Board game or bored game? by Mike Chaslewaite
December 27, 2005 – Based on one of the most popular strategic board games of all time, the PC version of Diplomacy results in one very bored game.
Diplomacy as a computer game suffers from the same main issue that has plagued all of the computer versions – the lack of human interaction. The game is based on human behavior. It’s a game of power, trust, greed, betrayal, coercion and revenge. These are human characteristics that a computer just can’t replicate. Diplomacy is best left in the physical realm with real humans at the helm. Even the multi-player mode isn’t the same as the real board game.
Events take place in Europe prior to WWI involving the countries of England, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Turkey, and Austria-Hungary. Each country will make deals with other countries. What those deals are is up to you. You can form alliances and gang up on other countries and then ultimately betray those which you have formed an alliance with. It’s a game where you look out for number one because you never know if a country will keep its promise with your or turn around and stab you in the back.
As a turn-based strategy game each player gets one turn to make their moves and work their deals. Your decisions will be based on your objectives. Do you want peace in Europe, or do you want a big piece of Europe? Are you friend or foe, or are you both? The roles aren’t always clear and that’s the appeal of the game. It’s always changing, forcing you to adopt new situations and adapt new strategies.
The basic premise of the game is to convince other countries to join your cause, whatever it may be. You will enter into a phase of negotiations where you will do your best selling job offering all kinds of incentives to other countries to form an alliance with you. Or maybe another country will persuade you to change your plans and form a different alliance. At the end of this process countries produce orders that are signed and documented. But they can be broken. Unlike Risk, there are no random elements such as dice, cards or spinning wheels. Everything is strategy based.
Each county has a naval fleet and an army. They are all equally powered so you can’t invade a country unless you have the support of at least one other country. That way your combined forces can overpower the weaker country. The fact that there are seven countries assures that there won’t be a draw between three countries that want war and three that want peace.
There is a tutorial mode. It’s lengthy but it’s comprehensive. Beginners may not get it all at first but that’s not important. Some of the explanations are quite involved and are aimed at more advanced players. You can get up and running in about an hour. The tutorial will make more sense after you’ve spent a few intense days or weeks playing the game.
The AI is too predictable. It almost always breaks its promise and will attack you if you leave a certain area exposed. Deals always seem to end up in ruins. Of course you can’t communicate to the AI the same way that you would to a computer so in order to maintain that human mystique the AI always seems agreeable to your suggestions then trashes you when you let your guard down. This isn’t always the case when you play with real people although backstabbing is a huge part of the gameplay. And speaking of communications, the AI only responds in grunts of acceptance or disapproval. There are no voiceovers or text. Only huffing and puffing. This saves the developers from having to redo the audio when producing this game for other countries.
The online play is bogged down with the diplomacy format and the order writing protocols not to mention some lengthy load times. It’s not that the game is a real looker, it’s basically a board game with limited animations and sound so one has to wonder what it’s loading. Certainly not the grunts and groans.
About the only way you’ll get something out of this game is if you use it as a tutorial to learn how to play the real thing. Then get a copy of the real board game or download a free version from the internet and play via email with your friends or coworkers.
Although this title will differ from the latest titles developed and published by the company, players will still recognise the Paradox touch and passion for game development. The title will be less of a historical simulation than Paradox traditionally creates; instead, most of the focus will lie on negotiation.
- Challenging single player experience. Diplomacy will feature single player capabilities, which will remove the need for real-world opponents and will allow the player to encounter life-like computer opponents at any time.
- Graphical negotiation language, which will allow the player to communicate efficiently with humans and AI players alike.
- Multiplayer experience. By capturing the essence of the player interaction in the original board game, the computer version will offer both the classic versions of Diplomacy as well as more optimised versions that will decrease the amount of time required of players.
- True diplomacy includes the ability to communicate and agree on anything that makes sense in the game world. It allows the player to form agreements and to break them without artificial constructs. The player will decide who to trust, and building that trust will be part of the gameplay, rather than a formal element of the rules.
- 3-D graphics-enabled engine.
By Mike Chaslewaite
CCC Freelance Writer