Mega lo Mania
|Design||Jon Hare & Chris Yates|
The game of the month of April 2015 started life as an Amiga classic developed in the UK by the magnificent Sensible Software, who are behind great titles such as Cannon Fodder (Amiga), Sensible Soccer (Amiga), Wizball (C64), Wizkid (Amiga), and Microprose Soccer (C64).
Mega lo Mania - or Tyrants: Fight Through Time as it is called in the US - is one of the earliest examples of a real-time strategy games. The premise is as such: you are one of four gods, competing for the complete control of a newly created world. As is often the case when gods compete, the chess pieces of their game are the humans inhabiting said world. Apart from being one of the first examples of an RTS, Mega lo Mania was presumably the first strategy game to use tech trees - a thing that was later on popularised by Civilization and has become common place in most modern strategy games.
The game is split into ten epochs, and each of these are split into three islands that you must take control of in order to progress to the next epoch. Islands are divided into squares and on each square you can build a base. You have to be careful when picking a place to build your base though, as each square has a different set of resources available, and therefore lead to different research directions and stuff you can build.
In each base you own you mine for resources and invent and build defensive measures, weapons for attacking your enemy, and shields for repairing your buildings. In the early game, once you have invented a recipe for something, you can use it as soon as you get the appropriate resources. In the later game though - when you get more advanced recipes - you have to build a factry where you can manufacture the things you need. The same goes for resources: in the early game you can simply mine them directly, but in the later game many of the resources require that you build a mine before you can start collecting them. Apart from managing your research, mining, and manufacturing of items, you also have to manage the procreation of your people... That is to say, if you give some of your people some free time, they start producing more people, and you need your population to grow if you want to win the game. Funny thing: In the European manuals it said that there are women in the tower as well, whereas the US manual said that the men clone themselves...
One thing that becomes apparent immediately when playing Mega lo Mania is this: position is paramount. Each map square has different resources available, and selecting a position with say a natural resource that doesn't need to be mined for, can easily mean the difference between victory and defeat - or the difference between needing 20 or 40 men to complete the mission, and you'll want to learn to complete the missions using as few men as possible, as the men you don't use carry over to later missions, and you are going to need them in the end game.
The game covers many time periods, and you advance through time by researching as much as possible in you science facility. Early on you are researching rocks, spears, and bows, and later on you will be researching cannons, airplanes, and nuclear rockets, but unlike Civilization, where you'd spend hours bringing your civilization from one time period into the next, this transition is done in minutes in Mega lo Mania - and it is repeated for every island you play through. This leads to a much quicker and more enjoyable flow in the game, where you feel free to experiment with something, because failing only means replaying a few minutes or at most half an hour.
The art style in Mega lo Mania started what would later be known as the sensi style of little men with big heads viewed from the top down. In fact, the sprites created for Mega lo Mania were the exact sprites that would later be dressed in soccer outfits and used in Sensible Soccer. Later on the same sprites (or at least the same style) would be used in Cannon Fodder.
I hope you guys enjoy playing Mega lo Mania on the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis. If you would like to participate in the discussion about the game, head on over to the Retro Game Squad forums, sign up, and join the fun!
On a side note: If you are a Sensible Software fan, such as myself, I can highly recommend the interview book by Gary Penn called 'Sensible Software 1986 - 1999'. The book goes through the entire Sensible back catalogue, released and unreleased, and tells the story of those games through interviews with the people who developed, designed, and scored them.