When I was in high school, lo those many years ago now, home computers were really starting to come into their own. My first desktop was a Commodore 64 I bought from a classmate for $50, just to give you a sense of how old I am, and how much things have really changed.
It didn’t take me long to figure out that home computers were really going to change the world in significant ways, especially when it came to gaming. The first computer game I owned was Red Storm Rising, a submarine combat simulator based on the Tom Clancy novel. I lost a lot of hours playing that game.
However, it was in my computer class, where we were learning about the programing language Pascal, that I first discovered SimCity, courtesy of my teacher, who used it as a tool for us to learn just what computers were capable of.
To say I fell in love with the concept of city building as a game is an understatement. More than any other type of game, save D&D, I love city building games. There’s a real challenge that comes with not just struggling with the layout and design, but with the need to make citizens happy, and provide them with a stable environment.
At least until Godzilla attacks. Not much you can do about that.
Over the years, I’ve watched city building games go through a lot of changes. Most browser based city games these days incorporate a lot of player versus player action, and really, are more a mix between city building and war games, with heavy emphasis on the war part. This makes it hard for new players to get into the game, as there’s pretty much always somebody out there way more powerful than you, just waiting to annihilate your tiny town before it can even get started good.
Which is why my favorite browser based city building game is Forge of Empires, from Germany based InnoGames.
Who can feel free to send me a check for plugging the shit out of them right now.
No? Yeah, I kinda figured.
InnoGames is the maker of a large number of games, by the way, including the pretty well known Tribal Wars. Even if you’ve never played it, you’ve probably seen an ad for it pop up on your screen at some point. It’s probably one of the more well known city building/war games out there.
Somewhat less well known is their other major city building game, Forge of Empires, which focuses more on the building, and less on the war. Just the way I like it.
In Forge of Empires, you start as a tiny tribal community just entering the Bronze Age. The objective of the game is to progress through the ages, improving you city, expanding, gathering resources, and crafting goods, which you can trade to other players. What makes it different than other similar games, is just how much freedom you really have in how you go about all of this.
First off, there’s no push to advance through the ages. You can take your time, really linger in an era, and use that time to stockpile goods. Or, you can use the trading aspect to hurry through, advancing as quickly as you can craft and trade. Both are options, and neither are a wrong way to play. The game itself lets you decide how you want to advance, set your own timetable, and pretty much, move forward in whatever way makes you happy.
Then there’s the actual crafting of goods. You’ll only be proficient in crafting two of the five available goods from each era. Yes, there are a lot of goods in this game, and you’ll have a lot of buildings that craft goods as you advance. However, as long as you have the space to build, that doesn’t mean you can’t craft the other goods you aren’t proficient in. You can, at a reduced amount. So, really, the trading feature is somewhat optional as well. You don’t have to use it, if you can figure out how to arrange your city to give yourself room for all the buildings.
Which, by the way, you probably won’t. The game does give out expansions to the building area pretty much like candy, but as you advance through the ages, buildings tend to get bigger. Once you enter the Modern Era, you’ll start making refined goods, which consumes regular goods to make. So, you’ll start needing two buildings just to make goods. This tends to eat up a lot of space, but it’s still possible, depending on how good you are at puzzle piecing the needed buildings together, to keep going without having to trade.
Difficult, but not impossible.
Naturally, you have to have population, because what city building game doesn’t? Which means more space is being used to build residences. Population means that people want to be happy, so there goes even more space putting down happiness buildings. All of which get bigger, and take up more space, as you advance.
What’s nice about Forge of Empires, however, is that making your population happy, does come with a benefit, in the form of bonuses to your resource collection. So, it gives you more bang for your buck, you might say, to keep your people happy. And trust me, as you go along, that can get difficult.
Big damn buildings are needed.
Speaking of which, the game also has a neat aspect called Great Buildings. Great Buildings are legendary structures from all through out history. The Tower of Babel, the Great Lighthouse, Notre Dame, and many, many more are available for you to add to your city. Each brings with it significant bonuses to every aspect of game play, and can be leveled up to increase those bonuses. There’s no real level cap that I’m aware of, either, so as long as you can keep collecting the required blue prints, you can keep increasing those bonuses pretty much through the roof.
