Castle Empire – Review
Castle Empire, also called The Settlers Online, is the latest free to play MMORTS title, published and developed by Ubisoft. The Settlers is an iconic figure in RTS gaming history, with the original title being released way back in 1993. Since then the franchise has spawned 10 different Settlers related titles, with the most recent being the MMO adaption, Castle Empire. Unlike other MMORTS games, Castle Empire doesn’t force you to join a faction or pledge allegiance to any particular deity, instead the game simply asks you to choose an avatar. There’s 3 available, with the only difference being a tiny picture in the corner of your screen. You then start on your own little island, which makes a great change to being dumped into the middle of a primordial soup of players 10x your level waiting to destroy you as soon as newbie protection wears off.
When you enter Castle Empire you’re greeted with a simple quest based tutorial. Various hints and text show up providing details on the first few buildings you can construct, as well as other basics tips and information about the game. As is traditional with The Settler’s games, the main focus at the beginning is resource management. Step by step you’ll be constructing a number of resource related buildings from Woodcutters Huts to Miners Quarries. There are 3 main resources to collect Wood, Stone and Marble. Each can be gathered by constructing various buildings in certain locations, it’s pretty simple and doesn’t take long before you’re up and running. Many of the resources such as Wood, can be self maintained, meaning you can cut the trees, saw into planks and then replant seeds to repeat the process. This adds a nice element to a RTS game as it means players that can crunch the numbers will know exactly how many buildings of each type is needed in order to keep production at 100%.
There’s a large variety of buildings available in Castle Empire, and they’re separated into 4 categories, Basic, Intermediate, Advanced and Expert. You won’t get access to all categories as a new player but as you progress through the game, you’ll unlock more and more buildings. In a typical MMORPG structure, you begin with the most basics of technology, with your soldiers armed with simple pointed sticks, to eventually recruiting hardened armored soldiers. It is worth noting that Castle Empire is not for combat eccentric players, although there’s a lot of it involved, it definitely takes a back seat to the construction of your civilization and resource management. The combat uses an automatic system which basically boils down to whoever is biggest wins. A slight drawback on the game but there’s plenty of other aspects that make up for the lack of combat control.
There’s tons of other interesting features in Castle Empire, such as the food system. Food works in a similar way to other resources requiring buildings to gather, but with a bit of savvy you can construct a number of buildings to compliment your food supply. Constructing a Fishing port to fish, and then a baker to create bread, you can combine the various foods into delicious meals. The food items act as buffs, allowing you to drastically increase the effectiveness of your buildings for a short space of time. If you’re feeling generous, you can also visit your friends islands and buff their buildings.
Overall Castle Empire is definitely worth a try for any MMORTS or Settlers fans. There are thousands of standard browser based RTS games available on the internet, and Castle Empire is easily among the top 5. The graphics are nothing short of awesome, the sounds and background noises offer a relaxed atmosphere and although the game lacks PvP, the community is highly active and sociable.
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