Turn-based strategy for new-comers.
History Egypt: Engineering an Empire, published by Slitehrine, is inspired by the History Channels short run Engineering an Empire series, which looked at the accomplishments of different empires throughout history. This particular game, available on the PC and coming soon to the DS, PSP and iPhone, deals specifically with the ancient Egyptian empire and places the player in the role of a leader of a territory from that region. The player is tasked with building their empire from its very beginnings to the height of power.
Gameplay takes the form of turn-based strategy in a similar vein to games such as Caesar,Pharaoh and Master of Olympus: Zeus. There is also more than just a nod in the direction of the famed Civilization series of games. What sets Egypt, as I shall now call it, apart from other games of this kind, is that it is designed with simplicity in mind, in an attempt to encourage newcomers to the genre to try their hand at building an empire.
Players begin with a mpa of the region, showing the cities and armies of both the player and any rival factions. During the players turn, armies may be moved within their given movement allowance and the cities can be managed. Entering a city brings uo that cities management screen, which shows the structures contained within, along with the vacant building plots that can be used to construct new buildings. Once a barracks has been built within the city, the player can begin producing troops, which can be set to continue each turn until told otherwise. the player can also set a building to be constructed. However, each turn the player can only construct one item in each city, be it a building or a unit.
It is important to remember that everything costs money and getting your empires economy running well is of utmost importance. Each building constructed and unit recruited has an ongoing cost. Buildings in your cities can all be upgraded, as long as the price is paid. Managing the economy is perhaps the most difficult part of the game.
Encountering other factions is inevitable and, although diplomacy is an option with the choice of remaining friendly with likewise nations or offering tributes to the less than friendly nations, eventually conflict will raise its head. The player can send spies into neighbouring areas in order to find out what buildings they have in a city, or discover the strength of their army. But this carries its own risks in that, should your spy be discovered, the target faction will likely not be your best buddies anymore.
Combat itself takes the player into a hex covered screen, with the players units on one side and the opposing units on the other. Players take it in turns to move their units and perform actions, be it attacking or firing projectiles. There are quite a selection of different units within the game, each with their own collection of stats. When it comes to one on one fighting, it pretty much comes down to which unit causes the most damage and there is not much by way of tactics available. There is also an option to automatically resolve any conflicts, in a similar manner to the Total War games.
There is a hotseat multiplayer mode available within Egypt. This allows two players to compete with each other on the same PC, simply by taking it in turns to sit at the PC and give orders. Whilst this may be fun for the younger kids that are learning how to play this style of game, I cannot see this mode having much use in todays world where players are used to having their own screen. Even spilt screen games seem to be losing favour as everyone now competes across the Internet.
The graphics in Egypt are simple and to the point. There is nothing flashy going on here and, on the PC version at least, the game looks dated and unimpressive. In fact, given that the game is coming to the handhelds, I would not be surprised to find that the mobile versions of the game look incredibly similar. It is almost as if the game was designed for the handhelds and then ported to the PC by simply changing the resolution. But still, as the game is designed as an entry into the genre, the simple graphics are competent and easy to understand. The buildings are all suitably recreated with enough difference to allow easy identification. The troops are also historically accurate, although lacking in detail.
Playing the game itself is very simple. The learning curve is set low, so as not to put off the newcomers at which this game is aimed. Anyone who has played one of these games before will recognise the format and likely find the game far too easy. This game is to turn based strategy, what Dora the Explorer is to platform gaming. Across four gaming sessions I played, looking for the depth and tactics, feeling that I was missing out on the heart of the game and wondering where I was going wrong. In a sudden revelation it came to me, what I was searching for simply did not exist. The game is that simple. What threw me was the seriousness and historical accuracy that makes the game seem deeper than it actually is.
On the official website, it does state that the game is easy and that it is ideal for newcomers. Take this information to heart, as it is so very true. If you have never played this type of game before, and fancy creating your own Egyptian Empire, give this a try. Master this game and you will be well equipped to move onto the more complex strategy titles that are available. It is even ideal for anyone with a young power monger in their household. Sit them down and go through the game with them. Before you know it they will be conquering rival nations with ruthless abandon. Egypt does what it says on the tin, just be sure to read the tin before you buy!