Overall Score 79%
Why settle for conquering the world when you could have the whole galaxy? Mayhem Intergalactic is a Risk clone set in space. I like it a lot. It reminds me of an old board game that I used to play (which annoyingly I can't recall the name of) when I was a child that had a giant map of a star system on it, and the players would build units in factories and send them out into a mindless battle, wave after wave with equally strong opponents. Usually those games between my brother and I would end in a stalemate when Mum called us for dinner, with scores of ships on both sides destroyed for very little gain in territory on either side.
For those unfamiliar with the game of Risk, the gameplay in Mayhem Intergalactic is turn based, where players amass units in territory that they control and use those units to invade rival territory, systematically wiping all opposition off the map. Combat is handled by way of die rolls which are abstracted in Mayhem Intergalactic and not shown on screen. Usually the player with the higher number of ships will win a battle although on very rare occasions an upset can happen. Casualties can be avoided by significantly outnumbering your opponents, thereby leveraging an overall advantage in troop numbers map-wide. The key to winning is being able to pick where the big battles are likely to take place, and concentrating your forces there.
Those on the lookout for a deep and immersive strategic experience may be a little disappointed, but Mayhem Intergalactic definitely offers some nice features, and is a remarkably replayable title. It is better than playing Risk on the PC for a couple of reasons. Firstly, fighting battles in space is simply cooler than fighting terrestrial wars (refer to your Geek Handbook page 7). Also, by default, the game will hide the locations of enemy ships and this make games versus the AI a lot more unpredictable and acts as a great leveller. Most importantly, a core game mechanic is that attacks can be launched from any planet and can target any planet on the map. (In Risk by comparison, attacks can only be made on adjacent territories). Although the ships may take multiple turns in transit and cannot be controlled during this time, the ability to make surprise raids deep into your opponents territory is great fun, and means that garrisoning key positions is vital.
It is possible to forgo ship manufacture on a particular star system for one turn and instead build up your infrastructure. This results in additional ships being built on that system on all subsequent turns. These upgrades are unlimited except for the fact that only one can be performed each turn. Timing your upgrades is key, especially in the early game when every ship counts. Rally points can be set so that all ships produced on a particular system every turn can be sent to a point of your choosing and you can even stipulate a number of garrison ships to be left behind as a minimum defence. This kind of automation is great especially in the late game, since the player can focus on driving home the attack rather than micro-managing their empire.
There are a myriad of options and controls for customising a random galaxy to your tastes, or you can play on one of the pre-set galaxies if you prefer. For multiplayer games, I would hesitantly suggest the pre-made maps, only because some of the random maps generated (by nature of said randomness) can provide some unbalanced start positions. Conversely, it can be a real challenge to beat back the very competent and scalable AI from a difficult or isolated home planet. Common to most Risk-like games and certainly present in Mayhem Intergalactic is a tipping point where a dominant player is assured of victory by weight of sheer numbers. It can become a little mundane mopping up the last remnants of opposition when the game has already been won. Perhaps the AI should have been programmed to know when the situation was hopeless and concede defeat in a similar fashion to a human player.
I don't want to harp on too much about how basic the graphics and sound are. The fact of the matter is that this is a very playable game and I can't say that my enjoyment was affected by either. That being said, the display is clear and the interface is intuitive. Colour is well used, and even in games with 6 or 7 opponents, the overall tactical view provides all the information that the player needs. The action can be zoomed in the main window using the mouse wheel, a feature which is invaluable and saves the player from having to decrypt a tiny "mini-map" view like in some other similar games.
Sound consists of a few shooting and explosion sound effects and there is a good background music track of Star Wars style orchestral music to battle along to. A few more tracks would have been welcomed (I'm a fan of good music in games), but I guess there's nothing stopping me from running Winamp in the background. In fact, "Intergalactic" by the Beastie Boys would be a good place to start.
This one's not quite Bytten Gold Star quality, but it wouldn't take too much else to get it over the line. Better sound and graphics, the ability to create different kinds of ships or equip specialist weapons (in a rock/paper/scissors type of arrangement) would add even more to Mayhem Intergalactic. Even as it stands, it's a very good game and deserves some attention as a casual strategy title.
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