[Game]Empires and Allies

Despite the terrible name, publisher and theme, Empires&Allies is a nice-looking, innovative Clash-like. Even when the end-game gets spendy, it does it in an interesting way.

It looks nice. The theme is near-future military, so you get machine guns and a howitzer; but also orbital lasers, flying drones and mechanical crabs. The crabs pause then pounce onto your tanks. The stealth-fighter-shaped drones fly over their targets and cicle as they fire. The infantry have some grenadiers mixed in with the rifles. The beefy half-tracks zippily accelerate, overshoot and make 2-point turns. They leave little tracks on the ground. Your area-affect missile tanks arc shells directly over the target which then burst straight down in a cone of sub-munitions. Explosions rock nearby trees.

The buildings are a bit smaller than normal – your base looks like a little desert outpost. They also do a nice job making it so you can spot defenses and tell them apart. I don’t even hate the dialogue. Most military-themed games are boring rah-rah. Here, one of the rotating “new troop was built” messages is a sarcastic “nice base.” Cracks me up.

Mechanics-wise, Conquest&Empire is Boom Beach. But it has the usual improvements: a button to retrain all dead troops at once, selectable sub-groups for the “move to here” flare (which always costs 1 energy.) There are walls, but very weak – good for directing attackers into the gaps.

The absolute best new feature is the roving patrols. Plenty of clash-likes have defensive troops with a detection radius, usually pretty weak. E&A gives you 4-5 sets, with the option to put them on a long winding patrol (it’s just a toggle: patrol or stand around) and they’re fairly strong. They actually matter. The crabs slaughter armour, including heroes. But they do little to infantry and can’t hit fliers. Patrolling infantry is good for that. Patrolling tanks can survive your spells and have the longest range.

The NPC missions have you conquering earth, starting in Africa, occasionally retaking areas and fighting very tough bosses. Oddly in a Boom Beach clone, it uses a Nexting system to attack players, which means you can attack as much as you like. Looting uses a funny mix. It’s basically clash-like – a 3 star system and you only get loot from the buildings you destroy. But you get nothing if you lose. You have to get at least 1 star to get any loot at all. You never a get a free shield, but you can make one. Attacking other players gives parts which can be used to build various things. Making a shield item takes about an hour, and you can save them.

End-game gets funny. You build and collect lots of power-ups and are expected to use them before attacks. One provides a day-long 10-point increase to starting spell points. Each of the 5 troop pads can be powered-up (they change to an “Alpha” version of that troop.) An event gets you 15 minutes of a free mega-spell (for 15 seconds you can use a machine-gun or laser on the enemy base. It’s almost a mini-game.) There’s a massive area nuclear blast spell (you get 5 uses for joining a clan, not sure how to get more.) You can enable free repairs for your hero (see below.)

Defensively, you can build and enable a stealth field (you can be attacked, but part of your base is hidden.) You can drag a pretty substantial day-long power-up onto a defense. And, I’m not sure what these even are, but sometimes a helicopter drops rediculously tough defensive troops (even on NPC bases.)

I haven’t gone all-out on power-ups. It seems as if an active free player can regularly make them. But realistically this game requires $5/month to always have them on.

The heroes are interesting. You can use one at a time, from a choice of 3. They unlock mid-game (you have to win about 30 battles against other players to get the currency to unlock the first one. Then even more for the rest.) The tank hero has a big, regenerating shield. The sniper hero has a longer range than any defense (but the anti-tank patrols will cream it, and it walks very slowly.) The last hero flies. On defense the hero you select can wipe out swaths of attackers with its special (the game plays a very distinctive warning tone when you scout a base with an active defensive hero.) But heroes don’t auto-repair, and repairs cost a lot. You can’t really afford to keep a hero on defense. Of course, if you somehow can you’ll do much better.

The heroes also level up by fighting, which is always a problem. Items double the experience gain or simply give a pile of free experience. My level 6 sniper hero can solo NPC bases which would otherwise be darned tough. I’d imagine being able to somehow power-level a hero gives a huge advantage.

But all-in-all this is worth it for a month or two of free play. Then it looks like a pretty good game if you’re prepared to spend a few cups of coffee a month on it.

Then, lastly, it’s from Zynga. Zynga is famous for inventing FaceBook games that spam your friends and give gems for filling out credit-card applications. And for being worth a ton of money until everyone hated those tricks and they weren’t. I suppose they’re just another publisher now, but it’s not a name you expect to see on an actual game.

King’s road has the best paywall

King’s Road is a pretty standard 3rd-person hacker. You control one guy running down a path killing stuff with a boss at the end. When you complete all 24 areas, do them again on hard, then expert. But we all know at some point you’ll be out of energy until tomorrow, or until you buy more. But you aren’t. There’s no limit. You can even freely rerun areas to gain levels or better gear until you can beat the next. Still for free, you can switch between the 3 classes and level them by replaying any areas. Is this the first mobile game ever that doesn’t make you play a little each day?

Along the way you unlock a minor pet. They call it a dragon, but it’s the size of large hawk and about as dangerous. As you play, the pets level up. Eventually your pet is doing half the work. This is where it gets interesting. Your pets have a short cool-down before they can be re-used. You have 3, so that’s not even a problem. But you see where this is going? You need to level them up to keep winning, until the cool-down is up to 8+ hours. So now, like every other mobile game, you can play 3 times every 8 hours.

It’s just delightful the way you never see it coming. You don’t even have a dragon at first, then it seems so unimportant. Then it’s exactly the same limit as everything else.

My Review: if you like MMO’s you’ll hate the overly complicated upgrading buildings system to power up the dragons. I hate it, and usually like upgrading buildings on timers. Experimenting over which of your abilities to power-up is somewhat fun. There’s no obvious choice, and each ability feels different. There’s even a looking-for-group feature to team-up with another player.