Reprisal: In which I finally understand Yahweh
The God of the Old Testament seems like a pretty rough dude. The world got too sinful, so he obliterated everyone (except for the one righteous family) with a flood. Whoa.
But you know, I can understand…sometimes, things seem pretty dire, and you want to help your guys out, but everyone else threatens to undo all the work that you’ve done. I learned to understand by playing the game Reprisal.
Reprisal is a real-time strategy “god game” based off of Peter Molyneux’s Populous, which is pretty much the Ur Example of a God Game. The idea is that you are a god and you have your own tribe of people. Unfortunately, there are other tribes who have splintered away from your group and (somehow) scattered your powers (“totems”)…so you have to take it all back…through reprisal. Get it?
As I mentioned, the game is based on Peter Molyneux’s Populous, a game which I played a bit (at least, the SNES version…). One major thing that people are praising the developers of Reprisal for is that it sticks to the same classic 8-bit style graphics, but with some updates to make it fresh and modern. I want to try the original Populous again, to compare, but what I fear is that Reprisal has spoiled me, and that I’ll find Molyneux’s original work clunkier and unpolished.
The game’s basic point is somewhat simple. On most stages (or “islands”) the point is to wipe out all the competing tribes (which seem to be red, green, and yellow…I like calling them the fire nation, earth kingdom, and…well, the yellow group doesn’t really correspond to a particular set of totemic powers, so I don’t like to call them the air nomads or anything…plus, the blue powers — [you always are the water tribe, by the way, but as the avatar, that doesn’t stop you from bending the other elements] — seem to cover both water, wind, and storm based powers.) You generally do this by out-settling them for a general phase of the game, and then setting your people to attack. It’s pretty simple…just terraform flat swaths of land so that your citizen’s huts upgrade into castles (which will then upgrade your citizens into knights), and then set them all to look for a fight.
As I’ve alluded to, however, as the leader (read: demigod) of your people, on certain stages, the goal is to collect totems, which will give you access to supernatural powers over nature. The most basic power — terraforming — is what allows you to mold the island as you see fit, giving you more land and allowing you to flatten uneven surfaces. But from there, you gather powers of fire, water/wind, and earth, such as fire clouds, water storms, and the ability to create heroes of fire, earth, and wind. I feel that the developer Electrolyte doesn’t do the best job at explaining what many of the totems do (although if you’ve played Populous, some of them will have basically analogous effects to classic Populous spells), but through trial and error, it’s easy enough to surmise what most of them do.
What is even more interesting is that the powers don’t seem to be balanced much at all…in other words, there are some totems that I find to be relatively useless (what does Forest even do? Other than making the landscape pretty), but the wind/water totems tend to be really awesome.
And that gets me to why I wanted to write this post.
There were a few islands that I was having some trouble on…on one island, I was next to fire nation people and earth kingdom folks. The thing was that the fire nation would quickly overrun most of the island, and then they’d overcome my poor water tribe.
But I didn’t resign and give up. I noticed that there was a water totem — whirlpool — that was relatively cheap on mana, so even though I had few citizens, I could recharge quickly enough to use it regularly…and its effect was pretty helpful — it created a whirlpool that would chip away at land, turning it into sea. So, I could unleash whirlpools along coasts to reduce the available land for the other tribes…since the game’s settlement size depends on having flat land all around, creating water can reduce the size of settlements.
So, there I was able to come back just by chipping away at the other nations’ settlements, and then strategically re-terraforming land so that my people could settle it.
But then, I eventually reached a level where I gained an even more powerful totem: the water storm.
The water storm in Reprisal sends a flood across the entire level, reducing all land by one height. So, the land that is just one height above sea level becomes sea, and then the land two above sea level drops to one above, etc.,
What’s so handy about this is that the other tribes generally do not raise the land when terraforming…they may branch out and create new land from the sea, but it is just one height above sea. So, by making your settlements at least two levels above sea and biding your time, you can drown the entire rest of the world with a water storm.
And it is so satisfying.
(It’s times like these when the simulation argument makes me a little worried.)