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Corporate Machine, The

From the Database of Home of the Underdogs

GAME DESIGNER:Brad Wardell

GAME DEVELOPER:Stardock Systems

GAME PUBLISHER:Take 2 Interactive

Copyright 2001, Stardock Systems

The Corporate Machine (TCM) is an excellent sequel to Entrepreneur, one of my most favorite business sims. The game is a tweaked version of Stardock’s earlier Business Tycoon, the true sequel to Entrepreneur that – probably due to some marketing snafu by UBI Soft – never got released outside Europe. Games Domain captures the strengths of this under-appreciated classic very nicely in their review:

“Although the three markets supplied with the game were too similar and the gameplay not that much different to the original,… there’s a noticeable leap from Entrepreneur to the latest incarnation.

When you start the game, you get a single site, a pot of cash, and a sales executive. You can build your site up with bigger factories (to produce more), marketing buildings (to generate marketing campaigns), research buildings (to improve your product), sales offices (to expand the area from the site that you can sell into), as well as a few “ancilliary” structures. Initially you’ll want to gain a foothold in your own area, exploring nearby regions after which you can sell your product in that region. The trick is how best to expand once you’ve got a good foothold, and keeping supply and demand in balance by setting your product price to match your production capacity. That’s where the decisions come in… To help you make your decisions, TCM offers a good variety of information sources, some of which are only available if you construct intelligence buildings at your company sites.

Note that you only have one product to sell. This makes the game more challenging as your product is rated on five attributes (which vary with the market you play – the game comes with fighter plane, car and computer markets, with Coca-Cola available for download), and each region has different desires, e.g. central Europe may want cars that are reliable, while Japan may want fast cars. By exploring a region, you learn its preferences, and by summing the preferences in the regions you’re trying to “conquer”, you can choose which research paths to take to improve your product (each market has a different technology tree). Or you could eschew a technically better product by investing instead in factories, and trying to succeed by pumping out a high number of cheap cars. Were there many products for each player to create in the game, the AI would certainly optimize better than any human player, and make even finer mincemeat out of them than it already does.

Marketing and sales come into play when you need to make inroads into regions where the competition is dominant. By “playing” these units into a region, you boost your sales presence or affect the local perception of your products. It’s important to be the best seller in a region, as that gives bonuses in adjacent regions. And just as important, if any special resources are in a region, you accumulate them at the end of a game year if you control that region. The special resources are labor, political, media, underworld and research, but only a small portion of the game regions have these bonuses. If you accumulate enough resource points, you can play certain types of Direct Action Cards (DACs, which are dealt to players each year), and these can be played a la Magic: The Gathering to either boost your chances or scupper those of an opponent. Very evil in multiplayer games.

The solo game is very challenging, as the AI opponent is every bit as good as the previous games in the series. It’s one of the best I’ve seen in any game, and very capable of turning a game around when you think you have it beat. It’ll throw DACs, salesmen and marketing campaigns at you very shrewdly, but luckily you can choose from five difficulty levels while getting to grips with the game system.

The Corporate Machine is a compact, well-designed game which is both innovative and challenging. It’s an RTS at heart, but unlike any other you’ve probably played before – while clone games are rife, it’s great to see something rather different on offer. OK, so if you’ve played Entrepreneur (or Business Tycoon) you’ll have seen a lot of what’s on offer before, but the tweaks to gameplay and presentation help make it feel more of a worthy sequel.” Definitely a must-have for every fan of business simulations. Two thumbs up, way up!



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