When I check out mobile titles, I keep in mind that I might be mistaking convenience for fun. How many of us log into a game every day or every week only because the shortcut is sitting right there on our desktop or because the game rests on our phone or tablet just waiting to be touched?
Arcane Empires is set in a steampunk world of giant gears and massive lenses. I have to admit I've never been much of a steampunk fan. Sure, it's a cool style in many ways, but I just don't like how it takes complicated machinery -- its hallmark -- and transforms it into very easy-to-digest science-fiction-lite. I would enjoy the genre more if it actually tried to concentrate on many of its wonderful contraptions, but as you can see in a game like Arcane Empires, all of those gears and steamworks are basically props on the stage. It's not enough of a problem to distract me from enjoying a game set in a steampunk world, but it does get old very fast.
"In fact, the simplest MMORTS is one of the most complicated games you can play with others."
There are also several layers of persistence built into MMORTS titles that you cannot find in a standard MMO world. I am always flabbergasted when a reader questions whether an MMORTS is an MMO or not. Yes, as a matter of fact, these city-builders are MMORPGs in every sense of the word, maybe even more so than World of Warcraft or EverQuest. How? Well, a player's MMORTS city is a WoW player's avatar. The miniature armies act as arms or as movement across the landscape. Most MMORTS games also feature literal heroes or avatars that play the classical role of a single character for the player to control. That hero or avatar can be outfitted in different ways and levels of complexity. A player can then put that hero in charge of an army and control that army from above.
Of course, that does not mean all players will play while keeping this possible complexity in mind. In most of Kabam's titles I have played, farming and smack-talking are pretty common. It's no different in Arcane Empires. There's a lovely report feature, but the chat simply moves by so incredibly fast that it is not helpful or fun to watch. There was no way to stop the chat or to delete it from my screen. I was also forced to receive updates on my tablet as I played even though I turned them off in the game settings. I thought I was doing something wrong at first but then realized that the settings were simply not recognized. Either something is broken with the game or the developers just added in those tweaks to annoy players who just want to get to sleep at night without another notification going off in their ears.
If you have played Evony before, then you might enjoy a game like Arcane Empires. As in Evony, players can literally purchase goods and buffs from the Arcane Empires cash shop. I have no problem with this because the developers are known for this sort of thing. If you get into the higher echelons of the game's playerbase, you might find yourself scrambling for the credit card, but casual players will see no difference.
I loved how it played and felt on my Nexus 7 tablet. I wish more mobile MMOs would play in portrait mode. It's easier to hold and just feels more natural most of the time. The game rarely caused me much grief; it always shut down when I told it to. In spite of the annoying notifications that simply would not go away, I found myself enjoying the game as I checked in several times a day. It's a great choice for players who might want a lighter title to play in between all of that dang Guild Wars 2 action they are getting into lately. In fact, don't be surprised if a game like Arcane Empires becomes your main title. As I mentioned, even the most basic MMORTS is like a game of chess and can be as much as you want it to be. Play it casually, hardcore, or only on days that start with the letter T. Either way Arcane Empires is worth checking out.
Each week in MMObility, Beau Hindman dives into the murky waters of the most accessible and travel-friendly games around, including browser-based and smartphone MMOs. Join him as he investigates the best, worst, and most daring games to hit the smallest devices! Email him suggestions, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook.