Amstrad Computer User
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Empire - the thinking mans Elite

Simon Rockman joins the fight for the Federation

Empire is the new game from Firebird, and it will appeal to all megalomaniacs as you start with a small ship and work up to become master of your own empire.
It is a game of Elite-type proportions, and as with Elite you can progress by either fighting or trading. There are missions and medals, but the early part of the game centres on using pods.

The pods

Your cub ship is equipped with two tow ropes; these can be extended to carry pods, but must be withdrawn before you can dock. There are three basic-types of pod - cargo, ship's extras and specials.

The cargo takes the form of ore, minerals or people. Special pods do things like fill starbases ready for trading, and there are energy pods which can be dropped to replenish shields and plague antidotes. Most important are the ship's extras - the correct use of the right pod at the right time is the key to building the empire.

Ship's extras include a better laser, extra cargo ropes, a go-faster module, shield generators, hyperspace pods and galaxy jump pods.
Initially you can only carry two pods at a time, so it is important to earn the extra cargo ropes which allow a further two pods to be carried.
It is unfortunate that you cannot choose which pod to drop, but you need to withdraw the ropes until the pod you want to lose falls. This will certainly mean dropping two pods, and may mean dropping all four.


You dock with starbases by flying between the two orbs and rotating so that the bow of your ship points to the centre of one globe and the stern to the centre of another.

This is quite a difficult skill to master, but as the programs'author, Andrew Glaister, remarked "it takes a week to learn to dock in Elite". You cannot dock with your tow ropes extended, which means that you have to drop all your pods - ropes appear from the starbase and drag in the goodies.
The base will store ships extras and add cargo to its deposits.

The starbase rewards your depositing of cargo by offering you more ship's extras as pods, and these drift outside the starbase for later collection.
When you have filled the ore, people and minerals categories - and freed the system of aliens and plague - you have the option to buy the starbase. This is the first step to building your Empire.

Bouncing into a starbase damages your shields, but you are safe from aliens if you are close enough to see the base. Wait outside for the shields to build up before trying to dock.

Improve yourself

Shortly after starting the game you will get the radio message The Empire will award medals for shooting lots of aliens'. This roughly translates to around 100 aliens for the first medal, 200 for the second, 800 for the third and 1500 for the fourth. With the fourth medal you get a supership, fitted with all mod cons and capable of storing eight pods internally. It is with this craft that you set about your empire building.

This is a grand position to reach, starting from a humble cub ship without even a trading pass.
Winning your wings is essential, and you must prove your worth before the Empire will allow you to have a trading pass. This is done by rescuing a pod which has been stolen by some aliens and returning it to the home starbase. Armed with a trading pod you should aim for a warp hole.

Planet bound

Most of Empire is played in 2D, but the planet sequence enters the third dimension. Re-entry on to a planet means finding a warp hole, which is shown on the system map as one pixel dots. Place a locator over the warp hole then use the ships pointer to fly there. The glide slope is shown by series of rings, a bit like those in Dark Star or Hive. Missing the rings has an adverse effect on your shield and it takes quite some mastering before you can get on to the planet in one piece.

Once there your troubles are not over - green spiky fuzz balls come for you, then you can pick up the ore, people and mineral pods. Finally you head for an exit which takes you near the warp hole, where you can collect your booty and take it back to the starbase. Be careful when carrying radioactive ore - it'll cause your ship to heat up with fatal consequences if you transport too much for too long. You should beware of making Icarus's mistake -flying too close to a sun will melt your ship and even getting close causes the laser to play up.
Having found your feet it is then time for some intergalactic travel. There are missions to perform in other solar systems and aliens to fight. The galactic map shows where you can fly to and unlike Elite you don't have to mess about with hyperspace to get there.
You can fly, but this is slow - a Galactic jump pod is the recommended mode of transport. Curing plagues and saving solar systems from aliens will toughen your fighting skills ready for the final hurdle of building a frontier. Then with the help of some frontier generators," you can box in your own bit of the galaxy and live happily ever after.


Empire is an epic game and generally underrated - but it is difficult, perhaps too difficult. It took me a while to master the first mission. You have to fly towards the aliens with your ropes out and hit the two escorts and the main alien before more enemy ships can appear. You can then swing the rope over the pod and leg it back to the starbase as quickly as possible. It is a good job that you can outrun the other ships.

The planet scene is spectacular and very different - it could well be another game. This change of pace left me breathless as I emerged from the warp hole.
The plot was devised by Fouad Katan and Andrew Glaister. Fouad wrote the Commodore 64 version, Andrew the Spectrum and Amstrad versions. They have been over ambitious: There is so much to know that you cannot simply sit down and have a blast - even getting past the initial stages is pretty tough.
There are some nifty programming tricks. The Empire logo bounces around on the title page and the whole game is played through a porthole. This helps to give the game a 50's Buck Rogers feel.

In some ways I get the impression that Empire is trying too hard to be different from Elite. There are more missions and a bigger goal but in many ways Empire could be classed with Elite, Space Trader and the old teletype Star Trek as a different space trading game. The documentation is poor - an Elite/ Starglider style novella would have been a worthwhile addition - and the sound is unimaginative. The disc version I tested required you to save your game to the supplied disc, something I was a little unsure of.
The game commits what one of my friends claims to be a sin - it starts in keyboard mode if you press the joystick fire button and doesn't document the key to leave the starbase.

Yet for all these faults it is the game I have played most this month. Empire is curiously addictive, very frustrating and requires a bit of planning. The thinking man's Elite.

ACU #8705


AUTHORS: Andrew Glaister , Fouad Katan
PROBLEM: Can't save games to disc.

★ YEAR: 1986



» Empire    (FIREBIRD)    ENGLISHDATE: 2011-11-06
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» Empire    (FIREBIRD)    ITALIANDATE: 2014-01-11
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» Empire    (Release  TAPE-GOLD  EDITION-FIREBIRD)    ENGLISHDATE: 2016-09-07
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» Empire    (Rerelease  FIREBIRD-DROSOFT)    ENGLISHDATE: 2017-12-17
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» Empire    (Release  TAPE-GOLD  EDITION-FIREBIRD)    ENGLISHDATE: 2016-09-06
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L'Amstrad CPC est une machine 8 bits à base d'un Z80 à 4MHz. Le premier de la gamme fut le CPC 464 en 1984, équipé d'un lecteur de cassettes intégré il se plaçait en concurrent  du Commodore C64 beaucoup plus compliqué à utiliser et plus cher. Ce fut un réel succès et sorti cette même années le CPC 664 équipé d'un lecteur de disquettes trois pouces intégré. Sa vie fut de courte durée puisqu'en 1985 il fut remplacé par le CPC 6128 qui était plus compact, plus soigné et surtout qui avait 128Ko de RAM au lieu de 64Ko.