Developing a real-time strategy game is challenging enough when you've got money and a publisher behind your efforts, because even then you have to contend with the tried and true big boy franchises, like Starcraft, Civilization, Age of Empires, and the like. All of which just had or are about to have new releases. So how do you do it when you're an indie developer?
If you're anything like Longbow Games, you just put your head down and churn out your own product. Hegemony: Philip of Macedon is what came out of their efforts, and when I first walked by their booth I did a double take, thinking that no indie game developer could produce an RTS title that looked this polished.
Ubisoft has made much of the IrisZoom engine that powers their 3D pullouts and zooms for R.U.S.E., but the developers at Longbow have created a similar effect with their own 3D engine, and the result is a seamless transition from tabletop-style game pieces, all the way down to individual units that have different faces. That's the sort of attention to detail you'll find throughout Hegemony, which uses a satellite-accurate map of Ancient Greece as its backdrop.
The game tells the story of Philip of Macedon, who besides fathering Alexander the Great was also a great leader in his own right. You'll take part in over 100 historical objectives as you rise to power, and learn how to lay siege to your enemies. Capture their units and put them to work, burn their crops to starve them out, or just batter down their defenses and wipe them out. And you aren't just limited to ground units. You'll also create and use naval units as well.
Unlike the other indie titles in the PAX 10, most of which require very simple controls, Hegemony a robust set of controls that are going to require your full attention to get used to them. There isn't an in-game tutorial, per se, although you are presented with on-screen instructions where appropriate. The game features 31 page instruction manual, which is unheard of in the realm of indie games, which can usually get the game instructions on a single page. In a huge font. With triple spacing.
That's the only barrier to leaping right into Ancient Greece, and I would recommend that you do. This game is for the PC only, which is unfortunate, given that Longbow has some Mac versions of some of their past games. But it has fairly low system requirements, and it has deep and immersive gameplay that you would expect to see in a full retail title. It's more than worth picking up, which is exactly what I did at PAX. It's on sale right now for $29.99, and will keep you busy for hours.