Archive for the ‘ Up & Coming ’ Category

Up & Coming: Kingdoms of Camelot

By Cody Musser

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Watercooler describes their game, Kingdoms of Camelot, as the most advanced game on Facebook. After spending some time with the title, we’re beginning to agree that this might be more than just puffery. Kingdoms of Camelot is an intensely detailed and elaborate kingdom building simulation. However, as is often the case, elaborate details can come at the cost of intuitiveness and simplicity.

Kingdoms of Camelot starts players off selecting a Lord or Lady for their empire, vying to win the attention of King Arthur through building a worthy kingdom, and eventually, through the conquest of other kingdoms. New players start by creating their kingdom and lord, and then work their way through the introduction by Merlin. This tutorial helps players learn the basics, but doesn’t go into the game’s more advanced elements. When wondering what to do next, it’s best to simply complete the quests the game suggests. This makes KoC fairly linear, in the beginning. Our progress for the first few hours of play included quest, reward, quest, reward, quest… you get the idea.

This is the point where someone looking for a simple, easy title might turn away from Kingdoms of Camelot and not try to crack the shell to get the golden egg hidden within. Stick with the game through the confusing early moments and you can quickly discover the depth of what is essentially a full-featured strategy game.

The game itself is divided into various screens of view. You’ll be looking at either your city, the field surrounding it, the greater map with other kingdoms and points of conquest, or your court. Each of these views is filled with possible activities for you to complete. Inside your city you’ll build various important aspects of your kingdom to help outfit your soldiers and townspeople. These include the Barracks, Tavern, Market, Alchemy Lab and more. Outside your city in the field you’ll build Farms, Mines, Sawmills and similar structures. This can be a bit confusing, but it’s best to think of it like this: Inside the city you handle your people, and outside it you handle your resources.

The many resources gathered from your field are used for researching upgrades or building new structures. It’s impressive to think that almost every building you create in Kingdoms of Camelot will offer you some upgrades or research, and that absolutely everything is upgradable, from your Sawmills to your Castle, and even the City Wall.

The degree to which you’ll be focusing on the development of your kingdom and its upgrades might make Kingdoms of Camelot seem like a single-player game, but the social aspects of all Facebook games are naturally present here as well. You’ll have the opportunity to join or create an Alliance, which is essentially like a guild of players who become your greater teammates. You can always chat with either global players, or directly to your Alliance. You can send gifts to friends, and a premium currency, Gems, can be purchased through Paypal or by completing sponsored offers. This is all pretty common, but Kingdoms of Camelot might take things a little overboard when it comes to making Facebook wall posts about your building upgrades. When friends click on it, your creation will be sped up by one minute. A help of course, but this could lead to some pretty clogged feeds with updates occurring every couple minutes or so for active players in early parts of the game.

Even after days, players will probably feel like they’re still in KoC’s “beginner period.” Progress isn’t fast in Kingdoms of Camelot, and you won’t be able to attack or be attacked for a full four days after creating your kingdom. It’s in this first four days that most players will probably decide to stick with Kingdoms of Camelot, or drop it. In four days even the most diehard players won’t have scratched too deeply into the deeper experiences of the game. For this reason we’re going to keep playing, specifically because Kingdoms of Camelot has one important thing… potential. We’ll do our best to keep exploring the advanced features and segments, and relay to you how much more is actually hiding in the Mists of Avalon.

One thing is certain: Kingdom of Camelot has more in common with deeper PC strategy games than it does with Farmville. This depth has apparently struck a chord with a certain segment of the Facebook population – the game now has over 2.3 million monthly players, and is still growing steadily.

Up & Coming: Ninja Warz

By: Cody Musser

The first thing anyone will most likely notice playing Ninja Warz, from Broken Bulb Studios, is how charming this game is. The characters are cute and the zany weapons will keep most people laughing while they level up for at least a bit, but is there enough else going on to make the game worthwhile?

Ninja Warz is a classic combat-style game in which players create their character from one of three clans of ninja and level their fighter to take on all comers. The clan differences add some variety, but your ninja is still going to look like one out of only six-or-so total character designs. This becomes pretty obvious when you advance past having a single ninja and purchase additional fighters for your clan. You can fight with a whole group of ninja, but they all simply add to one total health bar to make things a bit easier to follow.

To progress in Ninja Warz you’ll spend Karma in the dojo making your fighters stronger and gold in the weapon and relic shops nabbing better gear. This system is just like that present in many similar games, with the option available to purchase (with real people money, of course) extra Karma should you choose to. If not, you’ll receive more from leveling up (not your individual fighters, but your overall profile), obtaining achievements (of which there are a ton) or occasionally visiting the Daimyo, a ninja god who will bestow upon you a bonus of either gold or Karma.

Outside of that, the game offers a Hospital to quickly heal your characters to save time at the cost of gold, a Fighting Blimp where you’ll have all of your regular battles, and a Tournament in which rare weapons can be obtained by winning a few fights in a row. Tournaments can either be categorized “same level” or “open,” but this was confusing, as fighters of multiple levels seemed present regardless of the choice.

