Review: Risk II
Developer: MacSoft (product page)
Price: $29.99 (MRSP)
Requirements: 132 MHz PowerPC-based Mac with Mac OS 8.1, 800 by 600 display with thousands of colors.
Recommended: 200 MB of hard disk space.
Many of us are familiar with Risk, either as the popular board game or as the black-and-white computer game we used to play on our old Macs years ago. So it is probably not surprising that I was somewhat hesitant to spend $29.99 on what seemed to be a mere color version of the same old game. But quickly I realized that I was wrong, and Risk II is more than just plain old Risk on your color screen.
Installing the program on your Mac is relatively painless. If you are very short on disk space, you can run Risk II straight off the CD. If you prefer to have the game on your hard disk, the installer lets you choose between just the game files (about 200 MB) or the game files plus movie files (for a total of about 340 MB) for better performance. No matter which installation option you choose, you will need to have the Risk II CD in your drive to run the program. I found that somewhat bothersome since I prefer to have other CDs/DVDs in my computer, but fortunately creating a disk image on your hard drive and keeping it mounted gets you around that—provided you are willing to sacrifice the 422 MB.
The basic idea of Risk is simple: you control territories on the world map and use your armies to invade new territories until you are the ruler of the planet. Your existing territories help raise new reinforcements and you receive extra bonuses for controlling entire continents or owning “Risk cards,” which you acquire through certain attacks. Your wise choices in troop deployment and attack strategies will determine the fate of your empire. For newbies who are not familiar with the game or the interface, the manual offers an extensive introduction of the rules. Beyond that, Risk II offers an in-game tutorial that explains everything in a movie-like fashion. Lastly, it offers explanatory messages throughout the game that you can turn off once you are more familiar with the concepts.
Those messages are quite helpful for beginners, although they can get in the way of more experienced players and it is somewhat of a hassle to turn them off individually.
So far, that’s not really new to old Risk veterans. Beyond the classic game play, with many options like different reinforcement rules and dozens of computer players of different strengths to choose from, as well as the “mission play” that is somewhat similar to the board game’s, Risk II offers many new additions that will keep even seasoned players interested and challenged. For one, the board is somewhat customizable, allowing up to six new countries to be added to the board for variation.
More profoundly, Risk II adds a completely new game mode called “SameTime” play. SameTime play fundamentally changes the dynamics of the game because everybody issues orders at the same time, which are then all executed in one turn. This adds many new strategic challenges to the game. The new rule set also allows for “mass invasions,” in which armies from several countries attack the same territory at once. SameTime mode is very difficult to describe, but once you have played your first few games of it, you will realize that this is no longer the Risk you have known. It makes the games much more interesting and dynamic. It also gives Risk II a big advantage over the board game version, since SameTime play simply is not possible on a board. Last but not least, Risk II contains a variation called “Capital Risk” under both the Classic and SameTime rules. In Capital Risk, your objective is to capture several enemy capitals while defending your own.
For those seeking the ultimate challenge, Risk II offers a tournament mode. The tournament consists of 16 different Classic and SameTime games that increase in difficulty and that are scored based on your performance. The goal is to finish them with the highest score. Beware though, losing a tournament game means that you lose the entire tournament and have to start over. Since many players get frustrated with this, here’s a little cheat:
Copy the “tourn.cfg” file in your Risk folder after you complete a game. It contains the current state of the tournament. If you lose the next game, simply replace the tourn.cfg file with your copy to get back to where you where before.
You may have been wondering: why do you need 400 MB of disk space for a game of Risk? The reason is the amazing graphics that the game uses. It looks stunning. The in-game movies also add a lot to the atmosphere (and disk usage). Lastly, the well-done tutorials eat up their portion of your drive. Risk II offers several ways to observe the game play. The most elaborate mode offers a fly-by movie into the beleaguered territory and animated resolution of the battle:
Alternatively, you can choose to forgo the extensive graphics and just watch a quick battle outcome on screen (here shown on the optional 3D globe).
While the movies and animations are awesome, they do tend to get very repetitive and boring over time. And they are quite time-consuming since there will be many fights in every game. As I progressed in the game, I ended up turning off more and more options to speed up the game, until I finally ended up with the barest minimum of graphics. Even then, fights tended to be somewhat sluggish, even on a 400 MHz G4 (although you can speed up a computer battle even more by pressing the space bar).
Even at the barest graphical minimum, however, the game remains esthetically pleasing and very entertaining. Unfortunately, it only runs at an 800x600 resolution and does not allow you to switch to other programs while it is running. Also, the non-standard interface, while perfectly adapted to the game and its appearance, can be quite confusing at times. The resolution switching causes the Finder and other application windows to be repositioned unintentionally, although this is less Risk II’s problem and more a problem of Apple’s DrawSprockets technology in general.
Risk II worked somewhat in OS X under Classic, although there were problems with the resolution switching and the fact that Risk II would be obscured by the dock and any open windows.
Playing With Others
As good as the computer opponents are, Risk is most fun when played against other human players. Risk II comes fully loaded in that regard. It supports every conceivable way of multi-playing, including hot-seating (people going back and forth on the same machine), playing via LAN (AppleTalk) or Internet (TCP/IP), and even GameRanger, the popular Mac gaming service. I-Com, Risk II’s diplomatic tool for forming short term alliances with computer players, does not work in multiplayer mode, but at least you are allowed to chat with the other players. For those lonely nights at home or when you are without a network connection, the variety of computer opponents offers something for everyone, from relatively weak opponents to ones that can keep even a Risk master sweating.
What’s the Deal?
Overall, Risk II is an extremely well done game. Not only does it capture the excitement of the original, but it manages to exceed it. Its shortcomings are big enough to barely withhold it from an Excellent rating, but only barely. At $29.99, it’s a little pricey for my taste. However, the only regret you will have with Risk II is that you don’t have more time to play it.
- Exciting game play
- Excellent graphics
- Large replay value
- Slightly pricey
- Sometimes sluggish
- Does not multitask well