It's a bold assertion. A game featuring all religions, in which you can change the outcome of history as you see fit. Can it really be true?
Well, no. It doesn't have all world religions, and that would be a tall order anyway given that history featured several thousand gods at the last census. Invidia features a mere 22 religions, which is still considerably more than most games can muster. Choose your religion and your starting location, and build an empire that will span the known world. This is where the "changing history" bit comes in, by the way - I don't recall, for instance, Shinto sweeping across Europe in the fifth century.
Invidia 422AC is an odd experience. It's a cross between puzzle game and empire builder, with a soupçon of RPG. After selecting your starting religion and location, you're presented with 3000 gold coins and a blank screen on which to build your empire. You can add buildings to the squares on this screen, and these buildings affect the various production levels of your empire. For instance, farms produce food and wells produce water. Houses consume both but produce gold coins.
Part of the strategy here is that you cannot remove buildings. Don't build something you don't need - you'll waste your gold and you'll have taken up one of your limited building sites. If any of your various levels (faith, medicine, food, water, gold) drop below zero, you'll lose the game, so you need to ensure your stocks of these remain on the up. Another thing to remember is that you can't build everything at first - you're limited to Teir I buildings until you build a village centre, for instance, and that is unavailable until you've built six houses. You'll need twelve houses to build the Teir II town centre, which then unlocks Teir III, and the castle in that teir unlocks Teir IV (which is the final teir).
More than this, however - you have a power meter along the bottom of the screen that starts out empty. Certain buildings, when constructed, offer quests - your decisions with these quests will affect your production, your gold and your power. Choose wisely - the wrong choice may well lead to an early death! You also have an army, represented by a number, and if you're desperate there's the option to pray to your god (whichever one you've selected).
Graphics and sound are very simple. There's virtually no animation to speak of besides a pretty effect on the title screens. Buildings are represented by simple square icons. Quests are entirely text. Sound is limited to a few sound effects for building, etc, and a single background track on permanent loop, which can get rather wearing. Any single tune gets tiresome after a while, and a single game of Invidia can easily last anywhere between five minutes and a couple of hours.
Once you get the hang of it, this is a very simple game to play - that said, I struggled to figure out what I was supposed to do at first and I'm still not entirely clear on my ultimate objective. The PDF manual included with the game was a great help in figuring out how to get started but it lacks a decent tutorial or a clear structure. My very first game saw me buying supplies on the market screen and then having virtually no money to build anything - I didn't realise that the supplies were not necessary to get started. After a few more attempts I'm now much more savvy on how to build your empire but I'm still yet to win a game.
There's a fair amount of longevity to what there is. 22 religions, about eight regions of the world to start in and plenty of variation in how you play means a ton of ways it can all work out. That said, I've now tried several religions and several regions and I'm yet to identify any significant difference between them. Is this something that will become apparent later in the game? I also suspect the "Pray" button is a comment on prayer in the real world - that it does absolutely nothing. Short of reverse-engineering the game itself, I doubt I'll ever know!
This is an intriguing concept and, while simplistic, it has a lot of scope. There are two main issues - one is the inverted learning curve, which could be easily corrected with an in-game tutorial or at least a clearer manual. This couples with the general lack of a good interface. There is no save facility or even a pause, so once started a game will continue until the end or until you quit. On the end of the game, it simply quits the program - there's no return to the menu. There are no options to adjust sound or music. It didn't even have a proper installer, just a ZIP file. It plays like a development version, with all the menus and such to be added later - I hope this is the case, because the lack of a clearer front end will hurt sales. That said, we try to discourage development versions of games being submitted. We are hoping to review the real thing, after all!
This has been an interesting and somewhat odd experience, and a fairly pleasant one. With a little more player support, this could be a much better game. I hope Invidia 422AC gets the attention it needs - it could do really well in the right packaging.
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