And, unfortunately, thatís where the gameplay in Call to Power II
heads as well. While itís an okay iteration of the Civilization
-style games, it has its own share of problems, and really brings little thatís new to the table.
Following the tradition of the Civilization series, you start with a lonely settler or two in God-awful BCE, and you must found cities and increase your strength as soon as possible. Call to Power II offers four different victory conditions, each of which requires a somewhat altered strategy to succeed with. The first, and most familiar to strategy-game buffs, is the Military victory -- AKA world conquest. The next is the Diplomatic victory, where everyone gets along just hunky-dory. Then thereís the Scientific Victory, where you must build the Gaia Controller and make the world a utopia. And finally, if you canít beat the game by any other method when the game gets to 2300CE, the player with the highest score wins.
The gameplay itself is doggedly similar to the other Civ titles, with a few improvements but some of the same major flaws. Instead of super-micromanagement, like the first two titles required, Call to Power II allows you to appoint mayors to the various cities and have them control the general direction of construction. Thatís not to say that the mayors are particularly brilliant, but if you donít mind a somewhat under-performing A.I. managing your non-key cities, youíll do fine with it. And instead of the pools of resources being kept separate for each city, things like food and public works points are pooled across the empire. The entire game has a smaller micro-management feel than Civ and Civ II, which is a good thing. Youíll still have to babysit units because of the evil path-finding, and do the same with cities when you want something important to happen. But as a general rule, the game can be played on a higher level than usual.
However, Call to Power II suffers from the one major problem that the first game had -- unit imbalances. Watch musketeers lay waste to your supertech. Watch Televangelists convert cities to other sides -- or, worse, the Eco-Rangers and their complete leveling of all surrounding tech. Superunits are not cool, folks. Having to build a bevy of defenses to block specialized units is irritating and unfun. And the fact that ancient armies can wipe out high-tech ones is disturbing. It doesnít help that thereís no simple way to upgrade your units to keep them from being obsolete. Argh.
The combat system itself is almost pointless, with the various units going at it with little to no rhyme or reason until one side wins or retreats. The placement on the battlefield has something to do with the type of unit -- close range, far range, or flanking -- but is still too random to make strategic planning viable.
There are things that Call to Power II does right. The diplomatic engineís interface is very tight, with lots of options. Unfortunately, the computer responses to said diplomacy are quite arbitrary and often feel random. Itís disheartening, but definitely fixable. And the de-emphasis on micromanagement is definitely nice. But the game still feels like a chore to play, instead of the joy that is Sid Meierís Alpha Centauri or the like.
And yes, thereís multiplayer, but considering how long many turns take, chances are great youíll never use it.