Hands-on with Empire of the Eclipse16 May 2012 0
Twice-rejected App Store applicant Empire of the Eclipse has finally been deemed fit for sale by Cupertino and should be available next week. EotE represents a brace of iOS firsts: the first massively-multiplayer 4X game and the first monthly-subscription based app outside of the Newsstand.
I've been playing a pre-release version of Empire of the Eclipse and I can't wait for more of you to show up. EotE bills itself as a real-time game, but that shouldn't put off those who prefer their 4X games to play at a dignified turn-based pace - this isn't a Starcraft click-fest for the abnormally quick-reflexed. Every action in Empire of the Eclipse takes appreciable amounts of real time - I currently have some probes exploring my corner of the galaxy that intend to check in on in a half hour, and my homeworld is building a shipyard that should be ready sometime tomorrow.
In most mobile MMOs, that kind of downtime is used as a wedge to create a space to be filled with my money - wait 12 hours to build this widget, or pay $0.99 to build it immediately. In Empire of the Eclipse, it is just downtime. I can busy myself with the other pressing administrative needs of my empire, or I can exit back into real life and go about my day. Because the world is persistent and many units can be automated, my orders will continue to be executed while I'm away from the app. It's a game designed around the sort of intermittent play experience that most adults with jobs and responsibilities can relate to.
EotE's languid pacing isn't merely convenient - it makes the game world more immersive. Instead of waiting ten turns that will pass as quickly as I can click my mouse for that shipyard to be built, I need to cool my heels until tomorrow. That fleet I sent clear across the sector will get there in a couple of hours. There's a verisimilitude to that experience that makes Empire of the Eclipse feel less ludic and more like a simulation.
The drag is that the game feels very lonely at the moment - there's nobody else in there except for Zarksoft themselves and some other bloggers. That has a certain "vastness of space" atmospheric appeal to it, but I just the push notification about some new fighters being built and I'm itching to let them loose at somebody.