I am getting ahead of myself, though. How about we talk about the gameplay and how it all feels? Then I'll allow myself to scheme about my possible glory.
If you were to repaint Warstory and replace its graphics with fantasy bits, it would feel like a great fantasy title as well. That's because the underlying gameplay doesn't really depend on real-world details. Sure, you'll watch your numbers and count up how strong your troops might be, but those numbers are interchangeable between genres. That's a good thing, although some players might prefer a much grittier and more realistic and (ahem) exciting delivery. I found the stylized artwork in the game to be some of my favorite of any game so far, and the animations and smooth UI parts are all thanks to Microsoft's Silverlight engine. Unfortunately this means that I could not play the game on my Chromebook because the device does not allow for plugins like Silverlight, but it would work easily on even a basic laptop. The only glaring issue I found with the graphics is that there is no option for a fullscreen experience. This is so unfortunate because the window that the game runs inside is tiny.
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Commanders will have to move battle-ready battalions across the map, all while keeping travel time and cost in mind. You can speed travel up by paying for a plane trip -- a clever explanation for paying for a buff -- but I normally found myself enjoying the long travel times. A lot of players poo-poo anything that makes them wait, as though it can only be a ploy by the developers to spend real-life money to speed things up. I usually find it to be a great excuse to get up from the keyboard, stare at the map and think on what I will do once I get to where I'm going. The travel times in Warstory: Europe in Flames just give the game a bit more depth.
"At first it seems that you can steamroll anything and that the minigame is silly, but later on the challenges make you grimace while you sweat over maneuvering your tiny army against the enemy."
Players who have problems with buying power might have an issue with this game, but those players are fewer than they were before, something I covered in a recent column. The good news is that developers who decide to go with the selling of powerful in-game items like units or resources are very aware of how unsettling such power can be to a game, so they usually include some counter-agent to that power. In most cases, it's time that does the trick. A free player with vast knowledge of the game can simply destroy a player who spent a lot of money without knowing what to do. The truth is that the big spenders are rare, and I saw no problems or discussions about it while I played this week. That doesn't mean it's a non-issue, however. I think the most common selling item would have to be travel speed-ups.
I really enjoy Warstory: Europe in Flames. It's a great-looking and deceptively simple strategy game that can be consumed on a casual schedule or for hours and hours at a time. While the tiny game window and occasionally strange localizations slowed my fun here and there, overall I would say that it offers some of the best strategy MMO gameplay I have come across in a long time. I'm definitely going to try to become a better player at this one!
Next week, I am going to be jumping into Allods Online to see what this new expansion is all about. Of course I cannot guarantee anything beyond my repeated deaths, but I will be streaming the game on Monday, the 18th of March, at 5:00 p.m. EDT, right here on our Massively livestream page!
Each week on Rise and Shiny, Beau chooses a different free-to-play, indie, or browser-based game and jumps in head-first. It might be amazing or it might be a dud, but either way, he'll deliver his new-player impressions to you. Drop him an email, comment, or tweet!