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Capitalism II
Author: Aaron Dahlen
Date Posted: February 15th, 2002
URL: http://www.slcentral.com/reviews/software/games/ubisoft/capitalismii

Who Wants To Be A Billionaire?

In 1995, headed up by Trevor Chan, Enlight Software developed the greatest business simulation of its time: Capitalism. In 2002, with Trevor Chan still at the helm after their long endeavor with the Seven Kingdoms series, Capitalism II is a reality. It is a game of inexplicable proportions. While not by any means technologically advanced, Capitalism II puts you in command of a worldwide business empire that must purchase, manufacture, sell, and advertise its products in a variety of ways. Most businessmen in the real word specialize in one area such as stock analysis or accounting. In Capitalism II, you must assume all of these tasks and do them efficiently in order to succeed. You can easily become immensely wealthy or watch billions go down the drain in just a couple of years.

Just as in all other great games, there is more than one way to win. You can play the stock market, investing in each of the corporations present in the game. You can focus on one specific area of the market, such as livestock products. Or you can diversify, delving into computers, health care products, apparel, and so on. Do you want to fool around with real estate, farming, mining, drilling, and R&D? Capitalism II gives you that chance. It is so perfect in its realism that it is used in business education.

You will have the opportunity to micromanage retail stores and factories, as well as hire people such as a Chief Technical Officer, a Chief Operating Officer, and a Chief Executive Officer to do some of the tasks for you. As if you couldn't tell already, I'm in awe of how much they have crammed into this simulation and made it fun at the same time. I can see many of you scoffing at the thought of this as entertaining. But may I remind you that this title goes for the measly price of $20? Come on. Give it a chance.

Visuals/Sound

From an isometric viewpoint, you look down on cities of the world. They range from Osaka, Japan to Sydney, Australia to Rome, Italy. Capitalism II features three levels of zoom from which to play, although getting in close to see all of the detail in the graphics serves no real purpose in the gameplay. I preferred to observe from the median or farthest viewpoint. The visuals are just enough to keep things interesting. Not a sign of 3D to be found, but the 2D vehicles, pedestrians, and structures are fairly well portrayed. You navigate from place to place via the world map, the miniature map, or just by scrolling as you would in any other strategy game. Most of the time it's quite difficult to pick out your firms from the isometric view, so it's much more simple to just find their icons on the miniature map and click there.

A few brisk tunes are included on the CD that run during the gameplay. Unfortunately, similarly to Seven Kingdoms II, every couple of minutes or so when it's time for the music to change, the CD-ROM drive has to spin up and Capitalism II freezes for a few seconds to wait. Thankfully, it's as easy as pie to head to the options and switch the music off. Not many sound effects are to be found in Capitalism II aside from a little beep when an important news event has occurred.

Gameplay

Let's see, where do I begin? There are just so many strategies to choose from in Capitalism II, and each is developed beyond belief. For instance, if I want to base an empire off of farms, I can begin by building a farm, a factory, a supermarket, and a mine. I build a farm where I raise chickens and cows. My chickens produce eggs and meat that I send straight to the supermarket. However, the cows not only produce meat, but also leather that can be sent to my factory where when combined with textiles that I purchased from a local seaport, becomes a nice leather jacket that I sell to department stores. The cows also produce milk, which is sent to my factory. After mining some silica, I manufacture that into glass, which is used to bottle my milk before sending that to the supermarket.

Obviously the ingredients that go into a product's recipe are a tad simplified in Capitalism II, but they are generally true to what corporation would require. For instance, we know that a desktop computer is more than a CPU, steel, and circuitboards. More than 50 products are created in the same manner throughout the game.

The farms of Capitalism II can also grow crops, which opens up an entire other scope of possible products. Training in your corporation will improve the efficiency of your workers and equipment. It is a big investment, but if you handle it properly, it will pay off in the long run. Having a talented Chief Technical Officer will improve your R&D. Similarly, someone with a wealth of knowledge in marketing will assist in your advertising projects.

Vertical integration will be your ultimate goal as a player. When you control every step of the process, that much more profit comes into your company. You're set when you oversee everything from the drilling of the iron ore from the ground to a car's sale at a dealership. Chemical minerals, timber, core, gold, and oil are other raw materials that you have the ability to get, provided there is a nearby deposit.

Keep in mind that Capitalism II is rich with statistical data. Not every can of soup is equal. For example, advertising will increase brand awareness in the surrounding city, brining in more repeat customers and new customers. R&D, training, and better raw materials increases the quality of your products, again bumping up the appeal with consumers. If you can't afford to build another factory in a faraway city in which you plan to sell your goods, you may have to ship them there and adjust the price to consumers accordingly.

Capitalism II takes the basic principles of loans and ads to the next level. Not only can the player take out ads on radio, television, and in newspapers, he/she can also buy out the television station for their own purposes. If the bank hasn't been the answer to the money problems of the corporation, perhaps an IPO is. Just make those shares public and watch the cash roll in. Just make sure that you keep good relations with the investors via an Investor Relations Department, or else they'll be backing out on you real soon. Occasionally the stock market will take huge dips and rises, causing a mad rush of buyers and sellers. Keeping a close eye on these events will result in prosperity.

The opening campaign, known as the "Entrepreneur's Campaign," is an eight-step tutorial that takes you through every nook and cranny of the game. Then you are unleashed into the "Capitalist's Campaign," in which you are forced to use your skills to overcome difficult scenarios. Many of these take several attempts before a worthwhile strategy is discovered. Within each, you are greeted by a ton of information regarding your competition in the form of graphs, charts, a list of the top 100 billionaires (someone you might be familiar with by the name of William Gates is at the top), and more.

I found myself slowing down the game speed to a crawl far more than should ever be necessary. An annoying flaw in Capitalism II is that the game has almost no keyboard control, meaning that its monstrous lists of materials and products must be sorted through via mouse. The scrolling isn't even that user friendly. So to avoid losing who knows how many millions of dollars, I adjust the little speedometer icon to give myself time.

This game shines in that you can manage your company on a very small scale, or on an equally large scale. Your headquarters houses your central departments, including Public Relations, along with the offices of your central staff. They will threaten to resign now and then. You can either let them or offer them a raise. While tinkering around in the stock market, should you happen to reach a certain level of ownership in another corporation, you will then be able to use its money to make further investments. Once an even higher level of ownership is attained, all of the opponent's firms become yours in a merger.

I could go on about how the necessity index dictates how popular a product will be or how the miniature map displays links between your firms when they are collaborating on a product, but I assume that you've grasped the idea of the grandeur of Capitalism II.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Outstanding depth
  • Very affordable
  • Competitive AI
  • Long-lasting gameplay

Cons

  • Simple 2D graphics
  • Repetitive sound

Conclusion

With support for seven-person multiplayer through Ubi.com now built into the game, engaging campaigns with intelligent AI, and the chance to create custom games, Capitalism II ranks high on the longevity factor. It is a worthwhile successor to the original Capitalism, making changes where they had to be made, and not fixing what wasn't broken. The original gameplay premises are intact, with tweaks made here and there to appeal to a broader audience and more accurately depict the capitalist business world.

The manual packaged with Capitalism II is a treasure trove of useful information to help you run your empire. By the time you've beaten Trevor Chan's masterpiece, you will understand the concept of a P/E Ration maybe even as much as Anna Kournikova. If you haven't seen the Charles Schwab commercial, you wouldn't get the joke.

SLRating: 8.5/10

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