The game starts with a 3D animated movie and a text explanation of the setting. You play as a 'mentor,' a leader from an advanced civilization who guides a civilization from it's infancy. Your goal is make your civilization advanced and powerful, and dominate the other civilizations on the planet (each guided by a different, computer-controlled mentor), so that the planet can come under the control of your mentor's homeworld. But the story is just an excuse for the gameplay.
And that gameplay is a bite-sized version of Civilization. Herocraft seems to have done a pretty excellent job of distilling Revival down into the most compelling aspects of Civ, without making it feel oversimplified. Instead of Civilization, with it's tremendously diverse collection of units, buildings and wonders, screens of advisors and summaries, and lists of terrain improvements and unit actions, you get the Revival package in just two, easy to use screens: the map view and the city view.
The map view presents a birds-eye view of the world. There is a small variety of terrain (from mountains, to plains, to deserts, to oceans). You can see your cities, their corresponding buildings/improvements, and your units. Unexplored areas are black, and areas outside the view of your cities or units develop a fog-of-war effect. The map looks pretty, is reasonably clear, and scrolls smoothly (it doesn't snap or jump). And from this view you can move your units, control their actions (attack, defend, mine, etc.) or zoom into cities.
The city view is a tabbed screen that shows you your city and a snapshot of the city's effect on your overall economy, lets you control what buildings/improvements exist, and lets you determine what units are there or are being built. The other two tabs manage units and set research.
A wide variety of sound effects play during the game, and there's even a complete (if rather repetitive) musical score.
The economy in Revival is much simpler than the one in the current iteration of Civilization. There are only five resources: money, food, ore, science and people. Money, food and ore are made available by the terrain, and harvested automatically within a cities radius (the eight tiles surrounding a city). Those tiles can also be improved with various different buildings/improvements, which might multiply an available resource, or generate science or people. Building buildings/improvements and units costs a chunk of various different resources, and they can also be destroyed to recover some of that cost. Additionally, like Civ, there's a worker unit which can improve terrain. However, unlike Civ, he has only one function: mine. When a worker 'mines' a tile, the resources from that tile are sent back to the city. The worker can only 'mine' one tile at a time, but he can be moved to another tile at no additional cost.
The available units in Revival include workers, boats, and a wide variety of military units. Unlike Civ, however, each unit must be 'attached' to a city. You can build a unit in one city, and then attach it to a different city later, but whichever city the unit is attached to will be dinged the ongoing support costs of the unit. These costs are mostly in people, and the people resource seems to be closely related to the amount of food available in the city.
All the diplomacy in Revival is handled with a sword. Despite the advertising copy for the game that reads, "Unconquerable general or inborn diplomat? Talented economist or crafty politician? You choose your path..." there are only two methods of achieving victory. One is to defeat all of the other 'mentor' units in the game, and the other is to discover the technology for, and then build, the teleporter. While this certainly still allows for a variety of play styles, there is no resource or technology trading, like in Civ. No alliances. And there's nothing akin to the cultural victory in Civ.
Revival gets things rolling with a somewhat amusing tutorial, presented as a dialogue between the mentor character you play and the voice in his head that really could use a drink. Every so often, they'll give you a new goal, with basic instructions on how to complete it. They don't, however, delve into strategy. This is strictly the basics of how you make the game work, not why you should make the game work. For those out there who haven't played a Civ style game before, this might be a bit overwhelming. There is some in-game help, like basic lists of what keys and icons do, and the general stats about the different units, but there's no detailed, cross-linked Civil-o-pedia style in-game manual. I had to figure out what the different resources were on my own, and I'm still figuring out how they're interconnected and used. After spending quite a bit of time with the game, I stumbled across this manual for a different version of Revival. It mostly applies and fills in a lot of the holes left by the in-game help.
