Ultimate Domain is a forgotten strategy gem about runny nose and inbreeding.
The list of inaccessible, lost and forgotten games is constantly getting longer. There is nothing strange about that, really. But it is still a shame. Therefore, we have decided to go out and search for the games that got lost in time. We call the article series “The Hunt for the Lost Games”, and this time we will take a look at a washable forgotten gem – Ultimate Domain.
So far, we have looked at games that have certainly been interesting and entertaining, but perhaps not very good in the traditional sense (especially not that quirky Aliensgame). Ultimate Domain is, however, something completely different. A slow, thoughtful strategy game that doesn’t really look like anything else. It is strange that no more games have borrowed the best ideas from Ultimate Domain (or Genesis, as it was also called). It was certainly not a success at all when it was released, and even though I like the game, I can understand it. This is a rather narrow game that unfolds at an extremely leisurely pace. The game’s overall goal is also somewhat vague, and endgame in particular is much weaker than the structure of it – but the game actually has that in common with very many other, much more successful strategy games. Another problem was that both the graphics and the user interface were primitive already when it was released in 1994.
But for those who pass by Ultimate Domains quite obvious limitations, then awaits a fascinating little strategy game that is more about taking care of a small population than about warfare or grandiose empire buildings. You start with just four inhabitants. It is not so much the beginning of a nation, as a prescription for inbreeding-related diseases in the future. But now it’s the way it is, so all you can do is make the best of the situation and try to avoid thinking too much about any future cousin marriages.
The end goal is also something you do best in thinking too much about. The game is about collecting seven crystals that are hidden here and everywhere in the world. However, it takes a long time before you have enough resources and inhabitants to embark on some voyages of discovery. Before that, you have to deal with the passage of the seasons, and with deaths in the population that in the beginning hit very hard when there is such a shortage of labor.
Read also: Darkseed – The hunt for the lost games, part 2
What is it?
A cozy strategy game that was ahead of its time.
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Live hard, party harder
You always have two opponents, which unfortunately can not be turned off. A sandbox mode would have been welcome, too Ultimate Domain is at its best when, at your own pace, you get to build a society you actually care about. Computer opponents seem to start with significantly more resources than you, regardless of difficulty, and become mostly a stressful element when you (often in vain) try to keep up with them. Since the tactical possibilities are not super deep, and the battles as such are sleepy business, it would simply be nice to be able to play it more as a kind of mix between Sim City and The Sims, without any concrete resistance. You can also play against up to two human players in hotseat mode, in front of the same screen. That’s how I usually played Ultimate Domain, with my brother. I consciously write “with”, rather than “against”, because that’s how we played. We paid little attention to looking for crystals or fighting each other. Rather to help against the AI, to get rid of that disturbance.
So how do you play the game? It’s pretty simple. At least when you have learned the somewhat sluggish interface. They delegate different job roles to their residents, who then work the best they can. As long as they do not get sick or die – which they often do before they even turn 50. It’s a hard life, as I said.
Farmers grow food, lumberjacks and carpenters fix timber, architects build houses and inventors research vital achievements. One of the first, important inventions is to research the wheel so that you can build a cart that you can use to transport leftover resources to the merchant. It is also extremely important to research a vaccine against the common cold as early as possible, as simple runny noses are very common. It does not hurt to get a vaccine against the plague as well, because even if it is unusual, it is basically run if you go on it. As it should be, I guess.
In the end, they have both hot air balloons, cannons and, if all goes well, a large population spread over several territories. But the journey there is full of hard work – at least from your residents, who live their lives and die prematurely, all while you as a player in peace and quiet snuggle up to the pleasant atmosphere and the leisurely pace.
Ultimate Domain may well be the most laid-back game ever, about people tearing themselves to death in difficult conditions. It is undeservedly forgotten today, and would probably have been better known if it had been released a few years earlier. The graphics and interface felt old already when the game was released, and Ultimate Domain never became a sales success. The game has its fans, though. For example, there is a spiritual sequel that is currently in early access on Steam, for those who are curious about the concept but can not get hold of the original – which as you know is no longer sold, other than possibly occasional used copies, for it who can find Tradera and E-Bay. Judging by the comments, the game is still in a rather shaky condition, and as always with early accesses, it is difficult to know if the game will ever even be finished. But it’s definitely fun that someone cares about old Ultimate Domain so much so that they are willing to try to make an updated variant of it. Genesia Project: Ultimate Domain, is called the new version, anyway.
I’ll probably stick to the original for now, though. There I can still find it strangely peaceful to create my small inbred communities full of snotty 32-year-olds who look like they were 62 bast, thanks to the hard living.
Also read: It Takes Two – The Review