Argh, my temple, all messed up! Poseidon likes to destroy all buildings I carefully planted down on the coast line because he’s cranky in the morning. Acually I did not do him a favour in the past few years and instead joined forces with one of the other major Greek Gods. What choice would you make? A couple of free superman-like heroes fighting side by side with your giant army, or a couple of free boats to roam and rule the sea? Before we move on I should really collect more taxes. Thank you rich people! - oh, I heard a reply: “No, thank you - ruler of this wonderful wealthy city!” Yes, I’m getting hooked. All hooked up. Zeus: Master of Olympus is in fact the fifth time something like this happened - thanks a lot Impressions Games! Is this sad coincidence this company also had to close due to bad sell records? Without further delays, let’s head straight into the building fest, because Zeus is (subjectively) simply the best city building game to date.
The basic concept exists as said before longer than the day Zeus: Master of Olympus saw the green light. Successfully build up a large city, create an army to protect and empower yourself, give residents enough food and other supplies, erupt wars between neighbour cities or try to haggle with them, … There are so many possibilities to finish a mission (or sandbox mode), but let’s start with the ultimate beginning. How is this game actually played? The start is quite simple: “Reserve” equally big land pieces for potential inhabitants to create their home. To do this, you’ll have to place a house mockup selected from the right side build menu on a piece of empty land (no rocks, stones, whatever). Every house (or future house) should be accessible by basic needs: water and food and such. To ensure your water carriers stroll trough every part of your city you’ll have to carefully lay well-placed roads. If you do this in a rectangular fasion and don’t create a too wide distance between the facility (a market) and the destination (houses), the business people will automatically reach the houses and they will automatically buy what they need. You can also create road blocks to ensure some parts of town are unaccessible by those people, for instance the industry part.
When there’s no water supplied to houses, the critical basic needs are not met. What does this actually mean? Your houses won’t “upgrade”, of course. And that is the ultimate point of creating and building a city: increasing the maximum upgrade capacity! No rich person will want to live in a poorly built house wich does not provide olive for instance. Inhabitants each have their own needs and they will increase once you upgrade the house structures a couple of times. For example, the second house upgrade requires a doctor access to further upgrade. After that, people will want to visit temples, or a theatre. There are numberous of possibilities to furfill the inhabitants needs. You can built a philosophers house or a theatre, they both satisfy the relaxation need. Of course at later stages the richest and stinkiest bastards will want them both. Argh!
Keep in mind all those facilities have to be placed within the initially created road block circle, otherwise certain houses won’t have access to your newly created buildings. The partial solution is to create two separate buildings, but that’s going to cost you quite a bit more. Besides, on this point Zeus did not really change: food is made from various industry buildings like a hunters tent or a fishing quarry. Olive is made from olive trees and an olive press. These are all separate buildings wich should be placed somewhere out of town: the inhabitans do not like the industry smell at all and you will want to keep them happy to keep you happy and collect enough taxes to fund your future wars.
So what separates Zeus: Master of Olympus from all previous City Building games from Impressions? Good question. The easiest and best answer can be concluded from watching the screenshots: the Greek mythology setting of course. The whole game breathes a fancy Ancient Greek air. You will encounter friendly Gods and not-so-friendly ones (refer to the rude introduction I gave you. Sorry for that!). Gods will get attrackted to your city eventually once you’ve built enough temples devoted to them. For instance, Dyonisius requires a temple devoted to him and a yearly production of 20 wine bottles. Once you’ve got him so far to stroll among your streets, you can ask the God to aid you in your quest of vanquishing the enemy - or surviving yourself.
If you find yourself ever running low on wine, Dyonisius will kindly provide you with the goods when things get dirty. If you manage to please him, that is. Next to Gods, you can also call upon your favourite Ancient Greek heroes by building a little temple for them and furfilling certain requirements like build 5 boats or stock up 20 piles of marble. Once you win the favour of the hero, he will fight among your side during a skirmish or war, wich can be really helpful. Heroes also have the power to drive away angry Gods you displeased - call it an insurance if you wish, otherwise the God will destroy buildings like mad untill you chased him away or pleased him. Heroes also increase the morale of your own army troops of course.
What else can you achieve in Zeus? Why, ruling the import/export business of course. Once you’ve set up a growing industry zone, like marble, and you keep mining the expensive raw material even if your people have no need for it. Build a couple of storage spaces and try to get one of your neighbour (or daughter!) cities to trade for it. Certain materials can really slide the game balance. At least, as long as they are interested in trading and keep it that way: once a city is at war he will not want to continue trading or buying your goods and you’ll have to find other ways to earn hard cash.
Yes, you can build colonies. No, you cannot explicitly build them, the main campagin leads you towards building it, you cannot do this in multiplayer mode or sandbox mode. Once the campaign instructs you to build a daughter city, you can pay yearly tribute to your main city by sending them a gift every year, like 10 piles of wood. The whole point of building a colony is of course being able to get your hands on goods you couldn’t get before. Besides, there is no multiplayer option present anywhere! That’s too bad, since the sequel, Emperor, is quite satisfying, haggling with your friends about certain goods.
Citybuilding. Is it something you like or is it something you dispite? Eighter way, you will be able to appreciate the Ancient Greek mythology after a while. Sadly there is no multiplayer option available; if you are looking for this, check out the Zeus sequel: Emperor, set in Ancient Chine, also made by City Building Gods Impressions.