Invictus: In the Shadow of Olympus
A problematic journey through Ancient Greece.
Developer Quicksilver created this real-time strategy game of sorts with an infusion of Greek mythology. The main attraction are heroes that you can develop on the course of the singleplayer campaign, a feature that lends it a distinctive role-playing feel. You might even call Invictus a ‘role-playing strategy game’, though of course that’s a genre that Blizzard would rather pioneer more competently with WarCraft III. Like the Myth series, Invictus uses a rotating 3D engine on which to maneuver your heroes and units as you complete a variety of quests for Athena. The journey takes you over a fictional map of islands on a bunch of unconnected missions.
At the beginning, you select two heroes from a stable of ten, each with differing attack styles and abilities (Achilles and Hercules are warriors, Icarus can fly, Hippolyta and Electra have spell attacks, etc.). With a limited amount of cash, you flesh out the adventuring party with some sword fodder such as spearmen, but progressing to gorgons, minotaurs, harpies and sabretooth tigers once you’ve encountered them. Since these units can be upgraded, it’s easy to get attached to them.
The game requires a surprising amount of tactical finesse, since the different unit types and their many upgrade varieties make for a good depth of generalship. The majority of gameplay is concerned with making the smartest selections of party makeup and juggling the best coordinated tactics for the unit mix. Adjustable aggression levels, which allow you to set the tendencies of your party members, are effective for letting you explore the map. Frustratingly, once you’ve completed the prime mission objective, there’s a quick countdown and it ends, leaving no time to mop up any gold or items (particularly health apples) dropped during the fight.
With time-based missions and limited help from NPCs, completing a mission on the first try often means a frustrating reliance on blind luck and stumbling across your objective. Obtuse puzzles don’t help. Nor does it help that the graphics look like crap. Playable only in 640×480, the game sets a zoom level per mission dependent upon how many monsters you’re likely to face. Textures are smudgy, buildings are bland, and all the flavor of the setting is pure vanilla. Invictus has some interesting aspects, but overall there are way better choices out there – such as Warlords Battlecry – that pull the same tricks with lesser hassle.
System Requirements: Pentium 90 Mhz, 16 MB RAM, Windows 95