The majority of your time in Ninja Warz will come from fighting your many enemies and allies. You can fight your Facebook friends who play Ninja Warz at any time, or fight enemies of a similar level. The option to fight weaker and stronger foes, as well as the always present NPC clans was a huge boon for enjoying our time spent in Ninja Warz. It allows you to progress at your pace, and make the experience as easy or difficult as you want.

Facebook friends don’t only appear as your allies in the fighting arena, but are always present on a bottom scrollbar where you’re given the opportunity to assist them for gold and experience bonuses. This assistance comes in the form of mini-games, but the variety is limited and you’ll quickly wear out their novelty. Begrudgingly you’ll keep doing them however, as they’re the best bet for the quick sums of mass experience and loot you’ll be craving. Outside of that, you can send your friends items and relics you unlock as gifts, hoping they do the same for you.

That’s really it for Nina Warz, and if you can’t find enjoyment in performing some of these tasks over and over, it might be a hard game to stick with for long. If something is going to help you make that choice, it will undoubtedly be the clever and charming additions made throughout the game here and there. The weapons, for one, are awesome. It starts with a stick, sure, but then quickly turns into traditional ninja gear, then to non-traditional ninja gear that looks more dangerous than anything you’ve ever seen, and finally it finishes comfortably with outlandish items like fried shrimp, wrenches, drills and more.

The game also has some charming boss encounters that will creep up walking around your floating island from time to time, but we wish they happenened more often. Ninja Warz will be fun for most new players, who will laugh at the gags. Hopefully Broken Bulb is dreaming up ways to add more variation and depth to the experience, to keep Ninja Wars compelling long term. The game’s climbing the charts though, with over 1,400,000 monthly users, so maybe a ninja beating a ninja with fried shrimp is enough for anyone.

Play Ninja Warz now!

Up & Coming: SuperCity

I’ve been enjoying city building title SuperCity from Russian newcomer innoWate for over a week, now. It looks like city simulations might be another hot social genre in 2010, and hopefully SuperCity will be able to ride that wave to at least a modest level of success. But its slower pace and less forgiving gameplay all but ensure the game won’t lead the pack. Yet it is precisely these elements that attract me to the game.

The game works more-or-less like you’re probably imagining. Played from a traditional Sim City camera perspective, players build studio apartments (and later condos, later still castles), as well as shops, schools, power stations, etc. Each of these structures takes anywhere from 2 hours to over 24 hours to construct. Players can then return to their city every 4-8 hours and collect the rent money that has accumulated.

I say the game is unforgiving and slow for a couple of reasons. The amount of rent collected is a low enough percentage of the total building price that you won’t recoup your investment in that building until you’ve collected several times. Additionally, players don’t have the ability to move buildings. If you decide you want to re-arrange, you are required demolish that building (and pay the demolish fee no less), losing that investment.

I’m making it sound un-appealing, but it really isn’t. The slowed-down pace means two things:

1) Every new building you construct is a victory. You’re building a CITY here… not planting a Farm. Saving for a new power plant SHOULD be a big deal. It makes everything feel more like a true construction project.
2) Actual city planning becomes important. You need to have a rough outline of what will go where, since additions are semi-permanent.

Basically, if you come across someone’s SuperCity stuffed with high-end estates and mega malls, this is a more significant achievement than someone’s decked out farm or pet house. The slower pace appeals to me, but will it appeal to the masses?

SuperCity launched Dec. 25th with 8,000 daily players. As of today there are 15,300 daily players. So, this is still a quite small title. The entire experience is still a little rough around the edges – Awards, Gifts, and other features are still listed as “coming soon.” But give it a shot. It’s one of my current “play daily” titles. And there aren’t many of those.

Up & Coming: Warstorm

Warstorm from Challenge Games (Ponzi Inc., Gridiron Live Football) is considerably more complex than most Facebook games. Fans of Farmville or Mafia Wars beware – Warstorm more closely resembles collectible card games like Magic: The Gathering (or Pokemon if you’re a younger reader) than the more easygoing games many Facebook gamers are probably familiar with.

Gamers initially have access to just a handful of cards, but as training battles are won and silver coins earned, more and more cards are added to the available pool. From that pool of cards, gamers build their deck. The options for deck building are varied, but are in the mold of other similar card games. A fast, heavy-hitting, but weak deck, a slow, defensive deck, a deck focused on magic attacks or other trickery… lots of different builds are available.

The game comes with a selection of free single player missions, and head-to-head multiplayer (complete with matchmaking). More single-player missions are available for purchase (with real money).

The game has a small but rapidly growing player base. A month ago (Dec 12th) the game had 4,700 daily players. Today, there are 38,000 daily players & growing.

Look for more Warstorm coverage soon!

Play Warstorm Now!