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Score: 70%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Xicat
Developer: Funatic
Media: CD/1
Players: 1 - 6
Genre: Real-Time Strategy

Graphics & Sound:

Like most of the games in the economy-management subgenre of real-time strategy, Cultures sports a mostly 2D graphical world. The actual world 'plane' can be tilted (although the support for that is rather flaky), but all of the characters and structures are sprites that sit on it, so the tilting doesn't really do much of anything. The various structures are pretty neat-looking, but they're nothing spectacular, and the same can be said for the different Viking characters that you control--cute, but not particularly cool. There's definitely too much red hair, and the little guys become darn near indistinguishable once your city's bustling enough. The game sports support for a number of resolutions, which is a nice feature, but the higher you turn it up the bigger the 'small unit' problem becomes.

As for sound, the game ranges from fair to good. The voiceovers are quite nice, neither overplayed nor monotone. The music is also good, with a number of nifty beats and some very city-buildingish music. If you've played other games in the genre, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about once you start up one of the missions. The sound effects are nice--clangs, chirrups, and the like--but they're nothing special, and chances are good that you'll hear nothing that's genuinely impressive. The entire presentation of the game is workable, but it's fairly obvious that it's intended to take a back seat to the gameplay.


And I really do wish that I liked the gameplay more. I'm not entirely sure what happened--the even slower pace of this game compared to The Nations, the lack of differentiation between the various characters in the game, the particular combination of jobs and infrastructure--but Cultures just doesn't appeal to me the same way that some of the other games in the genre do. Instead of me realizing that I just spent four hours in front of a computer micromanaging a virtual village, I found myself noticing the micromanagement more and more and time passing ever so slowly.

The premise is a solid one, as far as games of this type go. You're the sort of omniscient overlord of a group of Vikings, out to recover the six pieces of the sun (a meteor, really, but who's counting?) Along the way you'll have to do a dozen or so missions, each with their own requirements. And in true economic micromanagement style, you'll spend a lot of time building up your village so that it's formidable enough to do something useful.

As in most games of the genre, you start off with practically nothing. You then build a hunter's tent so that you can garner food, housing tents for your Vikings to sleep in, and so on. Each Viking has a number of satisfaction meters that must be kept up for optimal performance, and each Viking supposedly has unique needs. In reality, you end up just blurring them all into one. They're just not as endearing as one would hope.

And so the game goes. There's combat, but it's not by any stretch the focus of the game, and indeed most of the time you'll simply be micromanaging your settlement, trying to get things to run as smoothly as possible.

The main problem with the game is that it's even more micromanagey than most of the other titles. You have to assign housing for each of your characters, you have to have them get married, you have to tell the women to have kids, and once you're using the specialized units you even have to tell them to eat. This is the main difference between this game and something like The Nations--whereas the latter lets you pretty much concentrate on the structures and layout and general 'flow,' Cultures requires you to micromanage just about every niggly little detail.

You can also play the game multiplayer, although the Nations Online Server bit doesn't work at all--I assume it's meant to use THQ's Multiplay servers, but it definitely doesn't seem to work properly. The only thing left is LAN gaming.


It depends upon what you mean by difficulty level as to how one would rate Cultures. In terms of actual challenge in the various missions, a careful player shouldn't have any problem doing any of the levels. But learning the intricacies of the various industries and the items required by the industries and the time-scales that they run on is a definite challenge, and mastery of the game is incomplete until one has a good understanding of these sorts of things. The game sports a set of tutorial levels which can help one get over the learning curve, but they're not so detailed as to give you a full view of the game's complexity.

Game Mechanics:

The game is controlled by a combination mouse-and-keyboard interface; you can use the mouse for all of the major functions, but certain things (like the speed-up key) still require the keyboard. The basic concept of the game is solid; indeed, it's been done a number of times very successfully. But the actual implementation done in Cultures leaves a lot to be desired. Aside from the crazy level of micromanagement needed for the game, it only has a 2x speed boost while you play, and 1x is so painful as to ensure that no one will ever play the game on it. Another, greater speed option would have been nice, because even at 2x some things take too damned long to happen. I don't mind complexity, but I do mind plodding complexity. The interface is quite nice, once you get over the 'what do these icons do?' hump of any game in the genre, and I didn't have any stability problems with the game.

I just didn't have much fun either. It's not an awful game--Cultures has many of the elements that make the genre appealing to me, with the deep economic base that lets you develop complex interplays. But something about the sum total of the graphics, the micromanagement, and the speed of the game conspired to make me more bored than anything else with Cultures, which is unfortunate; I really wanted to like the game. Hardcore fans of the genre may find something novel that they like in the game, but the rest of us would be better off with other, better examples of this European-style game.

-Sunfall to-Ennien, GameVortex Communications
AKA Phil Bordelon

Minimum System Requirements:

Win9x/Me/2K, AMD K6-2/P2 266, 64MB RAM, 2x CD-ROM, video card w/ 4MB VRAM

Test System:

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

Windows Cossacks: European Wars Sega Dreamcast Charge 'N Blast

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated