Age of Civilizations Europe, by developer Lukasz Jakowski is a punishing but ultimately rewarding experience centered on the theme of global conflict. Punishments are swift and calamitous, but satisfaction and pride are equally as powerful. This is as fun as playing with a map can be, and one of the more enduring mobile experiences that has come along in a long time. Play-through potential is endless and addicting. Onward to victory (Maybe)!
Age of Civilizations Europe presents you with just a map laid out on the screen. You begin your campaign by choosing a country and starting from its capital. You’ll begin the game with your capital city and sometimes a few surrounding provinces. From these you raise your forces and move them to strategic positions to continue taking provinces, and to expand your empire. Each province gained means more tax money to fill your coffers, and more citizens to recruit for your army. In Civilizations Europe, there are no animations, no battle sequences. If the number of invading forces is larger than those defending, the invading force wins, the defeated province turns the invading nation’s color, and the invaders claim possession of said province. From here players can use the new lands to raise more forces, build a port or fortify their position.
This simplistic approach makes up the entirety of Age of Civilizations Europe’s gameplay. What’s more, the game’s presentation is as barebones as it gets. The game’s visual experience is comprised of nothing more than looking at a multicolored map. Each color is tied to a flag, and each flag represents the country of ownership. As the game wears on, certain colors will spread, seeping across the landscape; others will dry up and then disappear, countries lost forever to their mightier neighbors. Until, at the end, there is only one color left. Simple premise. Incredibly difficult gameplay.
Age of Civilizations Europe is very much like playing a tabletop game on your phone. Each turn allows you to advance your army, construct diplomatic relations, build a port or fortify your owned lands. Anyone who is familiar with Sid Meier’s Civilization series, or the superb Total War series by The Creative Assembly will feel right at home here, though you may miss the elaborate battle animations. Those of you who are new to the global domination game, on the other hand, will have a lot to learn.
I spent a lot of time with England. It’s an island and thus physically a somewhat isolated country. This it would seem to be a good place to bulk up one’s ranks before heading out to pursue world domination. Or so I thought. There seems to be no penalty for attacking when moving units across water to invade an enemy shore. Being an island held really no benefit to my English empire as it would in real life. I was disappointed in this. As this is a war simulator, oceanic proximity has historically been a significant factor in taking or defending areas. This missing piece of the puzzle is one of few missteps Age of Civilizations Europe takes. Many games were spent in 20 moves or less with me getting invaded and watching my provinces turn an enemy color. My nation, my people lost forever; lost to the machines of war.
Finally I decided to give diplomacy a try. I found the best bet for me was to make an early dash to empty provinces and claim them as my own via diplomatic options, accomplished by clicking on the ‘diplomacy’ tab and initiating negotiations with a competing faction. With a bigger country overall opposing forces are more eager to work with you under the diplomatic umbrella. This worked better than my original British-Hermit tactic but still ended, many turns later with my capital gaining the Austrian flag and my campaign failing completely. In true Schwarzenegger style, they rolled through Europe and took whatever they wanted, including my once thriving British bastion. Curse you, strongman.
What I’m driving at here is that Age of Civilizations Europe is not an easy game. With no multiplayer you must take on the cold calculations of the computer. It takes some shrewd diplomatic tactics and bold military decisions to be successful. Which I am not ashamed to admit is something that I did not accomplish during my time with Age of Civilizations Europe, but I had a lot of fun struggling and plan on taking Civilizations Europe’s infernal AI down any day now. It is worth noting as well that there are no in-app purchases for sale in Civilizations Europe’s. You can’t buy your way to victory here, no sir. Age of Civilizations Europe punishes mistakes, whether they are made in your first turn or thirty-fifth. Like true world domination the stakes are high and so are the barriers to the annals of history, but the ride is definitely worth taking.
Is it Hardcore?
High barriers to the success of your campaign makes winning even more sweet. High learning curve equals high satisfaction. Pick this up for domination on-the-go. Perfect gift for the dictator on the move.