Genesia for iPad: The Gems of Neort Review
An addictive strategy title for the hardcore fans of the genre.
Created by independent developer Thomas Zighem, Genesia has a bit of a history behind it. He first created the game for the Amiga 500, Commodore’s personal computer that was regarded in the late ‘80s as the definitive gaming machine. The turn-based strategy game won the Tilt d’or award in 1993 for best strategy game. Fast forward to 2011 and Zighem has now released a more polished version of the game for the iPad.
The description of the game on Zighem’s website comes with a caveat: Don’t expect easy to follow tutorials or mind blowing special effects. The game sets you off with basic instructions in the very beginning through lengthy bits of text that almost read like a chopped up EULA agreement. However, if you intend on enjoying the game, I’d recommend that you read it – you’ll require every bit of available information on how this game works to truly enjoy it. The problem without having a tutorial mode is that it’s like using a fancy washing machine that comes without a manual – great if you’re used to using washing machines, a bit of a nightmare though if you’ve never used one in your life. Having said that, after you play the game a few times, it’s easy to figure out how things work.
The game sets you off in an isometric world where the land is divided between you and your opponents. You can choose to play against other players by passing around the iPad or play against AI opponents. You start the game with basic building blocks for your town – huts for your workers, a field, a well and barracks. Building your town is where the heart of the gameplay lies. Part of this is making the best use of your workers, utilizing them to cut trees, saw wood, mine ore, etc. The other part is growing your city by adding new buildings and improvements.
The world of Genesia is intricately interwoven and every action has a consequence. For example, if you create too many buildings, you damage the ecosystem. An unhealthy ecosystem leads to diseases and makes your town’s people unhappy. In order to counter that, you have to build gardens to restore the balance of your ecosystem. You have to be careful how many trees you cut down – fell the whole lot and you’ll be out of trees for a while.
Add to all that, the game is turn-based and you go through different seasons. Each season in turn affects the kind of work you can do. For example, in winter, none of your workers can work outside – so no farming, cutting trees or any kind of outdoor work. The rainy monsoons hinder productivity and turn wood soggy. Making the most of your resources means you’ll have to take into account the weather.
Also key to keep your town flourishing is keeping your people happy and welcoming more inhabitants. Certain new buildings will require a certain population as well as a wealth of certain resources. Thankfully, you can conquer another area and create trading posts to help you keep on top of the necessary resources. Keep an eye on your taxes, which can be accessed through the barracks. If you’re inhabitants become unhappy, drop the taxes to increase their satisfaction levels.
Finally, there’s the issue of defending against attacking enemies, going on the offensive and of course, finding the gems (with everything going on in the world of Genesia, it’s easy to forget that’s the primary objective of the game). All this is done through your military. For this, you’ll have to rely on your barracks, stables and workshops. Have a strong enough military force and you can simply set forth to annihilate the rest of your opponents and win the game.
It all might sound a bit daunting but once you’re past a few seasons and you figure out how things work, the game becomes insanely addictive. I’ve clocked over 5 hours straight on the game for a few days, simply because it was all too exciting to put down.
The game’s graphics are pretty plain by iPad standards and the animations are pretty basic. The season effects with rain and snow do make it looks a whole lot prettier though. The sounds in the game work well for it, giving you the feeling of being in a medieval town.
If you’re a fan of strategy games and are happy to forgo fancy graphics for good old fashioned gameplay, then you’ll love Genesia. However, if you’re a casual gamers and we know a lot of you iPad owners are, take note of the caveat – this one’s not for noobs.