Zeus: Master of Olympus

Master of Olympus - Zeus
Master of Olympus - Zeus Coverart.png
Developer(s) Impressions Games
Publisher(s) Sierra Entertainment
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows
Release date(s) 2000
Genre(s) City-building
Mode(s) Single player
Media/distribution 1 CD-ROM
System requirements

300 MHz CPU, 64 MB RAM, 4X CD-ROM drive, 500 MB available hard disk space, Windows 95

Zeus: Master of Olympus (also Master of Olympus - Zeus) is the fifth full title of the City Building Series developed by Impressions Games and published by Sierra Entertainment.

Like previous titles, Zeus focuses on the building and development of a city in ancient times, this time in Ancient Greece. It features some changes to the Caesar III engine, most notably the new housing blocks, now dividing "common" and "elite" housing from the start, and more detailed walkers.


Game mechanics

For a detailed overview of city building mechanics, see Series concepts and mechanics

As with other games in the series, the player must build a city on an empty plot of land of variable size and resources. The percentage objectives were replaced by direct goals, such as treasury size, production rate, a monster slaying or conquering other cities.

Housing, services and industry

Food resources in this game are urchins, fish, pork, cheese, carrots, onions and wheat. Raw materials include wood (for triremes and sanctuary building), bronze (armor and sculptures), marble (sanctuary building), grapes (wine), olives (olive oil) and fleece (which can be directly sold to citizens). It is even possible to coin currency — if a silver mine is available, the player can construct a mint which will produce a limited amount of drachmas yearly. Food distribution works a bit differently from the previous games. An agora is built on a road, and goods stands are placed on top of it. After the stand owner collects goods from a nearby granary or storehouse, a peddler will start roaming around roads distributing available goods. Other services must be provided to members of the city, such as culture, health care, and maintenance. Culture is attained by building colleges to train philosophers, gymnasiums for athletes and drama schools for actors, which in turn go (respectively) to podiums, stadiums and theatres to entertain the city. Every year the Pan-Hellenic Games (including the Olympic Games every fourth year) are held, testing a different aspect of culture against that of the Greek world. Chances of winning are increased by the number of facilities and the potential aid of Apollo. Health care is given by infirmaries, and buildings are kept in good order by maintenance offices.

Housing has also been improved. Elite and regular housing are built separately and (by smarter and more experienced players) apart . A regular house always occupies 2x2 tiles, contributes to the city workforce and its residents may serve as "rabble" to defend the city. The largest of these houses is the townhouse which requires food, fleece and olive oil. Elite houses are 4x4 tiles in size, must be built in high-desirability areas and well-stocked with food, fleece and olive oil. These houses eventually require wine, armour, and horses. They never contribute to the workforce, but provide elite soldiers to fight for the city.

Buildings no longer dispatch walkers to look for labor. As soon as a building is placed, it will have access to the city's labor pool. Working citizens aren't differentiated by age. With a constant population, the amount of labor available remains constant for any amount of time, although changing the wages does change the available workforce as it encourages or discourages people from working.


Rather than staging permanent military forces, the citizens must be called to arms from their houses when military activity is required. A palace must be built first and will hold the standards of each company under the player's command. The number, type, and size of companies depends on the amount of citizens and the type of housing they live in. Citizens in common housing will serve as rabble - lowly soldiers that throw rocks at enemies. Elite houses provide hoplites if they receive armor, and horsemen if they receive wine and horses in addition to armor. These items are distributed by the Agora. In order for an Elite House to reach maximum upgrade it must be near or have access to a stadium.

While common citizens are called to war, they won't be able to work, decreasing the amount of labor available to the city. Elite houses don't contribute to workforce, so calling their residents to arms will not impact the city's labor.

Towers may be built into walls and triremes may be constructed in wharves. Just like foot soldiers, towers and triremes are not active at all times, and must be manned if they are to function. This requires significant amount of labor.

Trade and politics

Trading is handled differently from the previous games. In order to trade, a trade building must be built for each city willing to trade. Caravans will only visit the Trade Post and trade ships will only visit the Pier dedicated to their home city. Additionally, the trade buildings have a large storage space attached to them. The trader will only buy and sell items from and to this space. The trade building will fetch the items it is told to export, and deliver imported goods to buildings or warehouses needing them.

