PC Review - Cultures 2 : Gates of Asgard

by The Six Billion Dollar Man on June 18, 2002 @ 8:27 p.m. PDT

After the exciting adventures in Cultures- The Discovery of Vinland, the Vikings are on the march again in Cultures 2. It is the end of the first millennium and Bjarni the lead character has a vision, he sees himself battling with three unknown figures against a terrifying snake and fighting to save the world. Bjarni travels to Europe in search of answers. During his travels, he meets the brave Franconians, the technologically superior Byzantines and the mystical Saracens. The goal of the game is to unite these three groups and then to go fight the final battle with the snake. Did we fight the snake? Or did we weasel out?

Introduction

Every once in awhile a game comes along that has the potential to be great. This was my initial thought when playing Cultures 2. However the lack of simplicity and tutorial makes for a frustrating experience and a catalyst for boredom. The combination of elements added to this game could have truly redefined the Real Time Strategy genre. Unfortunately, Culture 2 falls short of the mark.

Install

There is nothing much to say here. Just your average install with random pictures of game art being displayed. The install pictures describe the game to be a mid-evil based RTS, but upon playing, the pictures have nothing to do with it. Cd key check comes at the end of the install other than that, another uneventful install.

Game Play

Cultures 2 truly has a unique game play to it. It has a little of everything from all the RTS games out there. Management of resources is key, which holds true to all Real time strategy games. The implementation of diplomacy gives this game a feel comparable to such block busters as Civilization and Sim city. Being able to marry a couple and have them mate to further the population of your town, reminds me of Black and White. The game also plays like an RPG, for you have to keep an eye on your citizens because as they grow they gain levels and new abilities. Also what would any strategy game be without hordes of units to sack fellow town ships?

I feel the game is more focused on the diplomacy and economics side than the combat side, because you constantly have to check where your peasants are to see if they have new skills that you can use to acquire a different resource or tech levels. This makes for a very frustrating experience because, when your town becomes quite large it is hard for you to keep track, even though they have a notify window that pops up when one of your peasants gains a level or skill. The game has a slow feeling to it, mainly because of the way your peasants or combatants move and the length of time required to build a building.
Cultures 2 leveling and abilities system is of the most comprehensive I have ever seen. It truly gives you the command to shape your town or city into a great super power, however with that power to do what you want; you will have a headache when sorting it all out. Each peasant has to be set on something to do or they just stand around talking to other idle peasants or enjoy sleeping on the ground. Now you might say "Hey I like that stuff" and rightfully so you should, but the list of things to choose from is huge and it only grows as the peasant levels up. To put it simply it is near impossible to keep track of all your peasants and what there doing, building takes forever, and it doesn't have that feel of a combat oriented game. That annoys a great deal for I like combat games and I like to be in control of all, which is what a real time strategy game is based on, you controlling it all.

Sound

The one high point of this game is the sound. The sounds of the world, your city, and your peasants are combined perfectly to give you a feel of something really is alive in this game. Village banter to the sounds of life, it truly makes you think that you are viewing a real town. I applaud the developer for this, for they have succeeded where many have failed to truly immerse you in a game. Sadly sound alone does not make the game.

Graphics

The ability to portray a game in 3D graphics is something to behold, but in Cultures 2, 3D was left out of the equation. So instead of beautiful high resolution textures and detailed worlds you are stuck with a dated 2D graphics engine that has seen its prime many years ago. Now you can have a great game based on a 2D engine but that requires your design team to make the graphics fit. The graphics in this game do not. From your super deformed inhabitants to the low resolution world textures, the graphics seriously cripples this game. The graphics engine has an overwhelming cartoonist base that doesn't do the game justice. Perhaps that's what design team was going for, if so they didn't make this game for the veteran C&C/SC fans. Having great graphics is essential to making a game great, another nail in the coffin for Cultures 2.

A.I.

Nothing spectacular, the requirements to setup a town and have it run smoothly must have also crippled the AI, for I was playing for quite some time before I ever saw the enemy. However I believe the makers succeeded in making a great AI, because in most games, AI is given advantages such as shorter build times and cost reduction for units and buildings which gives the AI its edge instead of having it plan a attack and use the strength and weakness of each unit to complete its goal.

Game Modes

Single player, Skirmish, Skirmish with a mission, and multiplayer are the avenues of play in Cultures 2. Single Player is the story, which is no brainier. Skirmish is the here's the world and your units go nuts. The rest I believe is self explanatory. :

Conclusion

Cultures 2 has its high points and low points, but I am afraid that the low points are the victor here. It's not a fun game to play. It had some great potential but I feel the dated graphics engine, a cartoonist atmosphere and poor organization of game options marks this game as a headache in a box.

Score 6.5/10

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