That said, these buildings are called great for a reason. They take up a lot of space. Which just means that you get to decide which ones you build, and which ones you don’t. What bonuses you want can be a great guide to what kinds of Great Buildings you decide to focus on, or you can just decide at the very beginning to collect them all, or not get any at all, and play the game in hard mode. It’s all up to you.
Now, there is some measure of PvP still available, if you just really want to duke it out with other players. It’s pretty limited, however. You can attack another players city, and steal coins, resources, or goods from them should you win. You can’t damage any of their buildings, though, and any military units they had set to defend their city respawn instantly. Not to mention, you can only steal from them if they have finished production waiting to be collected.
So, it’s pretty limited PvP, in that the only real purpose it serves is to garner the points the game uses to determine ranking. Even if someone does attack you, you don’t lose military units, or buildings, and if you have no production waiting to be collected, they can’t even steal from you. Many players just attack for the sake of points, and don’t even bother with the rest, content to gain the points and leave other players production alone. Mostly because, while defending units respawn instantly, attacking units that are lost have to be rebuilt. So, any gain from attacking is pretty mild in terms of stealing, and can actually still come up as an overall loss.
Your military is going to be better spent on advancing through the games PvE map, which is extremely expansive, and covers several continents. Broken down into age appropriate sectors, winning in those can get you the deposits needed for the two goods you will be proficient in, as well as resources, coins, goods, expansions to your building area, and even Diamonds, the games most valuable currency, with which you can buy more expansions, or premium buildings.
Really, Forge of Empires gives you so many free Diamonds, you’ll probably never have to buy any.
If you are the more social type, you can join a Guild, which comes with a number of benefits. First off, access to players that will visit your city to motivate your production buildings, increasing their output, or polishing your happiness buildings, making them more effective. While this is a pretty standard mechanic in social games, Forge of Empires takes it a step further, by making all market trades free among guild members, and giving you the means to trade more easily, since guild mates are always happy to help you out on that front.
It also gives you access to the Guild Expedition mechanic, which can grant you all kinds of crazy stuff, from free military units, to boosts to your production, to even rare buildings. There’s also Guild versus Guild, which benefits everyone involved, and is more traditional PvP, if that’s your thing. It’s also confined, however, and doesn’t involve people attacking your city, but rather fighting for dominance on a separate GvG map by winning and controlling ares on that map. So, fun, but no real threat to you or your growing city.
If you are less social, don’t worry, as joining a guild is completely optional. You can just have friends that you visit and help out, and help you out in return, with the motivating and polishing. You can also visit their friends tavern, and upgrade your own to earn all kind sof temporary bonuses to a wide variety of game play features, all without having to commit to a Guild.
Like I said, the game offers a wide variety of ways to approach playing.
Probably my favorite thing about the game though is the graphics. Simple, but pretty, with highly detailed buildings that reflect the age they are from in really fun to look at ways. You get to watch your city change and grow through time, from a simple Bronze Age settlement to a really high tech city of the future, and doing so is at least half the fun of playing the game as a whole.
Best of all, there’s no real limit on advancing. As I said before, you can speed through if you like, because as long as you can either produce or trade for what you need, there’s no wait period beyond generating enough Forge Points to spend on the tech tree to do that advancement. Forge Points generate on their own, and there are several Great Buildings that produce them as well, so as you go, advancement stays at pretty steady level, all without any kind of a paywall.
Monthly events can also help with this. Forge of Empires doesn’t just do the big holidays, but frequently does historical events as well, celebrating the lives of many important historical figures, from Yuri Gagarin to Martin Luther King Jr. Some monthly events also revolve around significant historical events that changed the world in major ways. So, beyond just getting neat rewards, you also get to learn a lot about history, and the people who really shaped it. Always a win in my book.
Overall, Forge of Empires a fun, relaxing city building game that lets you set your own pace, your social interaction, and your goals for what you want the game to be, on your own terms. For somebody like me, that’s everything a game should be.
I must also admit to being overly addicted to this game, and play on multiple servers. Odds are, if you pay, or decide to play, and join any server above R, you’ll find me there, chugging along, enjoying this really great game.