The Nations Gold (a.k.a. Alien Nations 2)
Nordic Night Promo reminded me that it would be nice to complete the Nations. I only needed to finish one mission to complete the original campaign and two - for gold expansion. And that's how I spent my weekend :)
First of all I have to admit that the Nations improved on almost everything over its predecessor. Alien Nations was a bland strategy game, heavily inspired by the Settlers series and with a few (almost) game breaking bugs. The Nations, however, is a very solid game with a few brilliant ideas, I'll try to mention the most important:
- Realistic development. Add a few dwellings and your unit limit will increase? Forget about it! You can build as many houses as you wish but that alone will get you absolutely nothing! The basic unit of your society is a family (duh!). After some time children will grow up, move out from their parents and look for a spouse to start a new family. And then you are supposed to provide them a nice place to live and a suitable job. They can live without them for a short time (unemployment is not as bad as being homeless) but will get unhappy if it takes long enough. In practice that means you have to develop your city all the time. You cannot say to yourself: my economy is fine, I don't need more workers because I don't want to feed them (yes, you have to provide food and water for every worker!). If you don't create new workplaces unemployed folks will become criminals and being a mayor of a SinCity is not an easy task ;)
- Technological advance has its drawback too! After fulfilling a few requirements you can advance to a new era which enables you to make better inventions. But be careful! The demands of your people will increase too. They may want some luxury items and/or more temples so make sure you can cope with it because otherwise... have I mentioned SinCity? I believe I have!
- Trade and diplomacy. Now, that's where the game really shines. Trading is a very important part of the game. I wasted a lot of time during a few first missions because I didn't realize how important it was to trade! First of all there is a merchant guild (run by the storks, no less). In most cases they are willing to trade everything but they tend to be greedy. You can, however, trade with your neighbours. They won't accept every offer but you will get a much better deal with them. And most important of all trading influences your relations so sometimes it's advisable to strike a deal even if you don't need their resources badly. Just to show them you are cooperative. You will have a lot of problems if you forget about that. It's also important to mention that each nation can produce only a few luxury goods and you'll need all of them so you are bound to trade!
- Military units. Build a barracks and spam your enemy with countless warriors? Well, forget about it too! You can only build limited amount of strongholds and all you can do is to hire a warlord to occupy them. But remember! You'll have to pay something in advance and a daily fee. Otherwise the warlord will leave you. Each warlord has a different demands and what's most important - he comes with a different army! So it's not advisable to hire a cheap warlord who has only one or two followers. He won't do much in battles and he will occupy one of your strongholds! Set a reasonable hiring standards! Oh, and by the way. Warlords are the only units you can directly control (their followers will... well, follow them ;). The idea of hiring your military units is really great but unfortunately battles are a bit messy and tedious - conquering a fortified city is not a pleasant task (and sometimes it's your mission objective!)
The game is really good and I can wholeheartedly recommend it. Full list