Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Oriental Empires Gameplay Review

I'm playing Oriental Empires, a 4X turn-based strategy game by Shining Pixel Studios and Iceberg Interactive.

The game features a campaign mode with historic starting locations on a large map of China, a later start date with impending war, and randomized maps based on the topography of the region. In addition to games against the AI, online multiplayer is available for up to fifteen players. The interface provides a handy list for easy access to cities, units, and events, but does not expand vertically when necessary. The game also relies on different “city” and “map” views that actually don’t look any different, requiring constant tedious switching back and forth. Settlers are sent out to found new cities, and farms are built to grow the population (most income is gained from taxes, so having a large population is key); some factions are herders that automatically use the surrounding land. Additional city options include roads, removing pesky trees, and placing special buildings to extract tradable resources or lower unrest. Each city can also recruit units and build special military, trade, or defensive structures; both units and buildings have very high upkeep and should only be called upon sparingly. Map-based encounters can be scouted by a leader and provide bonuses, while roaming bandits must also be dealt with. Keeping unrest low is very important as rebellions are a very real threat; this can be done by placing the occasional structure and reducing the number of farms and roads being built. New technologies can be researched, and diplomatic options are basic (mutual defense, attack this faction). Combat is automated, but unit behaviors (attack, flank, retreat) and formations can be adjusted before the battle begins. The AI is generally competent, but doesn’t expand far enough away from existing cities. Oriental Empires, while clearly using the same foundation as other 4X games, adds enough regional flavor and other changes to the usual formula to stand out.