The classic game of international intrigue returns, in videogame form. That?s right, the ever-popular board game Diplomacy has been transferred over to the realm of turn-based computer gaming. For those of you not familiar with Diplomacy, it?s similar to the classic Risk, allowing you to chose one nation and attempting to gain control of the entire map. However, in this case that map is mostly Europe and very little else.
In Diplomacy, the map is split up into many areas which, for simplicity?s sake, we will refer to as provinces. These provinces can either be major sections of the seven super powers or entire countries that play a less significant role, such as Sweden. Some of the major provinces will contain a supply center, denoted by a star symbol. The game?s primary objective is capturing these supply centers. You must control the majority of the supply centers to be considered a winner and if at any time you control none then you are eliminated.
Diplomacy allows you to control one of the seven super powers at the turn of the 20th century: Austria-Hungary, Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, and Turkey. While Russia starts the game with four supply centers instead of three like everyone else, this reviewer found that Turkey was one of the best countries to start with, as there is less chance of having to fight a war on multiple fronts.
Combat remains true to the original board game. There are only two military units in Diplomacy: the Navy, and the Army. All units are equivalent, so a British naval unit is no stronger than a Turkish one. Furthermore, Navy and Army units are equivalent to each other, so a German army unit is no stronger than a French naval unit. Also, there are movement restrictions on the units. An army unit can move into coastal regions and inland provinces but cannot move into water provinces, whereas naval units can move into coastal regions and water provinces but not into inland provinces.
The only way to really conquer an area is to make sure you have multiple units supporting one another. This means that you must have more units adjacent to the province you wish to assault. One unit will make the move and the others will support it. If you outnumber the enemy in the province you will force them to retreat and vice versa, and if both of you have an equal amount of support neither of you will make any moves.
The idea is to combine your naval and army units efficiently so that you can displace the enemy one province at a time while leaving enough forces close behind so that they can help support the provinces you have already have and are in danger of losing. The only way to create new units is to conquer more supply centers. If you control more supply centers than units you have on the board you can put more out through one of the three (or four if you?re Russia) original supply centers you controlled. It is vital to maintain control of your starting supply centers- if you have lost these three centers but have conquered other supply centers you still cannot create more units.
The game play itself can be pretty fun but also very aggravating. As the name implies a lot of the game involves diplomatic relationships. This means that you?ll have to offer support to other nations, create or sign treaties, and so on. This can either work out great for you or backfire big time. Keep in mind that nobody is really your pal in this game, they are all using you as a means to an end: winning. Do the same. Backstabbing long-time allies is often a necessity to survive, let alone come out on top. As cut-throat as the game?s AI is, human players over the online network can be even craftier, so come ready to win.
Diplomacy will likely appeal to a more mature, patient gamer. This isn?t Rome: Total War or Warcraft 3. You will probably spend up to a half an hour each turn just planning what you want to do, attempting negotiations with enemies, and backstabbing previous allies. The satisfaction of seeing the map painted your color and your enemies units lying on their side (which is what happens when they are forced to retreat) is great.
Overall Diplomacy is a great game if you can look past its shortcomings. If you have patience. If you don?t mind the minimalist graphics. If you can comprehend how to utilize your units properly. And if you can get used to (or turn off) those annoying sound effects.
Gameplay: 8 ? Diplomacy has quite a sharp learning curve, but it?s well worth it in the end. Very little that happens in this game can be left to chance so you actually feel a sense of accomplishment when you conquer territory, despite the lack of an epic battle to gain that ground.
Graphics: 6 ? Just average in every sense, but on the other hand you can?t really expect too much for a game that is attempting to play like a board game. Overall though the plain graphics will either mean nothing to you or will ruin the experience altogether.
Sound: 6 ? Average once again. The background music is acceptable but the annoying sounds the avatars make might well drive sensitive players crazy. Spend five minutes with the game and you?ll know what we?re talking about.
Value: 7 ? There is definitely a lot of replay value here. Not only is it interesting to try new strategies out but the online multiplayer network allows for countless hours of gaming.
Curve: 8 ? In the heavily saturated strategy game market it is nice to see that someone can get back to the basics and make a game that is more about planning a strategy than memorizing hotkeys and map details.