Cities in the world involve in a greater degree of politics. Each city may be an ally, enemy, vassal or colony. This status determines whether the city trades with the player, pays tribute or is obliged to fulfill requests. The player can request or demand goods from cities, send gifts and attempt to plunder or conquer the city. Rather than a common favor/kingdom rating, each city has its own favor towards the player, although these may be related (for example, attacking an ally will make enemies respect the player more while allies will respect the player less). The favor of a certain city determines what requests it is willing to fulfill. Favor can be increased by fulfilling requests from that city or giving them gifts of goods that the city needs. To plunder or conquer a city, only hoplites, horsemen or special forces may be sent - rabble can't leave the player's city. A conquered city becomes a vassal and must pay tribute. Colonies are cities that are established in parallel to the parent city during an adventure. They also must pay tribute. However, a colony or vassal that is not treated very well may rebel against the player.

When an enemy invades, the player has the option of surrendering, bribing the enemy or fighting to defend the city. If the player surrenders or attempts to fight but loses, he/she will be required to pay tribute to the attacking city. This continues until that city is beaten back (although being defeated twice means losing the game), or conquered. A successful defeat of an enemy permits the player to build a Commemorative Monument which is a high-appeal building. Even bribery is not regarded as an act of cowardice: the advisor tells the player that the bribe money was well spent and the Commemorative Monument can be built.


Religion is referred to as mythology and plays a larger part in Zeus than in previous games. Gods and monsters may come to attack or defend the city, and heroes can be summoned to help against monsters or to be sent on Quests.

The following gods, monsters and heroes take part in this game, with the gods ranked from strongest to weakest:

God Monster Hero needed to slay monster
Zeus Cyclops Odysseus
Poseidon Kraken Perseus
Hades Cerberus Hercules
Hera* Sphinx* Atalanta*
Demeter Medusa Perseus
Athena Hydra Hercules
Artemis Calydonian Boar Theseus
Apollo Scylla Odysseus
Atlas* Chimera* Bellerophon*
Ares Dragon Jason
Hephaestus Talos Jason
Aphrodite Hector's Spirit Achilles
Hermes Minotaur Theseus
Dionysus Maenad Achilles
Four Harpies** Atalanta*
Echidna** Bellerophon*

* These were introduced in the expansion, ''Master of Atlantis: Poseidon''.

**The Harpy and Echidna aren't associated to any gods.

Each god's status is set to friendly or hostile for the duration of an adventure. The player may build Sanctuaries to certain friendly gods. A sanctuary is built like a monument: an artisan is dispatched from his guild to the construction site, where he waits for marble, wood and statues to be delivered to progress with the construction. If the Sanctuary is finished and provided with occasional sacrifices, the god can be seen wandering the city occasionally blessing buildings, making them more effective. Certain sanctuaries come with additional resources; the Arbor of Athena provides a grove of olive trees, the Garden of Demeter includes some arable land for farming, and the Gates of Hades create silver mines. The sanctuaries of Zeus and Apollo give the player access to oracular advice. If the city is invaded by foreign powers, Athena herself, Poseidon's Kraken and Hades's Cerberus will defend the city. Artemis and Ares grant two units of soldiers for the player to use as he sees fit — Amazons and Sparti respectively. If a player has a sanctuary to a higher-ranking god, the god will defeat invading gods of lesser power. The exception is Aphrodite, who can bring to heel Ares and Hephaestus (as well as Hermes and Dionysus, because of ranking). In the expansion, Hera is able to drive away Zeus. The player may pray at the Sanctuary for help and the god might accept the prayer. For example, Dionysus provides wine when prayed to, while Ares marches with the next army sent to battle in another city.

An enemy god may appear in the city and wreak havoc, destroying or cursing buildings. Usually the curses have the opposite effect of the same god's blessing.

The god may also send his/her monster to attack the city when the god is too busy. Some of the monsters can even come wild, not commanded by a god.

Heroes may be summoned to a city by building the appropriate Hero's Hall. Before a hero will visit the city, certain requirements must be met. Some examples of such requirements are wine, Sanctuaries to certain gods or a level of cultural coverage. The summoned hero will fight the monster he/she can beat, help defend against invaders, or can be sent on campaigns or Quests that are given by gods.


