Gary’s got a little surprise for you…
When I signed up and began playing Jagex’s latest browser-based offering, 8Realms, I didn’t realise that I would be inviting Gary into my life. This enthusiastically comical character introduces himself at the games beginning as an advisor, someone to guide you through the early part of the game and who will always be available to point you in the right direction, often with a humorous quip. However, it would appear that his job does not end there. He is, for want of a better description, the “poster child” for 8Realms and can be found both on the official FaceBook page and offering the occasional bargain through the 8Realms email, the most recent of which featured Gary streaking.
But, as I said, Gary’s primary role is to act as guide and advisor. Let’s see how well he did his job as I try to describe 8Realms to you.
8Realms is to Civilization as The Sims Online is to The Sims 3. Well, that feels like a pretty good way to describe it and will give anyone who has experienced these games a firm understanding of what to expect.
“But I haven’t played The Sims Online, The Sims 3 or even Civilization!!”
Fair enough, I will start at the beginning. 8Realms is a browser-based strategy game which is continuously running. This means that even when you are not actually logged in and playing, things are still happening in your game. The player begins their 8Realms adventure with a small settlement in the stone age. Through building, researching and conquering, the player’s aim is to advance their little settlement through the ages to a laser gun-wielding, spaceship-flying time in the distant future at which point, hopefully, they will be in control of an impressively huge empire. Impressive stuff, eh?
Things are fairly simple in the stone age, with the player having to construct various resource collecting buildings, residences or other special buildings that provide things like storage, warriors or research. Everything in 8Realms takes time to complete and this is all measured in realtime. Whereas constructing a basic quarry may only take a matter of five minutes, researching some advanced storage techniques may take hours. The player can only do a certain number of things at any one time, such as constructing buildings or researching, but can queue up other actions by spending gems at the in-game store on queue slots.
The in-game transaction model used in 8Realms is becoming more and more popular. The game is free to play and anyone can enjoy 8Realms without spending a single penny. But by spending some of your hard-earned real-world cash, things can happen quicker, easier or better. The gems, which are paid for with real money, can purchase the aforementioned queue slots, speed up actions in the game, or buy buffs. As with the few other games using this transaction model that I have played before, I began vowing not to pay a penny. But it was not long before I was tempted to purchase a few gems, just to make the game move a bit quicker.
8Realms is a game that will be played in regular small bursts over a long period of time. The game keeps things moving by offering up quests, but as completing these, and continuing with the building and expanding, can take a fair amount of time, it is very much a game to play whilst doing other things. Check in on 8Realms, queue up a few things, then go and do something else before checking back later. As such, 8Realms can provide weeks or months of entertainment.
As the player progresses through the ages, things start getting more complex and challenging. Accessing the world map and building armies big enough to grab much needed resources from a group of bandits, or defending against a neighbours far more impressive empire will become increasingly important. In keeping with this social world in which we live, FaceBook is well and truly integrated into the allowing players to instantly compare their progress with their friends and compete with their frenemies.
Perhaps the biggest selling point of 8Realms is the fact that it can pretty much play on any device with a web browser. As a game that needs to be checked on quite frequently, the possibility of playing it whilst traveling or during lunch breaks is ideal. I personally tried the game out on my Android tablet and it worked perfectly, even with the touch screen interface.
“When can I join in with this empire-building fun?”, I hear you ask. Well, even though 8Realms has yet to officially launch, it is in open beta meaning that you can jump in and start creating the ultimate empire right now. The game looks pretty much finished, so anyone concerned about joining an incomplete game need not worry. Head over to www.8realms.com and join the fun – it will make Gary happy.