|Genre: Puzzle & Trivia|
|Min OS X: 10.5|
Mac OS X: 10.5 |†CPU: Intel
Review:This is a golden age for casual game players. While limited in the past to Bejeweled and similar match three games, or hidden objects games, the past several years have seen a blossoming in the number and variety of games for casual players. This started with Flash-based games you could play or try online before buying and the rise and popularity of iOS and some other mobile platform for gaming has continued the trend. As a result we have not only many more casual games, but more variety in our casual game selections.
One type that has become particularly popular in recent years is known as the Time Management game. This type of game tends to share some features of RTS and simulation games, but in a much simpler context. While you generally have to collect resources and build things to achieve your goals, this is done not in an open-ended environment, as is the case with the hard-core RTS & Sim games, but in a very closed situation where you tend to be doing much the same thing round after round, just with increasing difficulty. These games obviously have a good market, because there seems to be a new one out practically every week. One of the latest to find its way onto the Macintosh (and Windows and iOS) is Fate of the Pharaoh from Cateia Games. Does it offer enough new to add to your burgeoning Time Management game collection? Read on to find out.
As stated above, Time Management games follow a similar pattern (otherwise we couldnít have a category for them). Thereís an opening scenario to set the stage for all to come, you have to collect different resources and you use those resources to build things. The game is divided into a number of rounds with each round adding additional layers of complexity or time pressure to succeed in your goal. Each game tries to add something different to the gameplay, either in how you collect things, your goals, the scenario, or some other facet of this basically identical gameplay.
Fate of the Pharaoh falls squarely within this genre and method. In it, you are a new Pharaoh trying to rebuild the Egyptian empire after an unnamed enemy has destroyed it. Youíve defeated the enemy, but now must rebuild. And there are aliens (Donít ask me, it wasnít my idea).
One thing that differentiates this game from some others is you have all the people you need to complete your tasks; in some you have to, in essence, buy your workers. I liked this variation as it had a sense of authenticity. After all I donít think the Pharaohs had to go begging for workers; they ordered, the people delivered. You use your people to collect stone from the quarry, water from wells, food from farms and to build your various structures, including different levels of dwellings and other buildings that you need to accomplish the goals in different levels.
Each level starts with your advisor setting out the goals you need to accomplish to move on. Early levels involve building a certain number of dwellings, which can be upgraded up to three levels, a well, a quarry, and then later additional buildings which can provide wealth or happiness to your people. I found the progression to be rather slow, with many levels throughout the game seeming fairly repetitive and especially early it seemed the assumption was that the player had never played such a game before and had no idea how things worked. An option to turn off the advisor once the level started would also have been nice, as he could literally get in the way of accomplishing tasks when his talk balloon covered buildings you were trying to reach. Anyone who has played this type of game, or anything more complex, will understand how to play immediately and it would have been nice to have an option to move along faster somehow.
In addition to the repetitive gameplay (which is common to this type of game, but some Iíve played offered more variety or challenge later on), some of the things you did seemed to be useful only on the level on which it was introduced. The main example of this is the Marketplace, with which you can trade stone for gold. But unless I did the math wrong (which is possible), it cost you more gold to buy the stone than the gold you got in return for it. So the only time I built a Market was when I had to. In most levels, you could accomplish your goal doing the same thing over and over: build the best house you can, upgrade it as much as possible; build a well and a quarry; collect the gold from your houses and keep them watered and fed; wait until you have enough gold and stone built up to finish the level.
You are encouraged to finish each level with the Time of Ra; do this on enough levels and you get bonuses which appear in what I suppose is a special throne room or something. But there is no time limit to completing any level, so unless you really want the bonuses, which donít affect gameplay in any other way, you can complete each level at your leisure. The ultimate goal is to build a Great Pyramid, whose plans are provided by aliens, which has nothing to do with the gameplay at all and I canít figure out why theyíre there, except maybe one of the illustrators was dying to draw aliens. Weird.
As you may have picked up by now, while Fate of the Pharaoh follows the general Time Management game system and has all the basic elements, it doesnít seem to provide anything new. By the end I was disappointed in this as at first I had had some hopes. The use of unlimited people to accomplish your tasks I thought paved the way for some more innovations later on. But the slow pace in introducing new elements and the lack of unique challenges in the different levels left me feeling very ďmehĒ.