Version Reviewed: 1.1
Device Reviewed On: iPad
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Is it possible to out-Risk the game of Risk? If Chillingo and developer DotMatrix have anything to say about it, it is indeed possible. Dominion HD represents the most fully-realized, enhanced and sophisticated Risk-clone to hit the iPad. In many ways, the additions made to the core game and the options available to players make this the most strategically deep and engaging version of Risk to enter the market in quite some time.
The first thing you'll notice about Dominion HD is its serious tone. Everything in the game, from the graphical presentation to the music and sound effects, emphasizes the import of the game's world domination theme. You won't see or hear anything that implies lightweight or cartoonish fun (such as the approach Hasbro has taken in its recent Risk: Factions game). World conquest is serious business, so the game emphasizes this by making you feel as if you are in the hotseat making important command decisions. That is not to imply that the game isn't fun. It most definitely is. But a large part of the fun is feeling as if you are truly invested in your decisions.
Dominion HD's graphics are spare, but quite effective. The main world map is what most Risk fans are familiar with, but the map is made up of neon-colored outlines on a black background, as if you are viewing a strategic battle map on a war room computer somewhere. Countries are highlighted in the assigned color of the player, and armies are indicated by a number only. There are no sophisticated graphics or animations to show armies or battles, but that's really not necessary for this game as they would only serve to distract from the realistic theme.
Sound is also minimal throughout the game, though what is there serves to create atmosphere quite well. Music is limited to a pulsing, trance-like drone that heightens tension but does not interfere with strategic thinking. Some background chatter (as if between commanders over battle radios) pops up here and there, but again it is all in the name of substantial atmosphere. Subtle clicks and whirrs are present when you select or fortify armies, but that's about it. Don't expect to hear the sounds of combat when you attack a rival country.
Anyone familiar with Risk will be able to play Dominion HD without much of a learning curve; however, I'd still advise running through the well-designed tutorial. As much as it plays like it, this isn't Risk, and there are
changes in gameplay that are worth learning about up front. One of the big changes is that there are three game types to choose from: Classic Warfare is basically traditional Risk, where players have to eliminate all opposition to achieve victory; Modern Warfare requires players to control three of eight different objectives in order to win; a third option, Advanced Warfare, allows players to customize a game and manipulate variables such as the game map and the path to ultimate victory.
Modern Warfare is the main focus of Dominion HD, so its use of objectives requires some getting used to. There are eight objectives: Control Europe, Control Asia, Control 8 Cities, Control an Enemy Capital, Take Over 10 Regions in 1 Turn, Control 2 Enemy Capitals, Control 2 Region Groups and Control 11 Cities. As a player achieves an objective, bonuses are unlocked that can help turn the tide of the game. For instance, a player who controls 11 cities gets an airfield, and all regions connected to the airfield get dice roll bonuses. The use of objectives makes for a much more strategically dense game, and one with more "legs" than conventional Risk. With numerous paths to victory, being able to second guess your opponent's next move is critical.
Beyond local games with up to four challenging computer opponents, Dominion HD also includes a substantial online mode. Signing up for an online account grants players access to a game lobby, where they can join open/public games, create their own game or set up private matches with friends. All of this works seamlessly and effortlessly, so joining a game is easy and you can be up and playing in no time. Online games are played asynchronously, meaning that you have a certain amount of time to play your turn each round. This time can be adjusted by the game creator, anywhere from five minutes to 72 hours, so it's best to look at the time you'll have available before jumping into a game. Fortunately, you can choose to have turn reminders pushed to you (similar to how Words With Friends operates) so you don't abandon a game unknowingly.
For $4.99, you can't get a better, more fully-featured Risk-style game in the app store. Dominion HD is recommended to anyone looking to enter into a little "Risky business."