App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS
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Riz Virk and Mitch Liu, formerly of Gameview Studios, have been busy. First they create top-grossing games with their co-founded studio, then they move on to Midverse Studios where they’ve created their next big thing: Mini Empires. I’m not entirely sure how many lessons can be carried over from a virtual aquarium to a freemium town building/strategy game, but at the very least it establishes a diverse portfolio.
Mini Empires incorporates a number of aspects from two different genres (strategy and city-building) in order to create a more unique experience than many freemium players might be used to. Base construction follows the typical guidelines of unlocking; spending resources to build, upgrading, and using said structures to earn more resources or cash. However, they can also create units to battle other players with. And unlike other examples in the genre, gaining levels can lead to major technological advancements. We’re talking Stone Age to Irons Age and beyond here, each with their own progressively shinier things to point at the other guys in order to make them not exist no more. Spanning all three possible theaters of war (land, sea, and air) no less.
I never would’ve expected a freemium iOS game with real-time models to evoke the feeling of Age of Empires II, but it totally does. And I mean that in an incredibly positive way since I used to adore that game back in (REDACTED to avoid making me look like a dinosaur). It’s probably the steady progression through various technological ages. And while there’s little in the way of any real “realtime” strategy to be found, the turn-based unit battles can be fairly satisfactory despite their simple nature. Especially once units begin to improve due to upgrading barracks and the like.
However, despite the awesomeness of the obviously love-inspired elements (i.e. practically everything), Mini Empires goes trip up in a couple of places. The first and perhaps most difficult hurdle to get over is the length of time required to do just about anything that isn’t unit construction. It’s true that spending several hours to build or upgrade a structure isn’t out of the ordinary once a game of this nature starts to progress, but even the starter buildings can take hours to manage. It’s not a huge problem per se, but if someone’s accustomed to the more common practice of a quick start that slows down as they expand their influence it could be something of a shock.
I know strategy fans that are reading this probably jumped on to the App Store as soon as I mentioned Age of Empires, but everyone else with a respect for the genre should also give Mini Empires a go. It combines several elements from a couple of popular genres to great effect and can be surprisingly fun once the reigns are taken off.