Furnace of Civilisations
You'd have to have had your head stuck in some sort of sand or at very least an equally inconvenient place in order to not be aware of the real-time strategy genre, but specifically the rise of the browser-based iterations of this distinctive style of game. Forge of Empires is a game that belongs to the real-time strategy genre, but also straddles the borders of the MMO and civilisation/empire game genres as well. It wasn't too long ago that this game was an obscure title popping up on the banner ads of anyone that searched for the term "empire", but these days the game is enjoying a substantial player base while its players are indulging in technological research, resource production and management, as well as frequent battles against AI and also other players in the multiplayer element of the game. Forge of Empires has quite a few strings to its strategy-based bow, so let's dig a little deeper into what it has to offer.
Starting off in Forge of Empires is much like the situation you encounter with pretty much any game of the empire/civilisation-building genre. You are given a small patch of land in the Stone Age as well a menu system containing some primitive buildings such as cloth-based tents and a few other elements like resource production buildings, decorations, and other things that become more important as your civilisation grows. The aim is to manage your plot of land, create resource production buildings so you have the means to build other buildings and house the members of your civilisation, and also to keep an eye on your population's happiness levels which in turn affect the rates of production. At its simplest, it is like a well-oiled machine whose individual cogs rely on each other to keep moving and expanding outwards.
Though the game feels a little like Farmville but with people and armies, it has a little more to offer by way of action and entertainment. Once you have established your tribal society and have some resources/money behind your efforts, you can eventually expand which requires (among other things) an army. Buildings barracks buildings allows you to produce troops of different types, with a stables allowing you to produce battle-ready horses for cavalry and eventually more highly skilled troops as you progress. Switching to the map view allows you to see which adjacent territory you can interact with by either trading goods or simply engaging in battle. When battles commence you are presented with a battleground and must use the turn-based format to try and outfight your opponents. Battling isn't as comprehensive as in fellow strategy games like Civilization V, but it's good enough for browser-based title such as this.
Stone, and Iron, and Bronze, Oh My!
What is perhaps the most intriguing and definitely the most addictive aspect of Forge of Empires is the technological research side of the game. It is through the technological research screen - this looks like a tree with many branches that run horizontally across the screen and split into multiple elements - that you are able to advance your tribal settlement through the different ages of man from the Stone Age to the Iron and Bronze Age and beyond, right through to the middle ages and all of the technological and scientific discoveries that this entails. You begin by researching basic agricultural methods and manners of production and eventually get on to making historical discoveries such as certain aspects of Physics, medicine, and mathematics. The game goes from the Stone Age and ends at the Contemporary Era, with ten eras in between, making Forge of Empires an extremely engrossing game that isn't short of content.
Graphics and Judgement of Worth
Though the gameplay elements are fairly solid (if a little cartoonish in their presentation), the graphics could do with a little improvement when compared to the sublime aesthetics of Civilisation V. Still, this is an empire building browser game that relies on Innogames' freemium-style model so it can't be criticised too heavily for its CPU-sparing graphics. It is actually the freemium model itself that may frustrate many since you have to wait a long time for technology research points to renew, or you can buy them with diamonds that are, surprise surprise, premium currency. You can still enjoy Forge of Empires without paying anything however, and it is definitely one of the better browser-based strategy games out there.