UPDATE: This game has been shutdown and is no longer available
EXP Rate: Slow
Pros: +Easy to learn +Unique approach to online strategy +Non-competitive
Cons: -Slow growth rate -Game feels too casual -Lack of direction after first age
8Realms tasks players with taking a meager village from its ancient days, and growing it through eight “Ages” of progress. Players build, research, gather resources, trade, and conquer in this easy-to-learn HTML-based game. As there is no player-versus-player features, competition instead comes from capturing and holding the most land and luxuries to raise your culture above others.
8Realms Featured Video
8Realms Full Review
It’s safe to say that if you’ve played one online, browser-based strategy game, you’ve played them all. As fun and challenging these games may be, almost all follow a general building plan that includes resource management, army management, city building, and conquering your neighbors. The Internet is buzzing with dozens of these games, and it takes some keen development to make one stand out from the crowd. New to this arena is 8Realms, a game published and developed by Jagex, creators of RuneScape. While the building blocks of 8Realms may remind you of War of Legends or Ministry of War, Jagex has dressed up 8Realms to make you look twice.
Putting Out The Fire
Your journey as the leader of an Empire in 8Realms begins with a man named Gary. Yes, we’re serious: after logging in, you’re launched straight into your village to save the day. The village is burning from a recent barbarian attack, and your first task as ruler is to – with the help of a goofy-looking villager named Gary – put out the fires by clicking on the buildings.
From this noble task of saving the lives of your villagers, you’re thrust into the more mundane role of building up your little establishment. With the help of Gary, you’ll be building, raiding, and conquering in no time, as the interface is very clear-cut and requires only a little clicking to manage your entire game.
It’s All About the Gold
Resource management is essential to managing your budding little Empire, and it begins with three basic resources: Food, Wood, and Stone. These are earned by placing their respective buildings on the map: farmlands and fisheries, lumber mills, and quarries, respectively. These buildings can be upgraded, and additional buildings can also help improve the output of these resources. As your Empire ages – more on that later – you will also gain access to additional resources, including Iron, Coal, Oil, and Aluminum.
Of course, there’s one other key resource: gold. Gold is earned through taxing your settlement. You can change your tax rate – and are encouraged to early in the game – at the cost of happiness. If your villagers aren’t happy, though, you can always build new things for them that improves their mood while keeping the cash rolling in. Be warned, though: all your resources are limited by the size of your storehouse in each village you own, and that includes gold.
Only the Learned
Research also plays a key role in building your Empire. After building a Library, you can send your most powerful thinkers into hiding for a few hours within its walls, to emerge with new technology. Similar to games like Civilization, research is organized into various trees. Some projects require previous learning to unlock, while others can be learned at any time, with the right amount of gold. Research will introduce new buildings, new units, and even offer bonuses to production and mood. Always be researching.
To aid you on your progress, the game offers Tasks. These quests, found in a Clipboard at the top of your screen, direct you to specific research, building, and army raising goals that will help push your civilization forward. However, some outside research and planning will be required to make the most of tasks, as each city has limited space to build.
Rise and Conquer
Early in 8Realms, you will be tasked with defeating local barbarian troops. These barbarians occupy resources on the map, and attacking these areas with your own troops will let your army bring home the bacon, along with other useful resources. While some areas can only be raided, others can later be captured to establish trade outposts. Barbarians are not always static; they will sometimes come and attack your outposts, so defense is important. Barbarians are also the only enemies your army will face: while you can battle for map control, you cannot attack other players directly.
In order to make your mark on the world outside your walls, you’ll need to recruit troops. Troops recruit from the population in each city, and require a certain amount of resources to recruit, as well as cost a certain amount of gold or fuel to maintain. If you can’t pay or fuel your troops, you will lose them. Once recruited, these troops can stay in your city to defend it, or march out and capture or raid resources before coming home. All battle is automated in 8Realms, so you simply need to sit back and wait for the Battle Report to come in.
You’re Showing Your Age
Basics aside, one of 8Realms’ special features is the Age system. Each Empire personally progresses through Ages, or eras of time that reflect their technology, military prowess, and knowledge. 8Realms features – you may have guessed – eight Ages to progress through. These ages are Ancient, Classical, Feudal, Renaissance, Imperial, Industrial, Modern, and Future, and are based on the eras of world history. In addition to new technologies, each age also brings with it an update in the user interface that reflects the era of your civilization.
Your Empire’s age is determined by its general progress, counted, in part, completing tasks and obtaining luxuries, and tracked in the hourglass at the top of the screen. Building, researching, and conquering will advance your civilization through each age. At the end of an Age, you may then choose one of several Wonders specific to that Age to build around your city. When complete, you will advance to the next era. Note that you cannot return to older Wonders, which means that you are limited to one from each Era – make your choice carefully, as each offers different bonuses.
Final Verdict: Fair
8Realms has a lot of polish, and Jagex has given life to the game through unique graphics, a sense of humor (which shows itself after completing landmark tasks), and more importantly, a unique competitive edge. It is rare to find an MMORTS that is not designed to pit players in direct combat with each other, and while that lack of PvP may drive some away, it may draw in others who are happy to compete through conquering the map and building their culture. Unfortunately, this also leads 8Realms to have a very casual feel to it: without a threat from others, players can simply check in once or twice a day to make sure their empire continues growing. While the game offers sufficient strategy challenge – dedicating specific cities to specific tasks, transferring resources, and capturing luxuries on the map – to not be labeled as “easy,” the game feels more like a single-player game or Facebook social game than a true MMORTS. This title is great for the less competitive and casual strategy player, but those looking to battle their way to the top should look elsewhere.