-Deep, addictive strategy
-More content than the developers (2 people!) even remember
-Large, strong community
-Non-scalar, 2d graphics
-Small musical score
I first ran across the Dominions series when I saw the Dominions II demo. I liked the demo a lot, more than most any other demo. I downloaded the Dominions 1 demo, and when Dominions 3 was announced, I rushed to get it. Now I have it, and I will review it for others.
In Dominions 3 you play a (pretender) god. The last true god (called the “Pantokrater”) disappeared for some reason, and now you and your opponents are struggling to become the next god. There are two methods: You can persuade everyone to worship you (very hard and rather boring), or you can kill everyone who doesn’t (the main focus of the game).
You begin by designing your pretender god. You choose what “scales” you want your followers to adopt (these include things like cold temperatures, chaos, or death). You also choose what you want your god to be (these range from fountains of blood to powerful storm gods, to powerful angels) and what kind of magic they get. This also effects what bonuses sacred troops get when a priest blesses them. Finally, you can choose your god’s dominion power and imprison them for a couple turns, in exchange for a more powerful god.
Dominions 3’s gameplay is different from any other game I have seen. It has a “hands-off” battle system. This means that you give orders to your units before the battle, and then watch it later (you can’t issue orders during a battle). This means that while your units will often do stupid things (like shooting your own soldiers, or charging to their death), you can also play the game by email (no connection required), and it gives the turns a more epic feeling.
Besides battles, you may also build fortresses (to recruit units and fortify territories), temples (that spread dominion), labs (allowing research, and gem and magical item storage), and train Province Defense (free soldiers that join defensive battles for that province).
A good deal of the game’s strategy is researching powerful spells and collecting the magical gems to use them (for example, Fires From Afar shoots fireballs at an enemy province). Alternatively, construct great magical items and send powerful commanders off to use them (for example, the Bane Venom Charm, which diseases its bearer, but poisons enemies).
One the other hand, you won’t be able to do much very quickly, and it takes a long time to master. Even at the “top level” of multiplayer new strategies are always being discovered, and optimization is always a losing battle. Add to that the fact that there are 50+ nations, 1500+ units, 600+ spells, and 200+ items and you won’t get bored for a long time.
If you don’t believe what I said, or aren’t sure if this is the right game for you, download the demo (at http://shrapnelgames.com/Illwinter/Dom3/6.htm), or visit the forums (at http://www.shrapnelcommunity.com/threads/postlist.php?Cat=&Board=dom3)!