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Capitalism II

Score: 85%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Ubisoft Entertainment
Developer: Enlight Software
Media: CD/1
Players: 1 - 7
Genre: Simulation/ Strategy

Graphics & Sound:

Capitalism II, like many business simulations, is a number of years behind the technology curve when it comes to presentation. The isometric city view is fairly well detailed, but it's firmly mid-90s in the technological level of the graphics. The interface is a little overmuch cluttered, with lots of buttons and widgets and scrollbars that can sometimes make it feel like you're looking at a slightly pretty spreadsheet instead of a game. [Of course, in one sense, it is a complex spreadsheet.] Capitalism II definitely doesn't push the bar in graphics, but it's fairly obvious that it was never really intended to.

The same can be said for the game's sounds. They're sparse, repetitive, and nothing special. You won't find yourself tapping your toes to the music, but you won't find yourself diving for the volume control either, until you've put too many hours into the game. Like the graphics, it seems that Enlight Software went more for actual game complexity than pretty presentation.


Gameplay:

And they can get away with it. While it's got one heck of a learning curve for newcomers--even with the detailed tutorial--and the interface is still somewhat clunkier than it should be, there's a lot of fun to be had with Capitalism II, especially for those people who are into business simulations. Instead of doing a particular part of business, this game does it all, and it does it well.

When I say all, I really mean it. Sure, in the tutorial scenario you start off with a convenience store and a single product. From there, you can grow your product line and expand your chain so that you rake in even more profits. But that's just the tip of the iceberg in Capitalism II. You can control every aspect of your product--what is called vertical integration--from its raw base to the completed product. You can buy the factories that get the raw materials (and even sometimes the raw materials themselves), the refinement steps if there are any, and even the media that pushes your product upon the unsuspecting populace.

And Captalism II doesn't stop there. You can buy buildings and try to play the land ownership game; you can play the stock market, wheeling and dealing and trying to stay on top of that game; you can expand into different cities, becoming a massive megacorporation with millions of dollars.

If it sounds overwhelming, well, it is at first. There's a whole lot to learn, and the first campaign devotes itself to teaching you the ins and outs of the game. Even then, there's so much tweaking that you can do that you're really just starting on truly learning the way that Capitalism II works.

For example, there are tons of different products that you can sell, from jewelry to milk. Products all have different ways of making them 'sell', and different areas have different demands for your products. Depending on where you get your products, you may even be putting money into your competitor's pocket. Juggling all of this complexity can be a daunting task, but fortunately the game helps you out with a number of mechanics (some automatic, some simply time-saving) that can keep you sane deep in the complexity.

Capitalism II also sports multiplayer, but the style of play doesn't really fit well into the standard multiplayer paradigm. There's a lot to do, for sure, but Capitalism II is often about exploration of boundaries and seeing just what sort of things you can do to turn the world around, which is easier in a single-player setting. And there's enough single-player to keep you going for ages--the game sports a random scenario generator along with the campaigns, which should produce challenges unending for the addicts.


Difficulty:

Capitalism II is a hard game. First of all, there's the steep learning curve, where you try to get a handle on all of the parts of the business world. Of course, you can step down your megalomania and try to concentrate on only parts of the industry, but true victors go for complete world domination, and it's a challenging road to follow. Add to this savvy AI who's not above stomping you into the ground and then spitting on your corpse, and you have more than enough challenge for even the veteran gamer. Fortunately, the whole thing's eminently configurable, and the in-game tutorials are excellent, so even the newbie can pick up the game fairly quickly.

Game Mechanics:

Capitalism II is completely mouse-driven, and as such the interface tends to be a little more cluttered than I like. There are some control paradigms (right-clicking to exit, for example) that I'm not fond of, and the use of the various buttons and dialogs and the like can be very confusing until you get comfortable with the game. Even then, things seem a little more complex than they perhaps had to be; there's a lot of configurability in the way you view data in the game, but I still felt that the interfacing could have used more work, and I think it can turn off gamers who otherwise would enjoy this sort of game. The game's load times are pretty much instantaneous, and the main menus are easy enough to navigate, coupled with excellent tutorials and instructions.

The sheer complexity of the simulation may put some people off of Capitalism II, as may the interface that looks straight out of five years ago, but people who get around these hurdles will find a delightfully complex business simulation that will take them from humble beginnings to world market saturation. There's a lot to learn, a lot to see, and a lot to do in Capitalism II, and fans of the genre will be eminently pleased by the challenges and scenarios it offers. Those who aren't scared of diving into what can sometimes be a dry affair will find a lot to like as well, and the budget price point doesn't hurt. Many games try to overreach their bounds and end up being a mess of half-baked ideas; Capitalism II reaches for the world and gets as close as anyone's ever come.


-Sunfall to-Ennien, GameVortex Communications
AKA Phil Bordelon

Minimum System Requirements:



Win9x/2K/Me/XP, P2 233, 64MB RAM, 4x CD-ROM, 250MB HD space, sound card, keyboard, mouse
 

Test System:



Athlon 1.1GHz running Win98 SE, 512MB RAM, GeForce 2 GTS w/ 32MB RAM, SoundBlaster Live!, 8x DVD-ROM

Windows Blade of Darkness Windows Sid Meier's Civil War Collection

 
Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated