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Publisher: Virtual Programming    Genre: Strategy & War
Min OS X: 10.4    CPU: G5    RAM: 512 MB    Graphics: 64 MB VRAM

February 14, 2008 | David Allen

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Virtual Programming’s Domination is an engaging turn-based strategy game with enough value-enhancing gameplay variations to more than offset its somewhat derivative content and amateurish storyline.

In Domination, two international alliances vie for control of countries, continents, and planets. Ostensibly a sequel and upgrade to VP’s Massive Assault, as the game begins the righteous and upstanding Free Nations Union, whose color is predominantly light blue, has all but won the war against the sinister and fanatical Phantom League, depicted in khaki brown. Any comparisons to the GDI and Brotherhood of Nod are perhaps too obvious to mention, so I won’t bother elaborating on it.

In any event, your role as a commander in one or the other of these factions is to defend your country and your allies, invade enemy countries and seize their capitals, defend neutral countries when they are invaded by your enemies, or do some of your own neutrality-violating. The ultimate goal being, as usual, to completely eliminate your enemy’s ability to wage war.

There are a number of different modes that you can play in, but the one that probably best exemplifies the game is “World War” mode. World War is, as the game itself points out, the closest to a death match or “instant action” round in a typical war game.

The basic template for a World War is as follows: the battles are played out on large islands that take the role of continents, which are in turn divided into a dozen or so countries. At the start, some of these countries are yours or your “secret allies” (more on this later), some are the enemy’s, and some are neutral.

Because Domination is a turn-based game, I’ll outline a typical turn.

First, if an enemy has invaded a neutral country, that country will ask you to coordinate its guerrilla resistance. Depending on the size and economic status of the country, you will have a one-time only budget with which to purchase defensive assets to repel the enemy invaders.

Then, the fun really starts in the movement and combat phase. Just like it sounds, you move your units and pick your targets. This is of course where Domination hearkens back to the old hex-map Avalon Hill games of yore, and where the really crucial tactical planning comes in. Every unit has a base movement allowance, but the different types of terrain can alter that, usually to your disadvantage. Once everyone’s in place, you attack. Domination kindly shows little lines (“fire arrows”) coming out of units that have already attacked, so you don’t get confused. The next phase of the turn is the recruitment phase, wherein using the funds at your disposal, you purchase various military machines and distribute them in your territories, along borders, and so on. The possibility of using sea-based and airborne fighting vehicles and transports, as well as stationary armored turrets, makes this phase more interesting than just plopping down tanks.

The last part of your turn is the “disclosure phase.” At this point you have the option of making the location of one of your “secret allies” known. The advantage of doing so is that you have access to a one-time only “Secret Army” budget so you can prepare defenses. The disadvantage to disclosing is that if your enemy successfully invades your no-longer secret ally, they don’t just get the funds from that country but a larger “indemnity” as well. I guess the idea being that an acknowledged foe would have to suffer more in defeat than a neutral that’s been violated. So if your secret ally is sandwiched between two hostile and economically superior countries, you may want to ignore the alliance (not disclose) if all you’re going to do is end up giving more money to your opponent.

That finishes your turn. And now you can sit back and gnaw your fingernails as your opponent scatters all your plans to the wind, as so frequently happened to me. The World Wars can take minutes or hours; just like a chess match, it’s up to you and the time you take deliberating your moves. One of the nice things about Domination is when you’re in Single Player mode you can “rewind” your dumb moves back to the point where maybe you weren’t so dumb. I used this feature a lot. However, I noticed frequent crashes when I attempted to rewind in a game that I had saved, closed, and reopened. I have yet to find any mention of it as a known bug on the VP site. So, caveat emptor, especially if you need a do-over as often as I do.


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