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Destiny: World Domination From Stone Age to Space Age review/retrospective

Destiny: World Domination From Stone Age to Space Age review/retrospective

Review - posted by Whisky on Mon 11 November 2013, 18:07:09

Tags: Destiny; Interactive Magic; Review; Tacticular Cancer

World domination as a game is a simple concept, but one that is immediately appealing to all of us. It's a concept that we all thought would make a good game when we were young and dreaming of the possibilities of the medium. For most of us, the definite realization of this concept came about with the release of Sid Meier's Civilization. Through a strange twist of fate, I remained ignorant of Civilization's existence and kept on dreaming until the year 1996 came and I was given a gift.

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Destiny: World Domination From Stone Age to Space Age

Destiny was published by Interactive Magic (Now known as iEntertainment), a company founded by Microprose co-founder “Wild” Bill Stealey. It was produced by Dagger Interactive Technologies, which also produced The Civil War and little else. Destiny was clearly meant to be a Civilization competitor, being in production around the same time as Civilization II was being made, and to give it credit, it offered a lot of features that were absent from Civilization. Destiny offered real-time, 3D graphics, and far more in-depth building, research, government, and religion options. What could go wrong?


The Looks

The game was released 1996 and being too harsh on the graphics would be unfair. However, there are genuine problems that arise with the graphics that affect the gameplay and the appreciation of the game's graphical selling point, the 3D. Let's take a look at the game:

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“Okay,” you might think, “This doesn't look too bad. I'm sure it looked better back then and in 800 x 600 resolution.” The problem arises when you combine the 3D view with real-time gameplay. The two 3D views, the ground-view (Pictured above) and the birds-eye view do display a 3D world, however, the range of vision is extremely limited and unlike other real-time games, this is not a matter of fog-of-war, you just can't see much. You're not going to be able to see enemies coming and prepare for them in this view, so you zoom out a bit further...

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This is what the game will look like to you if you decide to play it. Destiny is a 3D game that will make you switch to a 2D mode in order to make it playable. However, this mode still has issues, depending on your nation. All cities (Or Centres of Habitation, as the game calls them) are coloured black on the map, but if you play as Germany, your unit's colours are the exact same shade of black. Can you guess which square in the screenshot above is a unit and which is a city? (The lowest square is a Bronze Age Cavalry Force.)


The Combat

As mentioned, the game is similar to a real-time Civilization. If you want to attack a unit, you simply click on your unit and click on the unit you want them to attack. Simple and straightforward, but a bit awkward when the game is real-time. You can pause the game and issue commands, but there is no hotkey for it, you have to click on the toolbar to access the command.

The combat is not what I'd call balanced. You do not get a good idea of what makes your units strong and whether they're stronger against certain unit types. You also cannot get any idea of what units make up an enemy's force, regardless of your spying options, making strategy against them limited. It feels random, not random in the Civilization “Spearman beats tank” way, where you still have stats as a basis for how often you'll fail, but just completely random.

When you reach the Space Age, the game abandons all hope of game balance. Here's what you need to do to win the game: build an ICBM silo. Once you've built one, you have won the game. You can send them to anywhere on the map and they will completely destroy a city, no questions asked. To make matters worse, unlike in Civilization, they respawn and they're very quick about it.

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One final note, sometimes when two units meet you have the option of engaging in a tactical battle mode. I have never been able to determine what causes this in the main game, but you can select “Single Battle” on the main menu and you can experience these. They're much like the main game's combat, but you have to control a lot of units at once, and, it should be noted, you can only select one unit at a time, which makes the real-time combat extremely awkward. You are given a few more options in tactical battle, namely, if you're in the appropriate era, you will start with a window that allows you to select artillery to fire, which seem to have no ammunition and no range limits and naturally, you have to manually fire them.


The Administration

This is where the game's real potential shines. There are a lot more options than Civilization. You're able to select a wide variety of government types and religions, which become unlocked through research and constructing a certain amount of buildings. The only issue with these, is that their effects are not obvious. For governments, the manual explains their differences, but for the most part, the only differences between them are how much they contribute to fighting disorder in cities. For religions, the manual refers you to Interactive Magic's online manual for the game, which of course, no longer exists.

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The research and diplomacy pages are much more in-depth as well. For research, the game perhaps is a bit too ambitious and loads you down with way too much research options and much of them have derivative names (Can anyone say they'd be excited to research Selecting Planting IX?). The main issue with research though is that you have to allocate resources to each research subject manually. Research also becomes hampered with expansion of your tribe, which will be covered in the next section.

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Diplomacy is a bit less cumbersome. You're given a wide variety of diplomatic options and what kind of representative you want to send, including hostile options such as Terrorist and Spy. There's a lot of options, but many of them do not result in much as destabilizing an AI is pointless as the AI is incompetent, likewise an alliance will do nothing for you.

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It should be noted though, that with all these options come a little quirk of Destiny: pop-up notifications. Every time a building is built (And in this game, you build individual housing), you get a pop-up. Every time you research something, pop-up. Military unit destroyed? You get one hell of a pop-up. This can be extremely annoying and chances are you'll end up getting an Illegal Operation pop-up in the midst of one of them, but thankfully you do have the option of disabling notifications by types.


The Expansion

Expansion is probably the most flawed part of the game and as much as the options in the game may sound interesting, this is what causes most to quit. There are two main issues with expansion.

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First of all, you can't tell what resources a plot of terrain will have. There's no graphical icon for iron ore or copper, and you need to get those resources in order to advance. In order to tell if hills have iron or whatever, you have to right click on the tile and open a window, which will display the options for the land. Naturally, this becomes extremely tedious and worst of all, if you're on a harder difficulty, you might not be able to right click on land outside of city influence, forcing you to expand into useless territory. There is, however, an option called Omni-Resource, which allows you to use any tile for any resource, which is cheesy, but if you want to give the game a try, this is the best option for lowering frustration and it's not like the game is a challenge anyways.

Secondly, the level of education for your tribe affects your research and this is determined by which educational buildings a city has and averaging it out. There are 8 levels and usually you'll always need the highest level of education in order to advance. Naturally, when you make a new city, you will have no educational buildings and as a result, your research will halt completely until you build the latest one. It should also be noted that in order to unlock the latest educational buildings in a city, you need to build the previous ones. Remember when Britain colonizing Africa completely stopped the Industrial Age? Because I sure don't. This issue is also compounded by the fact that I believe there is a limit to buildings in a city and if you go over this limit, buildings will start disappearing and you can go back to level 0 in an instant.


Overview

In the end, Destiny is a very interesting game with huge ambitions for its time, including having features such as religion and 3D graphics far before the Civilization series had them. However, its major gameplay flaws could not save it from being forgotten in favour of Civilization II, which was released around the same time.

There is very little documentation about Destiny online. It is so hard to find on online shops that I have no idea what it is even worth, if anything. Likewise, good luck finding a download of it, because very few people seem to have played this unusual game.

If you do happen to find a copy, be warned though, it was difficult to run without crashing on Windows 95 and newer versions of Windows have not made it any easier.

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