[Review] Balance of Power


Balance of Power cover

REVIEW # 00000000 00100001

You have ignited a nuclear war. And no, there is no animated display of a mushroom cloud with part of bodies flying through the air.
We do not reward failure.

Balance of Power is a game that made history. It’s an incredible simulation-strategy game, released during the final years of the Cold War. Before BoP didn’t exist a game like that, in which you can decide the politics of a nation. It’s one of the most important games ever release, where the ludic experience and the “educational” intent converge.

About the importance of this game I want to cite Computer Gaming World:

[Balance of Power] stands in a prestigious circle: that of the most innovative computer games of all time. If there were Academy Awards for computer games, BOP would get my votes for Best Picture and Best Director of 1985

My heart says…

90%

When I first met Balance of Power I was too young to understand all the mechanism that regulate the game. I remember a friend of mine showed me his Amiga disk telling me it was a game his cousing just discovered.

Balance of Power disk Amiga

Playing it again in the adulthood I was astonighed of the fine intelligence that is behind the realisation of this game. My grade is an average between the 10/10 I gave in the adulthood and the 7 I gave it when I was young. As a lover of maps and cartography I loved the game had a world map as  a main scenario even because it reminded the encyclopedia I still have on floppy, PC Globe.

Splash screen

70%

At first glance BoP splash screen is very chaotic, I mean you can’t even understand where you have to click, it seems like when you’re watching sports in streaming and you got all that ads that pop up on your screen each one with an “x” that YOU THINK it could close the window but actually it won’t (and moreover pressing it will open other 2513 pop-up  windows).

Balance of Power splash Amiga

By the way is somehow fascinating, I don’t know why but I can’t help giving an excellent score. Maybe is for my nostalgic heart that always look at the Eighties with a tear in the eye, or maybe because of the huge impression the vintage games have on me, I don’t know…

Among all the ports of the original game incredibly the clearest splash screen is NEC PC-8801 one that looks like the first page of a top-secret CIA file.

Balance of Power splash PC-88

Just for completeness, here are other two screens: the first one comes from the Apple II and reveals all the limitation the game had on this machine

Balance of Power splash Apple II

The second comes from MSX and it’s quite frightening since it seems that a young version of Henry Kissinger is pleased to have just dropped the bomb.

Balance of Power splash MSX

Graphics

70%

The graphics are very dry, maybe even too dry for a 1985 game. But the core of BoP it’s history, strategy and somulation and for this the only thins you need are a map of the world and a good menu and this game have them. Maybe (surely) visually there’s something better but sincerely I don’t mind about the graphics department here. Simply it doesn’t count.

Balance of Power MS-DOS

Narrative

100%

There’s nothing better to write your own version of history starting from historical events. That’s why a love this game and history-based games, like Europa Universalis 2.

Gameplay

100%

Balance of Power is not a simple game, so you cannot play it as a pastime unless you don’t want to finish with a nuclear war ather 30 seconds. You’ll need time to get familiar with the controls and with all the actions you can perform, so this is a game you have to eat bite by bite and digest slowly. But if you’re a fan of the strategic games and geopolitics BoP is the game for you.

Balance of Power Atari ST

We are at Cold War last legs and you can embody the President of thr United States or the Chairman of the USSR and the goal is to “win” the competition avoiding the clallenge to degenerate in a nuclear war (which is easier than you thought). To do this you have to extent your influence over the many nations in the world: you can decide just to trade with them, give them financial aid, send troops, try to manipulate the government and so on. As you can imagine you cannot lay it on thick otherwie the retailation will be only one: NUKE.

Balance of Power Amiga 2

Sound

70%

BoP has no soud.

But, really, who cares about the sound in a game like that! I mean would you care about lack of sound in the best chess game ever released? WOuld you care about no havoing soung in a Solitaire game? I don’t think, so please forgive me if I decided that sound department doesn’t affect the game score…

Longevity

90%

If you’re skilled enough and you don’t get carried away by the situation, BoP has a great longevity. Unfortunately, being the learning curve quite steep, is possible that you could be the cause of the nuclear war.

Balance of Power MSX

Final Score 84/100


Year: 1985

Developer: Chris Crawford

Publisher: Mindscape

Genre: Simulation, Politics

Games Mode: Single Player

Original Platform: Mac, ported on Amiga, Atari ST, Apple II, MSX, NEC PC-8801, NEC PC-8901

From same publishers:

  • The Colony (1988)
  • Mad Max (1990)
  • Gods (1991)

Inspired to:

  • Eastern front (1941) (1981)

If you liked you can also try:

Other chapters of the saga:

  • Balance of Power: The 1990 Edition a.k.a Balance of Power II (1989)
  • Balance of Power: 21st Century (2009)

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8 Comments Add yours

  1. That Game Over screen is amazing! I wish more games had that…

    Sound not being in the game doesn’t seem like much of a loss. The game itself seems like it wouldn’t be necessary, possibly even annoying if it were included. I will say however that the sound of felt on a wooden chessboard is so immensely satisfying. It’s like the punchy-clicks of an old keyboard.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. benez256 says:

      Actually yes, the only sound that could have made this game ever better, could have been the sound of a chessboard (I hope all the verbs are correct, I don’t want to write bull$#!t)…

      Like

  2. Mr. Panda says:

    Wow, I can’t even believe there’s a game like this, but it sounds really interesting. Educational, even. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. benez256 says:

      Yes if you get caught by the events you can play it for hours and hours!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I love games that give you a different experience at different ages!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. AKKROID says:

    Nice review, I can understand your perspective as I recently spent a couple of weeks on Starflight 2, a game which the audio visuals were considered very primitive even when it was new. But if you can somehow buy into the game universe\enjoy the play mechanics you get hooked! I remember when I was playing it I thought to myself if someone saw me playing this game they would say “Why are you playing that!” I even find it difficult myself to rationalize why I am enjoying it when playing…some of these games just get their hooks into you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. benez256 says:

      Yes I know the felling, I played tons of game while my friends were asked me why I was playng them…Balance of Power is one of them… 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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