Farmville creators Zynga recently came out with a new game that you can use to waste time at work called Empires & Allies. Acting like a spinoff of Cityville, this game seems to be a push to grab the hardcore audience to step into the Facebook gaming realm for more than a retail game tie-in, but will it have enough to hold the core audience’s attention?
Empires & Allies plays much like if Cityville went to war; you make a little island empire and start a tiny army to either garner alliances with your friends or go to war with them. Beyond that, you are also given several quests to play through in a sort of campaign mode, where you fight an evil empire that started a war against your empire, and learn the reasoning behind your empire being so sparsely developed at the first stages of the game.
The bit where it is obviously stepping out of the standard Zynga game is when it comes to actual battles. They work like a turn-based military strategy, kind of like an Advance Wars game, but stripped down a bit. In essence, there are three types of units (air, land, and sea), and each has three subcategories. When fighting, each unit has a bonus against another category and a weakness against a category as well. For example, say you have some foot soldiers and your enemy has artillery. Your foot soldiers will win because their bonus is against artillery, but if you were fighting tanks instead, then you’d probably lose since the soldiers have a weakness to tanks. Fairly simple, yet satisfying.
The game plays much like its cousin Cityville; you make buildings and grow your empire every day with a certain number of actions determined by your energy meter. Your buildings have different functions, such as troop production, population increase, and resource production. You can also attack your neighbors or the fictional enemy commanders to grab some resources or further the campaign. However, that is pretty much all there is to expect from the game.
Even though there is little substance to the game, there is a good deal of fun to be had in short bursts that actually leave you wanting more, and that is where the real life friends and real money come in to play. For example, if you don’t have enough friends to staff a government building to increase your population cap, you have to hire a fictional friend to fill the spot using a points system, which is either earned through leveling or purchased with real money. The points are not too pricey, but if you are like most people who play Facebook games, it is the principle of buying fake money to get a little farther in the game that tends to annoy you.
There is also the energy problem: the sets the amount of actions you can do in a session, and the only ways to fill it are to buy or be gifted energy refills, which is where the really clever marketing comes in, since I personally have found myself wanting to do more but stuck after using my last little bit of energy.
All in all, I think that Zynga has yet another hit on their hands, if they can somehow get this game marketed to people outside of their current fan base.