The Battle for Atlantis
Having spent several days with Rise of Warlords, I’m still fairly ambivalent toward the game. In this mobile strategy MMO from Happy Cat Gaming, players choose between six civilizations and battle for control of Atlantis. It’s a game that does some things right and some things wrong but very little new.
After being resurrected by a mysterious goddess, players choose a name, portrait and civilization. Different cultures gain slight bonuses to collecting different resources, but otherwise its primarily cosmetic. The six options are Vikings, Greece, Oriental, Fuso, Egypt and Babylon. Fuso, if anyone’s wondering, is an archaic name for ancient Japan. One would think that falls under the category of “Oriental,” which is mostly just represented as China. That is not the only case of odd naming either, as Viking is much more Arthurian than Norse, and Greece has some Roman elements. Still, this is a game about humanity rebelling against the gods and conquering Atlantis. It’s explicitly fantasy, so I’m willing to be more forgiving than I’ve been with other historically inaccurate games.
Overthrowing the Gods
After picking their character and civilization, the game treats players to a cutscene where they become the leader of a besieged city-state. From there, the story largely takes a back seat. It’s mainly there to encourage the player to keep upgrading their city and expanding their borders. Every chapter plays out like this: A character will suggest something like building a wall or holding a festival. Then, two to four characters bicker about it before the player gets to pick a side. The game then gives them a checklist of objectives like “control 4 level 5 tiles” or “upgrade buildings X, Y, and Z.”
However, the story exists in tandem with another system I quite like. Whenever the players on a server fulfill certain requirements, the server advances to the next stage of Hegemony. This sets a new global modifier, such as randomly spawning barbarians when enough players control sufficient land or conquer enough enemy cities. Rise of Warlords accompanies each level of Hegemony with flavor text about humanity’s ongoing rebellion. Players can form alliances to complete the objectives and prevent rivals from doing so. Eventually, alliances can fight a war over their civilization’s capital. Then alliances from different civilizations can battle for control of Atlantis. Once Mount Olympus falls, players get rewarded based on their contribution before the server resets. It is an intriguing system and one that rewards allying with other players.
Forging an Empire
The gameplay in Rise of Warlords will be instantly familiar to anyone who’s played many mobile strategy games. The player controls a city on a large hexagonal grid map. Clicking on a tile sends an army to attack enemies, claim the tile or gather resources like food, wood, stone and iron. Cities need food to conscript new soldiers while the other three resources go towards buildings and upgrades. Meanwhile, players gain silver and gold over time by completing objectives. Players can spend these currencies to rush timers on construction or movement.
Armies consist of either cavalry, archers, spears, shields or siege engines. Each has different strengths and weaknesses, such as spears being effective against cavalry but not archers. Each army needs a hero to lead it, and players can unlock additional slots to add more heroes to their armies. The more heroes in an army and the higher their level, the more soldiers they can command. Players gain new heroes either through story progression or from Rise of Warlords’ gacha mechanics.
Barriers to Progress
Collecting resources of all kinds is a slow process, and access to resources is one of the main barriers to advancement. This is where we get into my main issue with Rise of Warlords because it’s definitely in what I call the “wait or pay” category of freemium mobile games. Do you need more soldiers? Wait a few hours to collect enough food, then a few more hours to train them. The only way to substantially speed things up is by shelling out real money in the shop. Happy Cat isn’t selling you boosts as much as holding your time for ransom.
The monetization system makes Rise of Warlords much less fun than it would be otherwise. The Hegemony system rewards long-term play, and there is a bit of depth and complexity to the heroes’ stats and abilities. But I want to play the game, not wait to wait to play it. Happy Cat did a competent job putting the Rise of Warlords together, but not enough to convince me it’s worth so much time.
Is It Hardcore?
Rise of Warlords is competently put together but does little to make itself stand out and doesn’t even pretend to respect the player’s time.