Forge of Empires: Medieval Castle Building
I’ve had it up to here with the average empire-building, real-time strategy game, with the ‘here’ I mentioned being in reference to the action of placing my hand at head height indicating that I am literally drowning in my own indifference to these kinds of tiresome games. Do I find it odd, therefore, that I have somehow come to be reviewing a game that takes many of its features from said genre? Well now that I mention it, yes, yes it is rather unusual. It stands to reason that consequently there can only be a few explanations for my written-word musings on the quality and value of Forge of Empires: either I played it and found it to be a chore and am about to go on and write a disparaging critique in which I dismiss all of its value to the player in terms of entertainment, or I decided to open proceedings with a misleadingly pessimistic approach by using some negative and scathing remarks and almost-amusing references to hand gestures of discontentment in order to provide a contrast that reflects the overwhelmingly positive experience I had with the game. After taking a large mental breath as a result of the previous sentence of unnecessary length, I can assure you that the latter reason is true. Stand by, Forge of Empires, you are about to be described at length in a resoundingly positive manner.
Provide and Conquer
Forge of Empires’ core gameplay is primarily based around resource management and castle building. It has an interface that looks like Sim City 2000 minus a thousand or so years, and requires you to build a city from scratch. The main goal is to expand your population in order to produce resources and gold, which in turn allows you to afford more buildings in which to house more people and so on. Intrinsic to the development of your city and society in general – and this is the feature that makes Forge of Empires stand out from the crowd of browser-based, real-time strategy games – is the idea of researching and developing new technology in order to elevate your people from a primitive, hut-dwelling society in the Stone Age into a cultured, well-developed people in possession of an army, large buildings, intellectual concepts (Maths, Physics, Teaching, Medicine, etc.) . You are effectively researching your way through the ages, with the development of new technology having a direct effect on the selection of buildings and items available to you, as well as the amount of money and resources that said buildings produce.
The two main categories of buildings which are required for a self-sufficient city are that of residential and production. Residential buildings such as huts, stilt houses and thatched buildings in the stone, bronze and Iron Ages all provide different quantities of gold coins over a set period of time. Production buildings such as potterys and smitherys are your main resources in the game (indicated with the small hammer and pliers icon) which are required for building pretty much any structure and also to unlock the benefits of your research.
Medieval (in every sense of the word)
When you’re not kicking back and watching over your city like a DIY messiah watching over your people, you have the option of scouting out the surrounding territories in order to expand your empire. You can try negotiating with surrounding regions in a lovey-dovey, ‘let’s all just get along’ fashion, but just remember that these are predominantly feudal times and that peaceful negotiation can only get you so far. Using you army to attack neighbouring settlements is a significant part of the fun of Forge of Empires, so if you aren’t prepare to get your hands, spears, shields and hundreds of troops dirty, then this game may not be for you (though you can always fast-forward a battle by choosing to let it play out automatically). After sending troops to scout the territories, you are able to enter into turn-based battles, your victory in which will reward you with supplies, coins, useful goods, and eventually (but also most importantly) more space into which you can expand your city.
Strategy of resource management is mirrored equally in the tactical elements that shine through during battles, with the careful use of the surrounding battle terrain to place your troops being one of the factors that decides the outcome of the battle; well, that and the size of your army. That’s right, army size also counts towards your likelihood of victory, as well as the quality of the troops that it is comprised of. Light Tying in the societal development side of the game, the quality of your troops depends on the level of your technological advancement: you begin without an army and go on to develop better resources and technologies over time (or at the cost of many diamonds) that are capable of producing better troops in higher number. Further technological development also allows for the production of better weapons and even the use of superior battle formations (the phalanx, for example), all of which will give you the advantage over the enemy.
Pretty much all actions that you take in the game are dependent on possessing different forms of currency. Gold coins are the main (and free) form of legal tender in the game, the possession of which is required for buying pretty much anything from houses to barracks; coins are acquired regularly from residential buildings. Supplies should also be considered as currency but are more akin to resources than actual cash; these are also required for constructing all buildings, as well as for completing parts of your technological research; supplies are produced by building workshops (potterys, hunters etc.) to forge various items that provide you with an amount of supplies that varies according to which item you produce. Forge points are also another vital component of the game that allow you to perform technological research, though these regenerate every hour up to a maximum of ten points in total.
The game is also supplemented with a secondary currency in the form of diamonds, which can be purchase with the money that you earn in real life. While the gameplay doesn’t rely on you using diamonds, possessing them does reduce the amount of time that everything takes, since pretty much every action in the game can be sped up in exchange for varying amounts of diamonds: the yield of supplies produced by workshops can be doubled in exchange for 25 diamonds, for example, and forge points (these are used to fund the research that forwards you civilisation through the ages) can also be purchased in this way. Essentially, it all comes down to how much time you are willing to invest. If you have the patience to wait for things to happen, then you can get by quite happily without spending a single penny/dollar/yen/currency of choice.
Perhaps my only qualm with the game is that the number of diamonds you receive and you are able to do with them doesn’t reflect the price paid for them. It isn’t extortion by any means, but the diamonds should definitely go a lot further than they do. Apparently, even though money can’t buy you love, it can definitely get you a sparkly stack of diamonds and a fast-track journey to the iron age. Rather than seeing the lack of diamonds in the game that are attainable through non-paying means as a limitation, however, I would rather take the glass-half-full view that it is a challenge that requires you to plan the spending of your forge points and resources carefully in order to maximise the potential of your city’s development.
While the focus of Inno Games castle building game lays heavily on the single-player campaign and all of the societal development, city planning and repeated battling that this entails, the game also has some elements of multiplayer that bring you closer to your fellow Forge of Empires enthusiast. Most notable, you are able to view other people’s cities and choose to either help or hurt them by polishing their statues/motivating their workers or plundering/attacking their population. Attacking others will likely create a bit of a rivalry that can only escalate, but this is part of the fun, as is receiving money for polishing someone’s obelisk, though this latter act sounds more akin to a crime punishable by law, giving new meaning to the term ‘helping hand’. Player Vs Player functionality is also apparent in the game, though you must conquer a certain amount of land before you are able to access such features.
Build castles and knock them down with this collection of free castle building games online. The most relevant games under this category are Dungeon Developer, 99 Bricks and the Gemcraft series. Perhaps the Gemcraft series is the most exciting set of games of the castle building genre. Here you place gems into your castle's towers to create powerful magic that will stop invaders from penetrating your castle grounds. The latest game in the series is Gemcraft 3: Labyrinth.