From Ikariam to Evony, we’ve seen our fair share of browser-based strategy titles grow using Facebook as a portal. The latest to join this ever-growing list is Clash of Kingdoms by Koram Game, which brought in over 700,000 new monthly active users during a recent growth spurt.
Best described as Evony set in ancient China, Clash of Kingdoms boasts many of its predecessors’ features. Nevertheless, a strong cooperative play element makes this particular strategy game feel a bit different. Of course, the big draw back is the accompanying breadth, which could leave players floundering with an overwhelming amount of information to learn.
Players start out as a lost Chinese hero,whi is found by a wandering handmaiden. Immediately, players are presented with a fairly unusual top-down scene, reminiscent of an old Super Nintendo game, of the main character wiping out a horde of bandits. The aesthetic doesn’t quite provide the epic feel the developers were going for, but it does make for a nice hook and immediately shows some of the more differentiated modes of this title.
After the opening come the basics, which ought to be familiar to Evony-type game players. Users are granted a manor, and from it, they construct resource gathering structures to harvest lumber, stone, iron, and food, and residences to earn silver. Players then build a handful of different military facilities (e.g. a barracks) and begin training troops.
Like Evony, each structure must be placed on a specific plot of land and can be upgraded to be more effective. Additionally, the bigger the upgrade, the longer it takes to construct, thus items purchased with virtual currency (gold) can expedite the process. It’s also worth noting that the amount of space within one’s manor is finite, with extra plots opened through the use of gold.
Next up, players will likely visit the “city.” The way the game is laid out is that multiple users live and work together, to protect the same city. It is from within these walls that the player can take part in myriad text-based quests in order to earn experience, special items, trade resources, and contribute to the defenses of the city. Additionally, the city also plays host to the recruitment of “heroes.”
Along with the player’s avatar, heroes are non-player characters that are used to lead regiments of rallied troops into battle, boosting stats such as damage, defense, and so on. Many of these leaders will also come with special spells and abilities that grant them, and their armies, advantages in battle. In addition to this, all heroes can gain experience through the noted quest system and can be equipped with whatever items and equipment one finds.
As anyone that plays Evony-style games can tell you, these strategy titles take a long time to really get anywhere, and Clash of Kingdoms is no exception. With what little army we have, however, we were able to at least catch a glimpse of the battle system through what are called “Historical Campaigns.” A sort of top-down grid in which troops are given to the user, players watch the battle unfold in a turn based system while the computer does all the work. Sadly, there doesn’t appear to be any real tactical control, but that doesn’t mean strategy is not present in Clash.
We were lucky enough to join Clash of Kingdoms amidst an offensive against some other neighboring cities. Users have the ability to deploy their hero-led regiments to various parts of the world as well provide aid to other troops already on the field. While this is all confusing and muddled for a newcomer, it was fascinating to watch the more experienced users of our city strategically attack points around the primary target, in order to draw away defenses, then move in with a full attack force and sack a rival city.
Of course, as interesting as this might be, this is all assuming the new user can actually figure out what is going on. From research, to donating silver to city power-ups, to gaining rank for your avatar and earning a salary, Clash of Kingdoms is on the bloated side when it comes to features. Everything is served in a text-based tutorial early on, and while it’s enough to get started, the majority of the game is still learned through trial and error.
Even as an experienced gamer, the game can feel overwhelming, discouraging the impatient or casual player from trying. The title looks pretty on its splash page, but quickly becomes a cluttered mess of buttons, rules, icons, and features.
In the end, Clash of Kingdoms, like those that came before it, remains targeted to a niche audience. This review barely scratches the surface of Clash, as there are still dozens of mechanics we’ve yet to even see or find the opportunity to participate in. Frankly, for those outside the target audience, learning a spreadsheet program would be less work and, likely, more fun.