Review: Demise of Nations22 Aug 2017 2
Review: Demise of Nations
Released 08 Aug 2017
Demise of Nations is an ambitious 4X turn-based grand strategy wargame. For the uninitiated, XXXX does not refer to a game of Caligula-inspired adult naughtiness, but to a game where the aim is to eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate. While free-to-play, this is essentially a game with a free trial version, with IAPs available for the rest of the games content - mainly maps and scenarios covering everything from the rise of ancient empires to the fall of modern civilization.
If the thought of a free game with additional downloadable content is already making you feel a little nervous then let me start by alleviating your concerns. You can download the game for free and try the Roman Empire map without any restrictions. Other maps and scenarios can be downloaded for $3.99 each, or a single payment of $19.99 will give you access to everything.
Multiplayer games are usually free to join and cost just 5 cents per game to host. There is also a random map generator available and, for the more technically minded, a modding utility. Just to make it clear, cash cannot be used to buy any in game advantages.
You begin the game as the leader of a small nation and must venture into neighbouring areas, gathering resources by building quarries and lumberyards. In the modern scenarios these are replaced by alternatives such as oil refineries and factories. You can enhance cities by improving their defences and constructing new buildings to develop commerce and widen the range of available military units. Income is dependent on the size and the happiness of your population. You can also use the market to buy and sell resources. As well as paying for new units and their upkeep, money is also useful for investing in new technologies. An unhappy populace may revolt so it is important to keep them happy by lowering taxes, holding festivals and hiring governors. Diplomatic and military actions will also impact on the morale of your people. If all goes according to plan you will eventually be strong enough to send your armies to war, wiping out your opponents and earning the admiration of your populace.
There are two tutorials, which give a useful introduction to the game. However, start playing and you will soon discover that help is very limited. This results in a steep learning curve and constant referrals to the rules. These rules are often guilty of going into too much technical detail at the expense of explaining basic functionality. For instance, I had problems actually working out how to load my troops onto ships until I realized that, rather illogically, this couldn’t be done whilst your ship is docked at a harbour.
When setting up a new game there is a comprehensive range of options especially if you invest in the extra maps. Cavalry or tanks, galleys or aircraft carriers, ancient Celts or modern day United States – there are certainly some diverse choices available. There are a range of different game types, including; outright annihilation, territory domination and capture the flag. You can pretty much tailor a game to suit your needs, selecting player numbers and types, game length and difficulty of computer opponents. The AI performs well and includes five difficulty levels from casual to inhuman. Be warned, computer opponents can be very aggressive. My first attempt at the Third World War scenario lasted all of two turns as the aggressive Spaniards cut my Portuguese nation in half before mopping up the remains.
One of the more interesting features is the game’s self-titled WEGO turn-based order system. Although this may sound like something a potty training toddler may say, it is actually a well-implemented system in which all players can enter their turns simultaneously. Only when everyone has submitted their orders are they executed, with stronger nations moving first. A nation’s strength is based on their territory, troops and economy. The system feels quite realistic and adds some unpredictability to proceedings since you cannot be sure at what point a unit will actually execute their orders. A unit may even be destroyed before it gets a chance to move.
Combat has no random elements and relies on the tried and tested rock, scissors and paper approach, for instance, spearmen being effective against cavalry. Terrain and weather modifiers add an extra level of tactical decision-making. If you prefer a less gung-ho approach than the diplomatic system offers an interesting array of choices. You can enter into strong alliances, tentative ceasefires and fragile peace treaties. There are also liege and protectorate agreements in which, for a regular payment, the liege will defend his protectorate. Diplomacy is certainly worth considering; it buys you time and gives an element of security. War is costly and will have an adverse effect on your population’s happiness.
Your population appears to like fair play and will get very unhappy if you and your allies gang up on a single opponent. This is just one example of how the multiplayer system strives to be as fair as possible. There is also a handicap system that gives lower ranked players favourable random events. The WEGO turn order system ensures that every turn builds a sense of real tension as you watch the various orders play-out. There are games with fast or slow deadlines and the cross platform support is very welcome. You can take a turn on your phone on the way to work and then enjoy the game on a larger screen when you get home. The game is perfectly playable on a phone, although information like troop statistics will get those with less than perfect eyesight squinting.
Demise of Nations does not venture too far from a well-trodden path. Graphics are serviceable at best, the menus look a little daunting and there are some annoying loading pauses. The modern scenarios, in particular, feel a little rough around the edges. Units and resources may have changed but the maps look disappointingly “ancient.” There are also incongruous moments like the Roman lady giving out information in the modern era and the fact that fertility festivals are still a thing.
Although the game creation flexibility is admirable and the computer opponents put up a good fight the single player experience really lacks a campaign mode. It would have been nice to have a story mode to enhance the single player experience and give the game some focus. The way technology is implemented also feels a little too simplistic with no sense of real progression. I must admit that I was a little disappointed that the two eras do not come into direct conflict. However, on further consideration, pitting a herd of elephants against a squadron of tanks seems a bit unfair, not to mention very messy.