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Score: 95%
ESRB: Not Rated
Publisher: Shrapnel Games
Developer: Dreamspike
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: Strategy

Graphics & Sound:

Complete and total addiction. I wasn't expecting to like Bronze nearly as much as I did (I even got a co-worker hooked). Like a good game of Chess, Bronze offers a simple premise with a deep play mechanic that is good enough for short satisfying games, but strong enough to keep you playing for a good while.

There's something simple and relaxing about Bronze's look. In keeping what will be a theme throughout this entire review, Bronze has an almost board game-like quality about it. Presentation is completely 2D with simple, yet effective tiles standing in to represent terrain and the various structures you'll build in each level. It's a minimalist approach that doesn't hit you over the head with visuals, but it's incredibly effective at communicating what it needs to without overdoing it, "just because other games do it." It's comfortable in its skin and I like that.

Audio follows suit. There's a reasonable amount of voicework during tutorials and at various points in the game. The instructions are already clear and easy to follow, but the added voice does speed up tutorials. You can listen and examine whatever the tutorial is trying to show, which is nice. Music just hangs around in the background, which makes complete sense. Anything more would be a distraction.


I could easily see Bronze working as a board game and finding a good deal of success on the market. Gameplay is reminiscent of Settlers of Catan, but with bits of Carcassonne and Go tossed into the mix.

The primary goal is to collect more territory than your opponents. You begin each match with one territory and can collect adjacent ones by building a structure on it. Buildings range from simple farms to ziggurats and citadels, each offering their own unique traits. For instance, farms produce gold but also offer the flexibility of being paved over for another structure later in the game. Ziggurats, which cost gold to build, convert control of enemy farms to your own. Citadels, on the other hand, protect all adjacent territories from conversion.

Matches are distributed across three campaigns, covering the Early, Middle and Late Bronze Ages. Similar to Civilization, Bronze's competing nations are culled from history. Though not deeply rooted in history as far as conquests go, Bronze includes a lot of information about each in splash screens and other menu boxes. I love when I actually learn something from games, and though I wouldn't consider myself a newly-minted expert on the Bronze Age, I feel like I learned something while playing Bronze.

If Bronze has any blemishes, it's the lack of online multiplayer. I can understand why the feature is missing, but I would have loved to challenge friends to games. Instead, Bronze offers a four-player "hotseat" mode where friends take turns selecting and building on tiles. If anything, this mode helped illustrate how well Bronze would work as a board game.

Bronze also features a challenging Survival Mode, where you're challenged to complete as many randomly-generated maps as you can. Additionally, there's the ability to set up single and multiplayer tournaments.


Bronze offers the same level of strategy you'd expect from a game of Chess. Even though you're offered a limited number of structures and places to put them, the number of choices available is a bit staggering. There's a chance you might win one or two games by haphazardly dropping structures, but most of the time that strategy will end in defeat. The A.I. is incredibly good and uses a variety of placement strategies to keep you constantly thinking. Every single choice you make has meaning. If you're not agonizing over every move, you're doing it wrong.

Fear not, Bronze is tough but not the sort to kick you down before you even get a chance to start. The tutorial is short, but extensive. Tutorial missions use a clever "limited play" mechanic. After learning about farms and ziggurats, you're asked to win a match only using those structures, even though you've already learned about towns. It's a great way to simultaneously teach the mechanics and strategies.

Campaign offers three difficulty settings. Even on Casual (the default), Bronze puts up a good fight. Every mission is graded on difficulty. Even though you're playing on casual, you'll come across "Hard" missions. You have freedom to choose between missions in Campaign and the grades are posted (at least when playing on Casual), so you always know what you're getting yourself into before you start.

Game Mechanics:

The absolute best part of Bronze is the number of potential strategies and choices available. There are only a handful of structures, but the pieces yield an incredible amount of strategic depth. Even on early levels, you forced to constantly think about how you want to expand your empire while also deciding how you want to lock your opponent out of territory. Go with a quick land grab strategy, or try and surround your opponent's empire and slowly convert it with a few well-placed ziggurats and army camps? A lot of games advertise meaningful choice and consequences; Bronze actually offers them.

The key to expansion is coin. Farms and villages are your only sources of income, making them key to any good strategy. Farms produce one coin per turn while villages offer two, but you can only place villages near mountains. Towns are expensive, but suck up every tile around them. As the map fills with tiles, you'll need to pull out other structures and steal space (and structures). As previously mentioned, ziggurats convert farms while camps convert every other structure. Citadels protect from conversion, but are costly.

It's not uncommon for territory to change hands several times a match. Some of Bronze's most intense moments grow out of the give and take that comes with placing conversion (and protection) structures.

I really liked Bronze. While the trend is to heap loads of features and other dangling carrots in front of players to keep them playing for as long as possible, Bronze sticks to a simple, straightforward set of mechanics and lets those speak for themselves. It may not look like much, but Bronze is definitely worth a purchase for strategy fans.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

Minimum System Requirements:

Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7, Pentium class machine, 128 MB RAM, 140 MB hard drive space required, DirectX 8.0 or higher, 1024x768 or better screen resolution, 16 bit color or better color depth, DirectX 8.0+ compatible Sound Card

Test System:

Windows Vista; 1.6 GHz Dual-Core processor; 2 Gig RAM; DVD drive; 120 GB HDD; GeForce Go7600

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Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated