Godsrule: War of Mortals review
Godsrule is a new browser-based strategy game from Sega and Gogogic. It’s currently in open beta and available to play on the open Web.
Godsrule is a free-to-play social strategy game similar to those frequently seen on Facebook and elsewhere on the open Web. Players divide their time between building up their home base to improve their resource and troop stockpiles, battling computer-controlled “ruins” to gain experience, and battling other players for dominance over the game’s persistent world map.
The building component is rather conventional for the genre. Beginning with a small, poorly laid out base, players must build new structures, move existing ones and make use of them to collect resources, train troops and prepare for battle. Over time, players will upgrade their buildings to gain access to more effective troops and more efficient resource harvesting, and must balance their expenditure to ensure that they have enough space for their troop population to expand as well as enough room to store all their resources. As usual for this type of game, almost any activity requires a period of real time to complete, and this may be bypassed either by expending the game’s hard currency “orbs” to construct/upgrade/train something immediately, or by purchasing “speed up” items to reduce the countdown by a specified interval.
In the building component, the player regularly receives quests with generous rewards to encourage them down a good development path. Unfortunately, some of these quests have significant errors in them — in one notable case, the player is instructed to train a non-existent troop type that is presumably only relevant to the other of the two factions it is possible to control in the game. A little experimentation reveals that all the quest is asking the player to do is construct the next available troop type, but this will likely prove confusing to some. It is an error which should have been caught during testing, really, since it occurs so early in the game.
Upon attacking either a computer-controlled ruin or loading troops onto a ship to battle another player, the game switches to its combat screen. Here, players are put into a square arena and able to summon their troops one by one up to a particular limit. These troops may then be commanded in real-time, similar to how popular standalone real-time strategy games unfold. The interface is a little clumsy, however, as most conventional real-time strategy games allow the user to select multiple units by clicking and dragging a box around them — here, since clicking and dragging normally scrolls the screen around, it is necessary to click a small and not-very-obvious button at the side of the screen to enable group selection mode.
The aim in each of the battle sequences is to capture a relic. This simply requires the player to direct troops to attack it. Player-controlled relics are more difficult to capture than those in the computer-controlled ruins. Meanwhile, as the player is attacking the relic, the opponent’s forces are automatically summoning new troops. It is possible to destroy the opponent’s “summoning stones” for a temporary reprieve from the onslaught, but they often come back within a few seconds. More often than not, the most effective strategy is simply to “Zerg rush” the relic with the strongest possible units to capture it as quickly as possible — units are fairly disposable, anyway, so it’s easy enough to replace any that are lost in the attack.
Herein lies a bit of a flaw with Godsrule — it doesn’t really go far enough with what it clearly wants to do. While the ability to take direct control over one’s troops immediately sets this game apart from numerous other self-professed “hardcore” free-to-play strategy games, the boring square combat arenas offer little in the way of tactical play. There’s generally no cover to worry about and no environmental hazards, so despite the ability to control units independently, there’s really very little need to do more than select all of them and systematically defeat the enemies one at a time. The asynchronous nature of combat also means that it never really feels like you’re actually outsmarting another person, either — PvP battles just end up feeling like slightly more difficult PvE combat, and that is only because the relic takes longer to capture in most cases.
Social features for the game include Facebook connectivity, though this is largely used simply to log in to the game, along with a real-time chat facility, the ability to “follow” individual users, and full clan functionality for cooperative play. Like most games of this type, however, the experience feels largely solitary for the most part — even when joining a clan, the asynchronous nature of the game means that it never quite feels like you’re playing “together.”
The game monetizes through its aforementioned hard currency, which may be expended to immediately build structures or train troops, and also on purchasing “Automatics,” which automatically harvest resources from structures for a set period of time even when the player is not present. Players may also spend hard currency on customizing their experience with new emblems for their clan, new taunts to use in battle or new titles to attach to their player name. At this time, there does not appear to be anything in the way of “pay to win” items in the in-game store, which helps keep things balanced.
Gameplay issues aside — most of which are endemic to the browser-based strategy genre rather than exclusive to Godsrule — the game is actually pretty good, on the whole. It’s extremely well-presented, with smooth animation and atmospheric sound. When put into full-screen mode, it looks for the most part like a downloadable standalone game — the only slightly “rough round the edges” element that reminds you it’s a Web game comes when loading a new environment for the first time, and objects “pop in” on screen one at a time rather than simply being there. This sort of thing should really be covered up by a loading screen.
Overall, then, Godsrule doesn’t do a great deal new with the browser-based strategy game genre, but what it does it does well. The addition of real-time strategy-style combat is a good one, but it’s an underdeveloped feature with a lot of potential at present rather than a real selling point. It’s a well-presented game that is worth playing, but it’ll need to do more to distinguish itself in the long term if it wants to compete with the big hitters of the genre.
A good addition to the browser-based “hardcore” strategy genre, but there’s still plenty of room for future growth to make this game a more distinctive experience.