You know how people complain that every Call of Duty game that ever comes out is exactly the same? Then you have people on the other end of the spectrum stating that there are only so many ways you can build a first person shooter? I’d like every one of those people on each side of the argument to stop for a second and turn their eyes to Siegelord. I’d like them to note that this game, and about a thousand other games just like it are released every week with only minor improvements overall. Fortunately, I didn’t find Siegelord to be as much of a grind as most other strategy games of its ilk because it did actually manage to innovate on a few things. Note that I use the word ‘strategy’ here very loosely, but only because my editor refused to allow me to use the phrase ‘Neurotic Clickfest’ to describe an entire genre. That being said, let’s talk a bit about what makes Siegelord different and more importantly, what makes it the same, and mind numbingly so.
Delving into the Familiar
Before you can start the game you are tasked with choosing a nation. There are three different nations, and a very nice looking world map to facilitate your choice. After reading a brief description of each nation you can choose one of four different avatars, and there is probably at least one that fits your personality.
Siegelord starts out like most other browser based strategy games as of late – with a seemingly useless tutorial. Fortunately unlike other games of this nature the tutorial isn’t completely insulting. In fact, it does its best to tell a story, albeit a generic story of a kingdom being assaulted. This, of course, lays the groundwork for you to rebuild said kingdom though your space is not as limited as with other games. Instead of being given one plot of buildable land, you are several plots or village, each dedicated to the fabrication of a specific resource. For example one plot will be dedicated to military production while another might be dedicated to wood. Then, of course, you have your standard residences which generate gold. This game differs slightly in the area of settlement in that at the center of your various plots of land, you have a massive palace which you can occupy. The position you hold in said palace will define the amount of resources you receive per hour, and you can always try to move up the food chain a bit if you wish.
All structures are upgradeable, and as you work your way through the available quests, you will be automatically tasked with upgrading them. In the beginning this is easier simply because you have access to an ‘autocomplete’, as well as the ability to upgrade all possible buildings simultaneously. The only thing that keeps you from upgrading all of them is a lack of construction workers which can be remedied.
The game has instances, as you might expect from an MMO like this, and they each contribute to the story. The story, however, is about as clear as mud, and you are simply trying to retake territory. Honestly, the story does not have much to do with the true nature of the game, which we will get to in a moment.
The instances present themselves as villages across a map, and your goal is to take each village using the army you create. You do not create the army directly, but rather recruit generals during battles, and those generals will recruit men to their cause. As you conquer each village, you move closer to the end of the map, and at the very end, you are usually given access to a new general who will be sent to the ‘tavern’ tab.
With your army fully recruited you will be able to attack, and fortunately, there is a prompt before each battle which tells you how many enemy generals are involved as well as the numbers of each army. If they outnumber you, it may be wise to retreat, but unlike other games of this sort, you actually have the chance to employ tactics that might help you to emerge victorious even against overwhelming odds.
During each general’s first attack you will have four different choices. You may assault, guard, retreat, or send the general in to cause damage all by themselves. The battles are still automated, but you have more control over them at the outset than you would have in any other game. If you choose the general power, it will usually smash any standard tactic the enemy has chosen, and will proceed to unleash pixelated hell on either the front row or all rows depending upon the general. Some generals call in an elemental attack while others simply attack with ghostly troops that drop behind enemy lines. Either way, this can be a game changer. The problem, however, is that the attack can be used only once per general, leaving you to choose between the three conventional tactics the rest of the time. Fortunately, it’s common sense. Let’s say for example the enemy has chosen the assault tactic. You should either choose to block, or you could choose to assault them head on. Blocking has more of a chance of working properly, but your assault may in fact break theirs. If their tactic is broken, you are automatically awarded the first strike in the battle, which can determine the victory. Still, at some point during the battle, it comes down to sheer numbers and whether or not you have them.
Some instance missions are more about bringing down supply convoys rather than actual troops, and in that case, your tactic will always break through. In fact, there is little chance that you will actually lose your first line of defense, which makes it a slightly more decisive battle. Once you achieve victory you will be given rewards for the battle as well as a sum of experience points. You can return to the city/village to repeat the fight, but the experience can only be earned the first time. On the subject of experience, it is divided between your generals, and you. Your personal level, among other things, will determine your ability to take part in certain events, most notably the instances. As you battle through the instances you will find that you start to hit a wall, being unable to move forward until you reach a certain level. This is where the world map will come in handy.
The Wide World
The world map will not be available the moment you start the game. You will need to complete a few instances, and then you will be given a brief (very brief) tutorial on how the world map works. There are a number of villages that your troops can travel to, as well as several large cities within your faction’s lands. Near the borders of your land, or closer, you will find many cities taken over by the enemy, and these have been enveloped by ‘fog’. Once you send troops and liberate the village, the fog will dissipate, and your faction’s territory will expand a bit further. The objective of this game is to expand the territory of your faction as far as possible, but this will be a group effort. At virtually any point, regardless of the server you choose to play, on you will find multi-faction battles occurring throughout the world map. These, are differentiated from the typical AI battles with a pair of red crossed swords. In order to participate, you will simply click on the general you wish to send, and then click on the city where the conflict is occurring. Your troops will be sent and they will wait their turn to attack. Once their turn rolls around, you will be notified on the left side of the screen, at which point you can zoom to the conflict and select your action, which is the same set of actions you would have during the instance battles.
The general idea of the game is to help your action in these world battles, finish your instances, and eventually take the palace at the center of your home instance, ascending to the throne of your server. It won’t be an easy task, and it certainly won’t be cheap.
Pay to Play or Pay to Win?
As with any browser based game today you will need to pay a bit of money if you expect to advance to the endgame. This will mean, of course, buying diamonds which allow you to speed up production and provide you more chances to obtain better equipment. Different level equipment is denoted with varying colors such as blue, green, purple, etc. Your access to these amenities will be allowed a few times every hour, but you will find that you constantly need better equipment to move forward, and for this you may find yourself buying diamond recharge packs to click just ‘one more time’. Overall, however, the game can be enjoyed without paying if you wish. As a casual player, you would certainly be in luck.
One of the most amusing aspects of the game is ‘praying’ for resources. Yes, you heard that right; you can pray for resources and they will be granted to you. You can only pray a certain number of times however before the game will stop you and ask that you purchase more diamonds to continue praying. I assume this is like making a donation to the church.
As I played through the game up to level forty I did find the battles pretty enjoyable, particularly being able to choose the strategy I wanted at the beginning. In some cases I found it more helpful to deploy my general in the middle of the fight rather than at the beginning simply to give myself more of an edge. You can certainly try any tactics you wish when you decide to give Siegelord a try.
Overall, I found Siegelord to be pretty enjoyable in comparison to other games of its type. It was smooth, responsive, and instead of crashing , it actually compensated for graphics that failed to load by representing those assets with a question mark. Finally, it took up the entire browser rather than existing in a small window, and for that I have to say I was incredibly grateful. Siegelord might be a cookie cutter experience, but it at least threw in enough chocolate chips to make the cookie interesting.
-Similar to every other browser strategy game
-Poor explanation of story