Archimedean Dynasty is the kind of game that automatically makes you long for the extended weekend, the random holiday, the traffic-paralyzing blizzard, the three-day flu, or perhaps the odd death in the family - anything to justify staying away from school, work, or other responsibilities long enough for a serious immersion into an onscreen world.
Set in an ugly, nasty, dystopian future, Archimedean Dynasty can be seen as the aftermath of a high-speed collision between Waterworld and SeaQuest, with a dash of the optimistic cheer found in Blade Runner: The Big One has come and gone, and the endless exchanges of nukes have taken their toll, melting a third of the icecaps and flooding horrifying portions of terra firma, just in time for the nuclear winter to set in and render it all uninhabitable. Those determined to survive have fled beneath, to the cold, dark oceans. No ray of light can penetrate the stratospheric debris of the Last War, and even if it could, it wouldn't penetrate the "Biogenic" - the 40-meter-thick layer of dead organic crud (!) sealing the oceans in their eternal night. Welcome to Aqua, the only world left on earth, and have a nice freakin' day.
Part adventure game, part combat sim, and all ugly, Archimedean Dynasty gives computer gaming a good name even when you don't know what the hell is going on. You take the role of a tough undersea mercenary, recently rescued from a botched escort job during which your charge was hijacked. Lucky to come out of the debacle with your butt intact, you turn up desperate for work at one of the many undersea cities which form the world known as Aqua. Your name precedes you, sort of, but you don't have a ship anymore, and have to start at the bottom - literally - taking garbage/salvage duty or any other crap job that will let you accumulate enough money to buy a serious combat sub and get back into the hired gun business.
The game sports a vast world in which the player's immediate goals are not always clear. With each person you talk to - via a simple select-an-answer interface - there comes a careful choice of how you present yourself. Be a big enough ass and you may alienate the wrong people...but be a little too nice, a little too soft, and your "sea cred" may plummet. Eventually, you will be able to work yourself up to a respectable combat craft.
Point-of-view combat and undersea action are the other half of Archimedean Dynasty, and they constitute the links between the undersea cities and installations you will encounter; while the "cityside" adventure-style dealings (with over 100 characters) is where you do all your talkin', the real-time navigation/combat is where you do your walkin'. In other words, knowing that you need to get to City X to talk to Contact Y about Benefit Z is one thing, but actually getting there alive is another. The various types of craft you may eventually pilot can employ some 30 different types of customizable weapons (torpedoes, turrets, bombs, etc.), and if the pirates, governments, and competing mercenaries don't mess up your plans, the considerations of currents, radioactive areas, and sonic countermeasures (the properties of "noise" that draw torpedoes to targets) just might. Long stretches of serene, unoccupied ocean will suddenly give way to pockets of warcraft lurking in the depths. The combat scheme fully illustrates the way many have summed up, in many different words, the essence of oceanic and/or space combat: "Six months of boredom followed by 60 seconds of stark, screaming terror."
In all honesty, the mind-boggling array of tactical options and general open-endedness of the game's objectives will be very confusing to some players - not to mention the fact that the people who were responsible for outlining the player's objectives should be lined up against a wall and cream-pied - but it's this very open-endedness which makes Archimedean Dynasty so absorbing. From the opening movie, you'll know that this game is deadly serious, a sort of undersea film noir with a cyberpunk edge, and despite the respectable manuals (on weapon types, Aqua history, and combat tactics), it's tempting to believe that if you're not sure what's going on, it's your own fault. (Note to Blue Byte: An interactive primer for undersea navigation and combat basics would have been nice, guys.) If you're a Serious, Frowning Gamer who delights in conquering challenges just to prove you can, coming across Archimedean Dynasty will be like finding a fat unclaimed wallet in the street. On the other hand, if your idea of a challenge encompasses Street Fighter in any form whatsoever, stay the hell away from Archimedean Dynasty; you'll only hurt yourself.