Monday, December 15, 2014

Review: Age of Empires Castle Siege

My base during the 5th age.

The Wife and I recently picked up new phones, and along with the upgrade comes the inevitable downloading of new phone games.

Over the past several weeks, I have become completely engrossed with Age of Empires Castle Siege. The game is basically Farmville for historic RTS fans. It's a super streamlined version of AoE. You select from one of several civilizations, build up your base, gather resources, upgrade structures and train troops. Once you have an army built up, you can use them to raid other players' bases with the aim of stealing their resources, and ultimately destroying their keep.

The multiplayer functionality is interesting, because only the attacking player is active during a skirmish. The defender must rely on their pre-set defenses. The attacker wins if they either take down 50% or more of the structures, or if they destroy the keep. Though I think the attacker gets to keep whatever resources they raid even during a loss scenario.

There is also a single player campaign that uses pre-assigned armies and will net you big lump sums of resources.

The game uses a freemium model similar to Farmville and countless other apps of its ilk. You must spend resources to construct and upgrade buildings, build your army, and even launch raids, bot those resources take time to accumulate. All construction and upgrades also have associated build times. When you begin the game, most of the build times take a few seconds to a few minutes, but as you progress/are drawn in, they quickly swell to hours and then days. You can, of course, bypass the timers by spending gold, which you slowly accumulate, or purchase at low low prices of real moneys from the app store.

Honestly, this economic model in games doesn't really bother me. It can actually help temper my addiction. Rather than playing for two hours straight, the build and resource collection timers force me to play in bursts: five or ten minutes at a time every few hours. Right now, most upgrades seem to take about a day and a half. We'll see how ridiculous things get once I reach the next age.

There are two things that DO bother me about this game. The first is the clumsiness of the control system on a touchscreen phone. Sometimes the touch gestures inexplicably switch from moving troops to zooming the screen in and out. When this switch happens in the middle of tactical maneuvers requiring precise timing, it can spell disaster for an expeditionary force! I said cavalry advance on the left flank, not zoom out, damn you!

The other, even more obnoxious thing about the game is that it occasionally disconnects from the server mid-battle, and when you reload, you find yourself kicked back to your home base minus the troops you had committed with the win or loss added to your record dependant entirely on where you were in the attack process, regardless of how things were going. Less than 50% you lose. More, you win.

If you're a fan of RTS and/or Age of Empires, this game might be a good way to casually scratch that itch. I find it much more entertaining than the candy crushes and bejeweleds.

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