Time World challenges players to conquer the stars

Time World is a new Facebook-based sci-fi strategy game from Dream World developer Playmage. The game combines base building with strategic combat elements, tasking players with dominating the human-populated galaxy and working their way through the preset episodic storyline. Aesthetically the game is rather similar to Kabam’s Edgeworld, though mechanically the game does offer a number of key differences. Perhaps the most interesting of these is the ability for players to design their own custom ships using components unlocked through play, and then send these fleets into “hands-off” combat scenarios similar to popular independently-developed PC title Gratuitous Space Battles and iOS strategy hit Starbase Orion.

Time World initially sees players attempting to fend off pirate attacks on their home planet. This is achieved by upgrading buildings, building ships, hiring “hero” characters to command fleets, and researching new technologies. When the player feels their army is strong enough, they can take on a linear series of story-based battles that lead them through the game’s narrative, gradually unlocking game elements as they go.

Base management is handled in a similar manner to other “hardcore” strategy games on Facebook. A static backdrop holds the buildings that make up the player’s base, and these can be clicked on to either upgrade them or make use of their unique abilities, be this building new ships at the Shipyard or researching new technology in the Laboratory. Heroes must be hired at the strangely out of place “tavern” location in order to supervise building, upgrade and research projects, and their varying abilities have a small effect on the amount of time it takes a project to complete. An unfortunate flaw in the game’s design means that it is apparently impossible to queue multiple building projects for fulfillment one after another, making the building of a large army a time-consuming, tedious process — and a necessary one, too, since the game will not let the player proceed out of the first chapter if their fleet is not big enough to defeat the boss.

Once players have constructed a fleet to their satisfaction, they can attack either the predefined story opponents in the “war” screen, or once they have finished the first chapter of the game, other players.

Combat is handled in a completely hands-off manner, with player and enemy ships taking it in turns to shoot at each other until one or the other is defeated. There’s no indication of how close one is to victory in one of these combats, since a scenario frequently ends with the opposition’s life bar depleted by an arbitrary amount that has not been previously communicated to the player. This makes combat feel less strategic and more like chance, which may prove frustrating to players expecting deep gameplay. Of course, the player can ensure their ships are stronger than the opposition’s by researching new technologies and building a bigger fleet, but again, there’s little indication of how much a player needs to do in order to beat the enemy outside of a seemingly-arbitrary “army size” figure. This figure, as it happens, is increased by constructing new ships, but the game does not do a good job of explaining how this works.

This is something of a pattern throughout the game. Hastily-written explanatory text and a rushed tutorial mean that a lot of game concepts are left unexplained, with players having to experiment in order to find out what things do. Certain interface elements display numbers without any icons or explanatory text showing what these statistics mean. A series of early quests encourages players to upgrade their buildings and research new technologies, but the text for these quests simply tells the player what to upgrade, not what benefits it will offer them to do so. And some elements are just plain bizarre — why would anyone want to increase their ships’ defense against carrots?

All of these elements conspire to make Time World likely to be far too frustrating for many players (particularly those from the more “casual” end of the market) to stick with in the long term. Given that the game doesn’t open up its social features, asynchronous multiplayer facility and monetization until the second chapter of the story, either, this frustration factor could well hurt the game’s profitability in the long run. As such, it’s difficult to recommend checking out Time World right now, particularly when companies such as Kixeye and Kabam are putting out similar titles with a much greater degree of polish.

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An overly-obtuse strategy game that will likely frustrate the majority of players away before they even have the chance to open their wallets or tell their friends.