Free-to-play browser-based games seem to be the trend as of late, but most of them are hardly “free” for anyone who wants to be competitive, or have any type of real fun. In a sea of low quality MMORPG wannabes and money-grabbing card games, Tactic Studios releases a truly free-to-play online multiplayer RPG, Immortal Empire.
Immortal Empire is a strategic, turn-based RPG that’s set on a grid and is very similar to many rogue-like games. Players can control up to five characters, Immortals, at any time and move them around the map by first clicking on the Immortal and then on the desired destination. This is the first major issue I found with Immortal Empire; it takes too long to move around the map. It’s possible to select every Immortal at once by shift clicking, but that eliminates the option to use abilities and explore other parts of the map.
It’s obvious the game is more interested in strategic grinding and well-timed skill use than the instant gratification that most gamers are used to these days. With that being said, Immortal Empire really fills a niche gap in the gaming community by taking on the role of a multiplayer rogue-like, but will probably discourage those who are unfamiliar with the genre or have little patience.
Even though I keep comparing Immortal Empire to a rogue-like, it doesn’t entirely fit the genre and has variations outside of the gameplay itself. In most rogue-likes when a character dies, they stay dead. They also generally feature fairly endless dungeons with little to no story and a goal of seeing how far the player can get with each attempt. On the contrary, Immortal Empire has no perma-death and has more than 30 unique quests with hours of storyline; if an Immortal dies during a mission they’re simply resurrected at the beginning after a few turns.
The payment model for Immortal Empire doesn’t follow the general trend for most “freemium” games etiher. Instead of severely hindering gameplay for free players, or giving paying players a god-like status, Radiance can be purchased to unlock new character classes and provide a small boost to stats or experience. Furthermore, Radiance can be gained at a fairly decent rate just by playing the game and all items in the store are sold for in-game currency. Essentially, it seems that Tactics Studios is more interested in making players want to play the game instead of feeling like they need to spend money to get ahead.
As far as content goes, there is more than enough to go around. With 13 Immortals to level up, each with 8 skills for countless different builds, dozens of quests, player vs player, co-op mode and tournaments, it should take even the most diligent players months to exhaust the game’s resources. That being said, just having a lot of content doesn’t necessarily make a good game and Immortal Empire violates one of the primary rules of being a game; it’s just not that interesting.
The storyline feels incredibly generic, you’ve been brought back to life with new powers in order to save the world from an evil sorcerer. I think everyone has heard that one before. Not only is the story not enthralling, but the NPCs you meet along the way are at best apathetic and at worst incredibly annoying. The lackluster story isn’t saved by breathtaking visuals either. They aren’t bad but are akin to that of a typical rogue-like, or lively combat. As someone who actually enjoy a good rogue-like every now and then, I found that having more than 1 character to control slows the experience down too much and creates for rather dull gameplay.
In short, Immortal Empire is likely to be a game that’s either going to be loved or hated due to its complexity and slow gameplay. There is definitely a niche that this will fill and certain types of gamers that will really enjoy it, but overall the game isn’t terribly interesting and probably won’t appeal to the majority. On a positive note, the game does have one of the most fair free-to-play business models that I’ve ever seen in a browser-based game.
Immortal Empire has successfully created a fair business model for free-to-play games and contains a lot of complexity with hours of content. Unfortunately due to its slow gameplay and less than interesting storyline though, it will likely only appeal to a niche part of the community.