blind tech trees and super imposing villains detract a whole lot from game play.

      The Overall Ugly: I enjoyed it and you probably will too. Still, it’s sad to see what could have been a great game go to the wayside.

      What it's Worth: 20 bucks.

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