Avalon Hillâ€™s turn-based strategy game marks a distinct departure from the guns-and-glory themes of its contemporary wargames by delving into a world where fantasy and science fiction merge with some good, and not so good, results. This is a resource management and strategy game where you choose one of eight races based on typical fantasy staples like elves, dwarves and trolls. Each race has different strengths and weaknesses in research, combat, and population growth, etc.
You start with one city and must immediately build a miner to start harvesting minerals. There are three kinds of ores to mine; bronze, iron, and mithril. These metals are used to produce armaments for your troops. As you research technology, you have access to better weapons, but with a correspondingly higher cost in metals. Research is carried out in several different fields of technology and magic. The different spells you can cast allow you to do a lot of things, including survey unexplored areas, summon monsters into your army, teleport units, and improve mines and food patches.
The other major strength is the unique concept of the Cave world. The game takes place on five different subterranean levels, and tunneling up and down into new regions is very important. Having to think about three dimensions rather than the typical flat world in most strategy games is a brilliant concept. Furthermore, the environment is ever-changing, as you tunnel here and there or use magic spells to create walls and barriers between your empire and your hostile neighbors.
One drawback is the combat: Besides taking extremely long before encountering any enemies, battles are merely quick animations of the oddball units firing at each other. It isnâ€™t interactive in any way, and once youâ€™ve seen a few battles youâ€™ve pretty much seen them all. Success in combat depends on the strategic level: efficient army transport (whether by magic or well-placed tunnels and cities), building a cost-effective force, and making good use of magic.
Likewise, visibility is severely limited — your units can only see a couple of squares away. This makes sense in a cave, but actual visibility is not shown with any kind of graying out or fog of war effect (a la WarCraft II) on the main map, but is only shown on the side maps. This means enemy units seem to pop up out of nowhere, which is somewhat disconcerting.
Empire management becomes a hassle as well, since there are no update or status screens to let you see at a glance what your cities are building, or which ones have stopped producing. Controlling an individual cityâ€™s production is simple with the slider bars, but the lack of summary screens makes getting the big picture memory intensive (yours, not the computers). And as you cycle through your units each turn, if you want to stop to change someoneâ€™s orders, you must start the cycling again from the first unit.
But having said all that, I like the weird world of Cave Wars and will continue to play it, even though there are so many other good strategy games. It manages to present an interesting and challenging breadth of gameplay that far too few games can muster these days.
System Requirements: Pentium 90 MHz, 16 MB RAM, DOS
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