Genesia is a turn-based strategy game in the same vein as Civilization. It was originally released 20 years ago for the Amiga under the name: Ultimate Domain. It is not an easy game to learn, but one that is well-worth the effort.
"Hidden Gem" is a term mostly used in the App Store by developers trying to get traction for a game they feel is being unfairly overlooked. In all the iOS games I have ever reviewed, I have never used that term to describe a game; until now. If you are a veteran of turn-based strategy games, and love to spend hours working your way through rich, deep, gameplay; stop reading this review and go buy Genesia game right now.
Genesia is not for the faint of heart, however. It is a complex 4X (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) game that leaves every detail in your hands. Herein lay the game's greatest strength and its greatest weakness. While the menus are neatly organized, the amount of options available to you are truly dizzying until you can manage to wrap your brain around them. This makes for great replayability but can result in the uninitiated falling flat and giving up. Thankfully, the author has added tips and popups to help you understand what everything does. Additionally, actual useable options make themselves available slowly over the course of the game, giving you time to scratch away at them one or two at a time. For instance, while you will ultimately be building cannoneers and balloons to lay waste to your opponents, you aren't expected, or even able, to build them until much, much later in the game. Initially, your concerns are actually quite manageable: build huts for citizens, develop basic industries, and begin expanding your sphere of influence. Genesia has that wonderful "one more turn" quality to it, which means you may find yourself puttering away on it late into the evening simply because you lack the self-control to stop. Lastly, Genesia is a completely self-contained game. Every Island is randomly generated so you won't be pestered to purchase additional campaigns or map packs. For a single purchase price, you get a complete and well-balanced old school strategy game, lovingly rewritten to take advantage of the iPad's high resolution touchscreen.
I am not one of those strategy gamers who claim that graphics don't matter. Even in hardcore strategy games, graphics matter a great deal. If they didn't, we'd all be playing spreadsheet-based games. If you're worried about playing a game that was originally written for a computer from the late 80's stop worrying because there is nothing low-rez or chunky about Genesia. While Genesia's graphics are not flashy, they are crisp and high resolution. The only thing graphically that betrays its 16-bit roots is the animation, which is minimal. This is quickly forgotten, however, as you watch the seasons change and your civilization grow.
Genesia's sound effects are well-done and appropriate for a grand strategy game. You won't be reaching for your headphones but you won't be scrambling to find the mute button, either. The music, while original, was a bit more intrusive mostly because there wasn't any way to turn it down independent of the sound effects. The fact that it changes based on the season was a pleasant surprise, however.
Genesia: The 7 Gems of Neort is an absolute must if you are a turn-based strategy fan. While it may feel somewhat inaccessible for new players, it is well worth the effort to learn as it rewards the intrepid with innovative and endless gameplay that will stand the test of time.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 4 - High resolution graphics with minimal animation. Sound: - 3 - The sound effects and music don't stand out, but neither do they detract from the gameplay. Controls: - 5 - An accessible interface and accurate touch controls. Gameplay: - 5 - Turn-based strategy fans are in for a treat once they navigate the steep learning curve.
Playing Hints and Tips:
Don't be overwhelmed by the options! Concentrate first on building huts and gathering resources. The rest of the game will fall into place. Be careful not to wreak too much havoc on the environment as you race to expand; doing so will result in disease and unhappiness. Play your first game defensively so you can get the hang of it.