Goodgame Empire is another browser-based RTS immersing players in a stylish world where knights build their castles and fight for the king. Construct buildings in the castle, set up defensive facilities, recruit commanders and army units, produce siege tools, collect taxes and generate resources to support residents and troops, attack robber baron castles and occupy outposts, tear up treasure maps, and compete with or against other players for control of the territory – all are in Goodgame Empire.

After a simple registration of an email, you are ushered into this virtual world back in medieval age. Before anything at the core is revealed, the beautiful graphics and adorable animation catch your attention. A castle built by wood and stone locates at the centre of woods, with flags spreading in wind; various trees, stones and wheat fields scatter around; and residents walk around to and for among different buildings and also travel in and out of castle to collect food or hack stones. All is depicted similar to scenes in a picture book, colorful and cartoony.

Once you help in a well-established castle constructing a barrack and attacking an enemy castle, you are granted your own castle, initially small and almost empty, where you start the life of a knight lord. Construct a series of structures, generate resources and collect gold coins as taxes, expand the castle to accommodate more facilities, and lead army to conquer NPC castles around. In the beginning, big arrow will constantly pop up to guide you through the basics, and in the following, the quest line continues to direct you to the next move in the game.

As you sail through starting levels quickly, the castle is filled with various basic buildings and expanded little by little taking up more territory until reaching Lv. 5. From there, all is slowed down. Construction takes minutes even if you are to build just another exactly same Lv. 1 structure that can be completed in seconds previously, and accordingly constraint by only one building slot becomes acute. It’s true to the recruitment of military units and production of tools such as ladders and siege towers. At the same time, you begin to notice the time-consuming tax collection (19 coins per 30 minutes if tax collector doesn’t take some away), and perhaps also the low production rate of wood and stone that soon fall short to drag down construction – say, 29 wood is produced per hour by lv 2 woodcutter, while 107 wood is needed to upgrade the farmhouse to Lv. 2.

You enjoy a week’s protection from attacks from other real players under the condition that you don’t initiate war against others. You can attack NPC castles though for XP and loot, only that these battles don’t involve any strategic planning or risk of casualty, since you only have one or two unit types to dispatch and you always win. Different from most strategy games, these NPC bandit baron castles grow to high levels with your own, or to be more exact, grow stronger with your every around of attack. In another word, you attack a Lv.1 NPC castle to level it to Lv. 2, and you can’t attack it again within three hours’ cool down time. So you have to “create” the high-leveled NPC enemies instead of having differently leveled ones around. In this way, the gameplay is once more slowed down, since you can complete the attack mission only when the NPC castle reaches the required levels and finishes the cool down time. To pile on, the travel time dispatched troops take to arrive at destination also gets longer with level up. In the world map, you just see the troop snail forward and then back, with no combat scene visible.

Slow progress is unavoidable to free players, but can be sheered off by paid gamers via Rubies, in-game premium currency. Rubies is of great help – it can buy extra construction slots, instantly finish building, expand the castle without consumption of resources, bribe tax collectors, produce special tools that can’t be made by spending gold coins, found alliances, rent sword brothers, hire various professionals to gain exclusive bonuses, such as marauder to acquire more loot and glory points, medico to increase the survival rate of soldiers or oversees to boost resource production, etc.. Besides all these bought advantages, you can directly win higher XP by purely using Rubies, which all the more accelerates the progression. While you are offered 600 or so free Rubies in the game, it drains quickly if you instantly finish several level 1 construction, and simply fall short if you want to hire an overseer, requiring 625 Rubies for 7 days, to increase the wood production.

Quests are not really threaded or driven by a back story. Yet, an episode, a little abrupt though, will pop up at times to spicy up questing, such as the one at Lv. 7 to ask you to rescue a princess from one of the robber castles. Honestly, you have nothing better to do than following the quest line to level up so as to unlock more playable elements. There are around 40 structures, civil, military and decorative, in total that need to be built in castle. But you simply don’t know what they are unless they are unlocked at certain level. And it works the same way with the type of army units and playable contents.

As you level up, you are rewarded with some Rubies, new structures unlocked and perhaps new playable contents. For instance, you need Lv. 8 to tear up the treasure map, Lv. 11 to upgrade the Keep, and Lv. 13 to build estate and capture outposts. With future gameplay covered, it remains fresh by presenting something new at intervals and keeps you wonder and expect the next thing around the corner. You get agents for espionage only after tavern is built; and you unlock staple, then raise horses there and finally speed up your troops’ traveling. While the structure-related new contents are kind-of predictable, you are just clueless about the other type like tear-up treasure maps and another represented by a three-sector-pieced circle icon promised to unlock at Lv. 25 (of that I’ve no idea now).

If you mean to play a strategy game to depth, it’s suggestible to make friends and join alliance. In it, you can search for sword brothers who can serve as your agents or commanders, and join alliance to coordinate resources and military units among members for dominance of a region. While it’s just grinding to combat low level NPC castles without any trace of strategy, it’s another story as you delve deep enough to take on other players who own castles with strong defense and attacking units. At that time, you and your allies need careful plan and tactics, spying to learn about enemies and making corresponding decisions – what types of units and tools should be dispatches? How will you maneuver forces to break the front, right and left flanks of enemy castle? Only when you can compete against other players can gain glory points that are used to rank up titles. That seems to offer a certain direction in gameplay, since it’s unclear where the game will finally lead all players as of now.

Goodgame Empire presents an enjoyable gameplay that is far better than lots of other strategy titles out there in final edition. It presents solid mechanics that incorporates the fresh elements into strategy staples, and depicts a stylish world with vivid animation and hand-drawn graphics. It’s really worth a try.

Source: mmohunter