By Darren Henderson (DizzyPW), General Manager
I had a chance to drop into InnoGames' private meeting room to get the first ever gameplay demo of Rising Generals, an upcoming multi-platform mobile title set in the typical InnoGames vein of strategy empire builders. This one in particular though is pushing the genre into the next level of quality and doing so in a setting InnoGames typically avoids, a modern military one.
The first engineering feat that sets Rising Generals apart is the massive scope they are aiming for. We're talking persistent game worlds up for grabs with 40,000 players on a single server taking part in the battles. Each player has ownership of a single hex on the grid known as a Battle Site. Beyond these 40,000 Battlesites are other hexes owned by NPC factions that can be conquered to add to your empire, bolstering resource production and offering new bases of operation in the process. Players can then team up with Battlegroups, the Rising Generals clan system, to work towards a goal of owning a majority of the Battle Sites in a District to gain control. Own the majority of Districts in a Region and suddenly your clan is a world power that's setting the rules of your server by their might alone.
The Base Building
But perhaps I'm jumping ahead of myself a bit. Let's look at the basics first. You start off, like most empire building games, with a simple Command Center and a list of quests that will help expedite your rise to power. Your actions are limited by Command Points as well as resources, and of course you're going to need to spend CP in order to acquire and improve buildings to gain resources faster in the early days. Should you wish to be a more active player, you can spend your excess resources to upgrade your Command Center and gain a larger CP pool.
Now there's two pieces of Rising General's base building that immediately set it apart from the competition. First off, everything is animated to both reflect activity and building status. This means when you tell a factory to build a tank, you will be able to see the inter-workings of your factory putting that tank together, piece by piece. Pretty advanced for the genre I'd say. Secondly, the further you upgrade a building, the more advanced these animations will become. While the graphics are simplistic, they still offer a nice sense of accomplishment seeing your single production line expanding into a variety of store houses, cranes, and tons of workers after a few upgrade sessions.
And while that's all well and good for aesthetics, the second piece of the puzzle actually impacts your gameplay experience. When you build a unit, or initiate an upgrade in Rising Generals, it's constructed and ready for use in the war immediately. Rather than force ever growing countdown timers on the player, this allows you to jump in the game, unleash hell, and then have a set countdown timer letting you know when the soonest time is that you can return and do it all over again. Simple concept, awesome results. Definitely a boon for player retention.
The combat is the second element that makes me think of Rising Generals as the next level up in the empire building genre. While combat is still automated like most others of its kind, Rising Generals has one slick difference. You get to actually watch the battle results in real-time 3D battles. But that's not to say that there isn't any strategy or tactics involved with these fights. As Sun Tzu put so well, "Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win."
Rising Generals offers a massive variety of units, each with strengths and weaknesses, to give a veteran player an advantage over their foes. If they know how to use them that is. Stacks of doom typically do the job but if you can play smarter, you can accomplish plenty more with less resources wasted. See part of the modern setting involves slapping fuel costs on the player. Although you can conquer territories that aren't directly connected to your Command Center on the world map, the further your units have to travel to get from their launch point to the Battle Site, the more costly the fuel price. Thus keeping your squads small and optimized will save you not only on production cost but also unit cost.
The next step to winning the war before actually fighting is proper intelligence. Spies can be sent out to rival territory to get an idea of what buildings are present in their territory. Logic dictates that a more advanced base will likely have a much stronger defense present to protect a player's investment. However if you need to make sure of it, you can risk your spy in a more dangerous second level of infiltration, that if successful, will offer you a report of the exact troop numbers and types present. With this information you can build your attacking army to appropriately counter their units in the coming battle.
Taking new land can also be a risky endeavor as war always carries the consequence of retaliation. If you spread your territory too quickly, you will be a sitting duck should your enemies seek vengeance. This is where the Battlegroups come into play, as allies can send units to support a friendly base and bolster its defenses should the enemy strike back. As you will be sharing a portion of your resources and success with everyone else in your Battlegroup, it only makes sense for them to do so to keep hold of strategy locations on the map.
Although it's a challenging feat to accomplish, you can eventually hit an expansion limit on your empire. At this point you wil be forced to be a bit more creative with your actions and actually complete quests to earn Supremacy Points. As your SP grows, you will level up and unlock the capability of holding more territory in your empire. But as you can imagine, each level will take longer and longer to accomplish. What's a maxed out empire ruler to do?
Well if you absolutely need to keep your war machine churning beyond your capacity, you can engage in Raid missions. This is essentially the same as attacking another Battle Site, except you don't capture the location. Instead you gain bonus resources from the assault to do as you will. Just be cautious with building your empire beyond your means via the spoils of war, as if your economy takes a downturn, your units will begin to desert you if you can't pay the bills.
And if things are going particularly well, why not join together with two of your friends and start up a Battlegroup of your own? You can design your own flag with plenty of icons and color options and start raking in even more resources as your group slowly conquers the world.
The UI and visuals of Rising Generals are stellar. Would be rulers are going to love the empirewide stat screens that allow you to quickly queue mass production and monitor your resource expenditures at a glance. The monetization system surprisingly seems quite unintrusive as well, with InnoGames going for an unusual pay scheme thus far that doesn't directly sell power to players. Major resources like fuel aren't purchasable at all to limit the expansion of major cash shoppers to a fair and balanced rate. While I can't comment yet on the balance or how well the economy all plays out without spending some time in-game, I have a feeling that there will be a huge community waiting to populate these mega-servers when Rising Generals launches later this year.