Revival differs from Civ in a few other slightly disappointing ways. There's no Tech Tree screen, so strategizing what technologies to research can only be done one step at a time, or with a good memory of how they're laid out as uncovered in previous games. The economy can only be tinkered with on the city level (there's no technology slider, so that you can divert funds away from research, for instance; not to imply that this makes the economy in any way too simple), but it'd still be nice to see a big picture summary of how your economy is doing. The closest you can come to this is a bar graph that compares everything about your civilization (wrapped up together, not broken down by details) with the competing civilizations. A bit more unit automation would also be nice. I'm not even talking about an auto-explore sort of automation. It'd just be nice if you could tell a unit to walk to a particular tile and he'd actually walk all the way there before requiring more interaction.
For that matter, knowing when a turn is actually over is a little dicey. As it stands now, I found myself hitting the 'end turn' button, and then hitting the 'oops' button that would pop up to warn me that I hadn't actually moved all of my units yet. And I'm tempted to add here that I kind of miss the 'press enter to end your turn' text that flashes in Civ when you've moved all the units that need moving. That really pushed me to want to play 'just one more turn' as they say in the Civ world.
One thing that Herocraft definitely got right was the interface. This game was designed to run on a smartphone (there are versions available for PalmOS, WinMo (Smartphone and PocketPC), and Symbian (S60 and UIQ)) and is actually the evolution of an earlier Java game. So you can control the game using either the d-pad and hard buttons, the phone number buttons (0-9, *, #), or stylus, and all are enabled simultaneously, so you can switch whenever you prefer without changing any settings. So actually interacting with the game is quite simple and intuitive.
The demo version of Revival gives the player access to the entire tutorial. Besides introducing you to the basic gameplay, the Tutorial is an excellent opportunity to explore the simplicity of the interface, and the complexity of the economy. It doesn't really give you much insight into the AI or combat, however. And replay value is nil, since the Tutorial follows a pretty linear path designed exclusively for introducing the player to the game.
The full version of Revival adds two other play modes: freeplay (called 'Single Player') and campaign. The freeplay mode lets you choose the difficulty of the AI (there are three settings), how many AI will oppose you (1-7), and on which of seven planets your game will play out. For my first attempt at freeplay, I chose two opponents and set the AI to the easiest setting. During this particular game, most of my focus went to managing my economy and expanding my empire. The more cities I had, and the more units I sent exploring, the longer each turn became. Unfortunately, though, I completely crushed the AI. On the easiest setting, the AI hardly expanded at all, and my military forces easily overwhelmed them. Managing my economy was fun and complex, but without compelling opponents, pretty anti-climactic. Still, even with minimal opposition, I spent close to a couple of hours playing.
The campaign mode drops you in the middle of the action. There are thirteen scenarios to choose from, and the Revival website claims they provide not less than 40 hours worth of gameplay. When I next find time to devote to exploring Revival, this is where I intend to start.
As with many games of this complexity, one must discuss compatibility on the PalmOS. I have a Centro, and this game works fine. Sometimes. Under the right circumstances. I'll elaborate.
Installation was a breeze. I downloaded the OTA package using Blazer, and saved it to RAM. It automatically unpacked and installed itself to my memory card (and strangely, it really only seems interested in working from the memory card; my attempts to move it to and run it from RAM were fruitless).
I'm a real power user: I have lots of apps installed and running in the background, and I use a non-standard launcher. Available cache turned out to be a real issue. I found that the only way I could reliably make the game play without exiting immediately or resetting my device was to clear the cache (I use Reset Doctor) immediately before playing. And, unfortunately, after I finished playing the game, I found that Snappermail would frequently lock-up or reset.
My wife's Centro, on the other hand, never once gave me a lick of trouble. The game installed flawlessly and ran flawlessly.
Revival is large, lives on the card, and takes a good 20 seconds or so to start. The game itself completely takes over the Palm's UI. As with other games that do this, I noticed that pressing the red button would turn the screen off, but wouldn't suspend the game or its sounds. The game also does not pause and save state automatically so that you can jump in and out quickly and easily, as with smaller games designed with the Zen of Palm in mind. But don't worry, you can save your game. And there's also an auto-save option that will save your game every handful of turns.
This is a game, either by design or compatibility issues, that requires you to sit and play it for a while, then quit and stay away for a while. Not that I really want to quit or stay away...
Revival is available from Herocraft for $24.94.