Developer: Kabam
Price: FREE
Version: 8.1
App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS
Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Playtime Rating: ★★★★½
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

When Kabam released Kingdoms of Camelot: Battle for the North, it managed to stand apart from its peers thanks to a very helpful UI and a bit more leniency in the time management department. In other words, it was pretty darned cool. Arcane Empires reworks the formula for steampunk enthusiasts, but while the new coat of paint is certainly interesting (and awesome looking) it’s pretty much just that: a new coat of paint.

Players begin building their empire with a single city. A quick tutorial goes over the basics of research, construction, etc, and then they’re on their own. Well, on their own with a week-long protection period in which other players can’t attack. It gives the newbies a better chance to build defenses and the like so they aren’t immediately tossed to the wolves wearing nothing but a grimace and a vest made of raw meat. But until that time they’re free to construct and upgrade buildings, squirrel away resources, and train an army of dapper not-quite future soldiers.

As with its predecessor, Arcane Empires involves a fair bit of “Spending then Waiting.” However, while it might take several hours (or more!) for the higher-up tasks to complete it is possible to do more than one thing at a time. Building, researching, and training can all be done at once, and even with a full schedule and six-plus hours to go on the shortest project players can still be active. Formulating plans with guild members or chatting in the general channel are both fine options for someone who doesn’t want to exit the game but also doesn’t want to simply sit there staring at a progress bar.

Even with the admittedly awesome steampunk aesthetic Arcane Empires has one fairly large and irritating quality: it’s Kingdoms of Camelot. No, I mean it is Kingdoms of Camelot. It’s not “like” or “derivative of” or even “a progression,” it’s the same game only with steampunk visuals. Save the iconography and color choices, the UI is unchanged. The buildings, while different looking and sporting new names, are still the same buildings. Absolutely everything, right down to the daily Pick a Chest for Random Loot lotteries, is unchanged. This won’t have any effect whatsoever on newcomers to Kabam’s freemium titles, but Kingdoms initiates will probably have a tough time finding things to get excited about. Unless they ruh-heeeeeally like steampunk.

How much a person gets out of Arcane Empires depends largely on their previous exposure to Kabam’s other freemium city-builder. The core mechanics are still great, no doubt, but they’re also not new. So unless someone is infinitely patient they’ll probably opt for one over the other rather than play both. Personally I’d side with the land of top hats and oversized bronze goggles.


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