 Zeus: Master of Olympus
Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
Metacritic 87[1]
Review scores
Publication Score
Eurogamer 9/10[2]
IGN 9.1/10[3]

Zeus: Master of Olympus received generally favorable reviews with a rating of 87 on Metacritic.[1] IGN reviewer Stephen Butts stated that he "had to tear [himself] away from [the game] to write the review."[3]


As with Pharaoh, an expansion pack was released, named Poseidon: Master of Atlantis. The expansion includes new adventures based on the stories of Atlantis. An adventure editor was also included, although it had already been freely available on Impressions' website.

  • Some aspects are handled differently in Atlantis:
    • Certain graphics are changed: a long water crossing is a stone bridge, the roofs of houses are teal or purple rather than red.
    • Cultural facilities are replaced by science (librarians, inventors, astronomers and curators).
    • The military forces are changed: rabble are replaced by archers, hoplites by spearmen and horsemen by charioteers. To recruit charioteers, the player must build a chariot factory and provide horses to pull the chariots. Triremes are replaced by frigates.
    • A hippodrome may be built. The hippodrome can be as long as the player wants, and must be provided with horses. A longer hippodrome attracts more spectators, increasing the player's popularity and earning money every month. However, it is a little known fact that building an enormous hippodrome can have a negative effect as well, inciting jealousy from other cities or drawing the workforce away from their tasks.
    • Poseidon, the patron god of Atlantis, requires a larger Sanctuary to worship him. This is called the Citadel of Poseidon.
    • New monuments can be built such as Pyramids and Shrines.
  • Two new construction materials can be extracted: orichalc and black marble. In Atlantis, orichalc can be loaded onto towers and frigates so they can launch deadly Atlantean Fire. Both materials are used in construction of certain monuments. Greeks generally can't do anything with the materials.
  • The Goddess Hera and and the Titan Atlas join the game's pantheon. Their Sanctuaries (the Orchard of Hera and the Pillar of Atlas) might be available for construction.
  • Four new monsters: Sphinx, Chimera, the Harpies, and Echidna.
  • Two new heroes: Atalanta and Bellerophon.
  • Herding cattle and growing oranges for food.
  • Deer may be hunted for meat.


  • There is a mention of Monty Python and the Holy Grail during the Troy campaign. The narrator first suggests building a giant rabbit, but then realizes that it has already been done.
    There is a second Monty Python reference that is spoken by the timber-fellers when the city has a high unemployment rate. In a sing-song voice they will say "A lot of people are out of work, but I'm a lumberjack so I'm okay!"
    There is a third Monty Python reference that requires a cheat code to be entered. Bring up the cheat box with "Ctrl+Alt+C" then enter "Bowvine and Arrows". The towers will then shoot cows at the enemy (and the wolves) instead of arrows.
  • There is a reference to John Shaft, where a city guard named "Shaftocles" says "Shut your mouth." Other city guards are named after famous fictional cops/detectives, including Starsky, Hutch, Kojak, RoboCop, and Dirty Harry.
  • There are many citizens named in reference to real people, including actors Brad Pitt, Denzel Washington, Tom Cruise, and Michael Keaton, philosophers Aristotle, Plato, Xenophon, Protagoras, and Socrates, and Hugh Hefner.
  • The Kraken, a monster in the game, is visually very similar to the one in the 1981 film, Clash of the Titans.
  • The game is referenced in a conversation between Casey Affleck and Matt Damon in the movie Gerry, while they sit around a camp fire.


  1. ^ a b "Zeus: Master of Olympus (pc: 2000): Review". Metacritic. http://www.metacritic.com/games/platforms/pc/zeusmasterofolympus?q=zeus%20master%20olympus. Retrieved 2009-06-06. 
  2. ^ nach0king (2000-12-21). "Zeus : Master of Olympus Review". Eurogamer. http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/r_zeus. Retrieved 2009-06-06. 
  3. ^ a b Butts, Stephen (2000-11-03). "Zeus: Master of Olympus Review". IGN. http://pc.ign.com/articles/164/164515p1.html. Retrieved 2009-06-06. 

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