A highly underrated empire building game, Ultimate Domain (or Genesia as it is known in Europe) plays a bit like a cross between Bullfrog's Populous and Sid Meier's Civilization, but with some unique twists. The plot goes as follows: a long time ago, the King of Genesia defied the gods by giving the sacred jewels to his beloved. Angry, the Gods cursed the land, resulting in years of draught and starvation. Years later, three of the King's descendants are returning to the land. Only one will earn forgiveness by recovering the Jewels of Neort. There are two ways to win the game: either you become the first to recover seven of the nine jewels, or eliminate all your adversaries. Since the jewels are scattered across the land, though, the two approaches entail similar strategies since you must invade the enemies' lands to capture their jewels, and defend your own. |
Gameplay in Ultimate Domain is definitely its strongest point. It is multi-faceted, varied, and gets deeper and more engaging the more you play, although getting bogged down in micromanagement later on (there is no "auto-build" option, for example). As with other empire-building classics, success in Ultimate Domain is a balancing act between economics, military, and research. Trade is crucial for obtaining raw materials you don't have in your lands, which are needed to construct buildings. Similar to Sid Meier's Colonization, each citizen must be assigned jobs, e.g. settler, architect, woodsman, farmer, and so on. Proper allocation of your workforce is key to winning the game.
Ultimate Domain features many nice little touches that set it apart from other games, such as seasonal effects. For example, Fall is the best time to cut wood, and you will need a lot of surplus food to survive Winter. The graphics change to reflect what season you are in, and are quite pleasant to look at (although the overall palette is a bit dull). Another neat touch is the numerous technologies (here called "crafts") you can research and implement. There are over seventy inventions, most of which (such as the balloons and swords) are a lot of fun to see in action. You can also hang out in the tavern listening to adventurers' tips, and make offerings to the gods in temples to raise the morale of your population.
On the downside, the AI is nothing to write home about. Although the computer players manage their lands quite effectively in terms of resource management and trade, their military tactics are severely lacking. This means that the outcome of most battles is determined more by the number of troops and the level of technology than by strategic planning. Ultimate Domain also suffers from the same weaknesses that many European games share: below-average graphics and a cumbersome user interface. It would be much better if the most important game functions could be accessed from icons on the main isometric map screen (a la Populous), rather than having to click on each building to bring up a separate screen, then click on a few more items inside to bring up a menu where you can do something.
Despite all these weakneses, however, Ultimate Domain is a deep and engaging strategy game that fans of the genre should enjoy, once they get used to the interface and poor graphics. Two thumbs up!
Reviewed by: Underdogs