The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
Giving games the benefit
of the doubt is a noble goal. No matter how pure your intentions are, though,
any game still has to meet you halfway. Like the lazy Adam in Michaelangelo's
famous painting, Impire seems unconcerned with making any more than a token
effort to entertain. The dungeon-builder revels in the cartoonishly twisted
evils of its buffoonish characters, but Impire's soulless design fails to turn
that premise into anything approaching fun.
Neither of the two phases
of playing through a scenario in Impire is enjoyable, though each action you
take fits neatly into the overall structure and is easily accomplished with the
well-crafted interface. Carving your two-dimensional dungeon out of the bedrock
and designating rooms for spawning minions, torturing captured heroes, farming
mushrooms, and other nefarious tasks is simple. Fifteen minutes later, you've
plumbed the ankle-deep depths of Impire's dungeon-building.
The layout hardly matters.
Once you've ticked off all the boxes in your construction checklist, you're
done. Sure, you can lay traps for invading heroes and make sure your treasure
chambers aren't adjacent to the entrance of your lair, but that's the end of
it. Forget about any kind of simulation aspect; neither defense nor economic
efficiency is affected by your decisions in any material way. Resources are
gained primarily by raiding the overworld, which in practice means sending a
squad of minions off the map for three minutes and collecting the spoils they
return with. Traps are hilariously incapable of killing anything, so defending
your domain is simply a matter of teleporting your biggest squads on top of
enemies for a trivial mana cost, then paying that inconsequential price again
to send them back on their way.
The second part of an
Impire scenario, which takes place concurrently with the first, is even less
entertaining. Your squads of minions (each consisting of one healer, one tank,
and two of the best other units you can afford) crawl through preset enemy
dungeon layouts, beating up the foes standing between them and your objectives.
Tactics are impossible to execute, as giving any orders prevents your squad AI
from using its powers appropriately. Tanks don't protect their fellows and
healers don't heal if you give a direct attack order, for example. The idea of
building a better army and then watching the AI battle it out works fine in
other titles where it's a sideline to the real meat of managing a simulation,
like in Majesty. In Impire, the lack of anything else to do makes the
non-interactive combat just another frustration.
The story attempts to
channel Majesty's fantasy-parody wackiness into the realm of squirrely demons
and bumbling would-be maniacal conjurers. The effort is sadly crushed under the
weight of badly acted, bland dialogue set in interminable cutscenes that only
illustrate the lack of fine details in the character models and animations. I'd
recommend just skipping the cutscenes, but that only accelerates your descent
into another boring section of gameplay.
Multiplayer is no better.
Racing against human- and bot-controlled enemy dungeon masters is less
terminally dull than the turgid single-player campaign, but the gameplay shares
all of the problems found offline and trades the lame storyline for infuriating
I wish I had nicer
things to say about Impire, but my disappointment with its failure to turn any
of its concepts into interesting interactive gameplay is total. As cool as the
concept is, gamers interested in building an underground lair and tormenting
would-be heroes are still stuck waiting for a worthy successor to 1997's