When talking about real-time strategy games that are played on browsers, there is a stigma regarding its facets, mainly about graphics and gameplay. Titles under this genre are either nice-looking games but play terribly, bland and graphically poor games that handle surprisingly well, or games that are lacking on both criteria altogether. But with the advent of browser games seeing more daylight in the form of casual gamers who have access to the internet, can the same casual gamers be swayed to playing real-time strategy games that do not necessarily look modern visually, but offer the experience of a true real-time strategy game?
Alliance Warfare is a browser-based, multiplayer online strategy game that has players amass, build, and oversee their very own keeps situated in one of the four kingdoms and lay claim on other territories by way of combat, all in order to establish one’s self within its fantasy world. It is developed by Digital Experience Studios, Inc. and is focused on the strategic and planning elements that most other browser-based Real-Time Strategy games have apparently missed out on, not to mention the social aspect that is at the heart of MMOs in general. But the question is – does this game deliver on these fronts and stand out, or does it fall by the way side and just dismissed as one of the other browser-based MMOs out there?
Doing It Old School
Alliance Warfare looks like any other browser-based MMO from the onset. It employs the seemingly standard blueprint most real-time strategy games where players are tasked to build and manage their own economy. This entails building the necessary structures and technological enhancements in order for troops to become available for the player. After some careful planning, accounting of one’s resources and amassing the correct number of troops, players can go about and try their luck in contesting other players’ territory and claim it for their own should they succeed.
While other MMOs try their best to deliver an aesthetically pleasing game, most of the time the gameplay falls short because most of the effort is placed on making the game look good. What separates Alliance Warfare from the others is that their point of attack with their game is focusing not on the flashy 3D graphics but on gameplay. Their tutorial is very straightforward and can be learned more quickly than other RTS or economic simulator games. After a few runs, players can be left alone and figure out how the game works without being too lost via clicking on the on the HUD task list (admittedly, there are some instances where the task list seemed to be vague, but a few prodding and scratching here and there will steer the inquisitive mind to where he or she needs to be).
Alliance Warfare is not completely devoid of animated scenes – when buildings are being constructed or upgraded, there is an indicator in the form of a giant hammer pounding away the said building until it has been completed. The structural designs in this game are there for functionality purposes rather than aesthetics. This way, the focus is shifted into the plotting out strategies to conquer territories from other players.
Queuing Up the Plans
One noticeable thing that Alliance Warfare did regarding its gameplay is that they give players the option of queuing up whatever structure and enhancements they want to reinforce or level up independently. This feature might be overlooked by others, but for people who have been playing browser-based RTS games, this queuing system is a breath of fresh air. One of the most frustrating things when trying to grow your kingdom to be a contender in most browser games is that it takes a long time to level up whatever it is you want to level up because most systems do not recognize that creating a structure is different from upgrading your forces weapons and shields. Alliance Warfare has caught wind of this issue and has addressed it the best way they could, and their queuing system is a breath of fresh air – players can now upgrade their troops’ equipment and construct buildings simultaneously. This makes for a smoother gaming experience as players are now more concerned with the ends rather than the means.
Meeting the Neighbors
Alliance Warfare has also has integrated some social interactions in their gameplay by having world, alliance, and private chat rooms. Players can either forge an alliance with other neighboring players (suddenly the title of the game makes sense!) to take out more powerful adversaries and some objectives. Teaming up with the right people and striking down the correct opponent is crucial, as it can make or break one’s goal of becoming the strongest territory in all of the land – this serves as the game’s PvP. As the saying goes, “keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.”
To Live By or Fall on One’s Sword
Alliance Warfare is not without issues, however. As much as they tried to mitigate the problem with waiting for structures to be built and enhancements to be completed, as the game progresses, this issue of waiting for the aforementioned items to finish getting built and upgraded rears its ugly head. As far as buildings are concerned, players can only build one structure at a time; the queuing system will automatically put the succeeding structures to be built or upgraded on hold until the first one is done being constructed. For the technological upgrades (i.e. weapons and armor enhancements), the queuing holds true as well. The bright side of the queuing is at least the buildings queue is different from the technology queue.
For those who cannot wait for the upgrades to be completed, they are welcome to buy time accelerators in the in-game shop for real money. This might seem to be a step back, but as with all free-to-play games, this is a necessary evil as this is where they get some of their funding.
Regarding the social aspect of the game, while making alliances is well and good, for the most part any one player can just up and tend to his own land, so to speak. The task list seems to give players endless amounts of quests to fulfill that one can play this game hermit or recluse-style and still be able to see the fruits of their labor take shape in the form of a strong, fully-functioning kingdom. One reason why players might think of butting heads with others is that the quests found in the task lists are too simple (i.e. upgrading a building, researching on this particular technology, etc.) and as the game progresses, the upgrades and build times tend to take longer to complete. That, or when others try to encroach on one of your many lands, particularly the ones outside your kingdom which, coincidentally, are lands that are responsible for resource gathering.
Also, since there is little attention towards the visual aspects of an RTS game to be seen, there are no battle sequences to speak of in Alliance Warfare. The PvP and PvE in this game is purely a numbers game, and depending on how many units of varying kinds you set out to do combat with another person’s territory and after a certain time limit, hope that you’ve made all the necessary preparations to win the said skirmish. It’s all up to one’s imagination what might have happened during the battle – was it a complete routing, or did the enemy put up a valiant effort as the swords and arrows were flying all over the place? This non-visual representation of the battle sadly kills the grandeur of battling other people or even computer-controlled neutral grounds.
What is commendable with Alliance Warfare is that they know what they have a particular goal in setting up the game this way. They opted in doing away with the flashy 3D visuals as they deemed that focusing too much on the aesthetics will undoubtedly hamper the spirit of the game. So their focus would be in the gameplay itself – drawing out well-thought-of plans and colluding with other players in order to establish dominance. This move is a ballsy one, considering that most games nowadays offer at least some level of visual display to give some gratification to players’ efforts by way of battle sequences. It appears that they are trying to cater to more serious gamers who can do without the fancy eye candy for a truly strategic gaming experience.
Alliance Warfare is a game that has balls. It goes out of the convention of putting in graphics and visual aesthetics to bring a stripped-down, no nonsense strategy game that would certainly get the attention of purists of the genre. While casual players can get into this raw version of a browser game, most might get turned off by the lack of eye candy. But the other aspects of the game like the inclusion of a queuing system when creating and upgrading buildings and leveling up one’s technology have been dutifully created so that a truly old school strategy game can be achieved. Some might like it, some might love it, but all the same this game is worth checking out.
Pros and Cons
That being said, here are Alliance Warfare’s pros and cons:
– Decent-looking graphics
– Tutorial is easily learned
– Emphasis on strategy and planning
– Can level up multiple enhancements at the same time
– Queuing option is present for leveling up buildings and enhancements under the same tech tree
– Waiting for the resources to be able to build and enhance buildings can become tedious and time consuming
– No battle scenes to be seen
– Players can do without PvP and just go about completing their own tasks
– Tasks can get repetitive as the game progresses