Qt3 Classic Game Club #12 - Zeus

I played the hell out of the Impressions Games city-builders back in the day. Caesar 3 remains my favorite, but they’re really all very solid.

My gaming time has been pretty non-existent lately, otherwise I’d be all over this, but I’ll be reading this excitedly. I remember this series very fondly.

So I loaded this up last night and applied the widescreen patch, and as SOON as I loaded up the tutorials, all the great memories of this game flooded back. God I can’t wait to play more. This reminds me I still need to play Emperor too at some point.

I think I’m just about at the end of the first adventure. One thing I need to do is to bump up the difficulty for the next one, since although I usually don’t care to have a serious challenge, I think the lack of any friction (i’m playing on Mortal) is keeping me from having to make some of the difficult and interesting decisions.

Still thinking about the changes between this and Pharaoh. Here’s another one: The labor model. Zeus is way more lenient. In Pharaoh, there were recruiter walkers who would head out very occasionally from a building and look for occupied residences. That meant that your mining facilities way out in the middle of nowhere needed some houses next to them. And because it was Egypt, there was a good chance you couldn’t even provide those houses with water! Basically, you had to build slums for some of your industries. And you needed to either open up your residences with forks to the industrial areas or, better, build just right so that your houses were on the outside of your loops and the industrial loops ran their roads behind them, close enough to satisfy the recruiter walkers.

Man, I hated building those awful little slums. They would always end up diseased and unruly. But most of all, I just love having my perfect little fully upgraded houses! But I have to admit, it sure adds a level of challenge and thought to your layouts that Zeus totally sidesteps to the point of brainlessness. Any facility anywhere will get labor if you have the unemployed workers to staff it. Ultimately, I find myself wishing for some kind of middle ground–not that I know what that would be.

Something else that I think is new in Zeus are different levels of terrain. I think this is great and the level designs really use this well. Sometimes you have to farm practically on the sides of a hill. Sometimes the cliffs just form barriers to building or natural defensive walls. Makes a big difference, both in the play and the character of the levels.

ADDENDUM: I really want to share a pic of my city (and hope others would do the same), but I can’t really capture it in a single screen (or even two). Thinking about applying the widescreen patch, but I couldn’t find my Poseidon disc and it looks like it’s made to install with Poseidon. Hmmm…

Oh, and I’m actually thinking of messing with the adventure editor. Not sure I’ll have enough time to do anything substantial, but if I make something I’ll share it so y’alls can play it!

I’ve just finished the first adventure and found it really fun, though very easy - I too am playing Mortal. I might play another adventure listed as Easy but push the difficulty up a notch.

This is the first builder I’ve played which uses the walker system. It does make the systems very transparent but on the other hand it means that you must utilise ‘the loop’ design for maximum efficiency. Initially I was worried about not seeing my people wandering from their residences, working and going back home again, but I soon realised there’s plenty of animations and workers going to and fro to keep me immersed.

I too found that allowing facilities anywhere with no housing nearby is a little easy, even if they can sometimes be cut off by monsters. Though the design is understandable since more layers of micromanagement is not necessarily a good thing. I already have to check my labor screen every time I build new industry to make sure it stays around the 5-10% unemployment mark. I’ve found very bad things happen when you don’t have enough workers available.

Here’s a few images of my city in the last scenario. As is typical for me, my cities are far from being aesthetically pleasing :) I’m too much of a gamer and cram everything I can in one little spot for maximum efficiency. Then I realise how ugly everything is and throw in some random beautification tiles, which makes it look even worse!!

The Wild West End of Thebes. Storehouses full thanks to constant donations from my allies. Can never have enough storehouses!

The more affluent end of Thebes

Very nice! That is a HUGE elite housing area!

Looks like you’re doing fine without advice, but I will say that you could make your residential loops larger if you want, and sustain more population with fewer facilities. I think I’ve been making mine nine houses on the long sides and three on the short sides (with room for gardens and gazebos in the middle).

Yep, that part is the old end of town. In those years, the town was rural and small. The middle class sprawled into the northern suburbs and I made bigger loops to accomodate the many immigrants wanting to join my illustrious city. They loved their gazebos!

It’s interesting to see how Zeus improved over Pharaoh while also adding additional complexity. The worker thing was one of the big ones. (In Pharaoh, I “solved” that problem by putting a single hut in my industrial area and not worrying about ever improving it.) Zeus was also the first game in the series to separate common housing from elite housing. Housing sizes were also standardized into 2x2 and 4x4 blocks, which alleviated some of the weird configuration issues.

The added difficulty came in a few forms. For one thing, terrain was a much larger issue, because livestock and crops were competing for pasture space, and some of the pantheon buildings would only really fit in certain places on the map. I also felt like Zeus placed higher importance on trade, since scenarios would (sometimes severely) restrict the types of local goods available.

Zeus also went back to a simpler model for economic goods. It made the game easier, but I actually liked the complexity and was happy it returned in Rise of the Middle Kingdom.

Oh, yeah, Alan, good point about the two/four-space houses over the way it worked in Caesar and Pharaoh. It was irritating when the buildings didn’t size-up in just the way you wanted them to and you ended up with isolated single-space dwellings that couldn’t hold more population. You had to tear down the buildings, replace them, and hope the next time they evolved to fit the space efficiently. So many little wrinkles were ironed out with Zeus.

I think terrain levels were a great substitute for adding a little more difficulty, but of a more intuitive sort. The temples remind me of Pharaoh’s monuments, but it seems like you’re expected to build them more often here.

What do you mean by the simpler economic goods? Like, three-stage goods making? Was there some of that in Pharaoh? I can’t think of an example, but it seems like there was.

Also, just realized that there are no service buildings that require goods in Zeus, like papyrus for schools. That seems like something they could have kept, but maybe there weren’t any obvious thematic options there.

I played very little of Poseidon, so I suppose it’s possible some of these things came into play there?

So yeah, I basically gauge complexity by the number of buildings/stages required to produce a finished good. I think chariots (added in Poseidon) were the most “complex” good in the game, requiring a wheat farm, a horse ranch, a wood cutter, and a chariot maker. I feel like Pharaoh had more 2-stage goods and multiple uses for raw materials while Zeus had more 1-stage goods and single-purpose raw materials. Of course, it’s been a while since I played Pharaoh, so I may be misremembering.

Was playing this last night, and after my son asked me to put him to bed and I just kept playing, and then he begged me to put him to bed and I really wanted to just keep playing… I couldn’t help but ask myself, What is it that hooks me so deeply with this game and others like it? It’s got that “one more turn” thing of Civilization, except, well, no turns.

Here’s the best I can come up with. The rest of y’all weigh in here, too.

When I’m in the groove playing this game (a very easy groove to get into), I am always looking ahead to the next stage of construction. Okay, I say to myself, almost enough workers to drop in those trading posts and start importing bronze. Or, just one season of winemaking and I can open up my elite housing area. Or, just need some more sculpture before I can summon Achilles and get rid of that &*%^#ing maenad. That next small event just carries me along, partly because (like clicking the End Turn button in Civ) what I need to do is often very easy: just wait. Once I’m ready to place those trading posts or that elite housing, I go into a flurry of activity—creating a new housing loop is like walking through a Starcraft build order—and then it’s just sit back and watch again and plan the next thing.

I can’t stress how different this feels to me than when I play, say, an action game. No exaggeration: when I finish a single level of a shooter or other action game—one that I like!—I almost always want to put it down and come back to it later. I need a break before diving into the next intense thing. I just finished getting familiar with whatever new layout or new enemies or whatever they had in that last level; I am not ready to encounter the unexpected and have to adapt under pressure yet again. Maybe tomorrow.

But, man, Zeus or Pharaoh or Tropico 3 or Children of the Nile… maybe these are just the marijuana of gaming compared to shooters’ cocaine-snorting of gaming (N.B., I know nothing about actual drug use). All kinds of decisions to make. Even, here-and-there, ways to seriously screw up. But a lot of the game is just watching and waiting and planning.

Guess what I’m sayin’ is: ZEUS—Goes Down Smooth.

Your post brought a huge smile to my face man. :)

I finished the first two adventures now and started on the Athens one. This is a very different experience, because they start to put some serious restrictions on you. Athens has no industries available. Everything, including the goods you need for your objectives, has to be imported, with the exception of cheese. I think they take it a little too far, because a lot of the things you need are from cities that take time to “flourish” and become open to trade, and some even is just randomly given to you by a random ally city. This whole time, you have no exports–you’re just working with your starting drachmas and the taxes you collect. If you thought the game was all about cranking out the same cookie-cutter housing blocks and waiting for your industry to churn… well, there’s still some of the cookie-cutting, but they definitely keep you on your toes in these harder adventures.

Who else is playing? We need more chatter about this game! I know it’s not really one to generate amazing player anecdotes necessarily, but the systems are definitely worthy of some analysis.

What do you guys think of the mythology stuff that’s added onto the formula in Zeus–the heroes and monsters? I like how they add sub-objectives to a level. But I think mechanically they’re a little awkward. The fixed requirements to summon heroes feel really arbitrary (and sometimes f-ing frustrating! Jason, I’m looking at you and your “Close to the palace” and “surrounded by walls” nonsense!). The monsters can be neat events, but then they feel like they are either non-obstacles–just wandering an empty part of the map, waiting to be killed–or they’re huge pains in the ass, rampaging through your city center destroying your stockpiles.

If I haven’t inspired you to post your thoughts on the game yet, consider this: Week two for Zeus finishes today, so I will be picking a new Decider here very soon (probably later tonight)! If you want to be in the running, posting about the latest game is the best way to do it!

I never got time to do anything past the tutorials :(
Maybe I will at some point, I’ve been meaning to play one of these for ages. But rigt now my overall impression was that the correct way to play the game was very set in stone, with exact build orders and sizes of loops etc…

I’m sad, I rarely have time to barely dive into these games, even if they’re games I love. I played through a bunch of the tutorials and had a lovely time. Lots of memories came back to me as I played through them, and I just love how lovely and vibrant the game is.

It also reminded me I have Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom and still needs to play it.