Empire & State: One to Rule Them All
by Chris Mcgraw, OnRPG Guest Writer
Empire and State is an ambitious java-based browser MMO that takes the free-to-play Mafia Wars format and throws in a dash of Risk (or Axis & Allies, if you know your board games). While it's still in early beta and many features and bug fixes are forthcoming, the promise of an addictive and engrossing strategy game is already evident.
You begin the game as a newly arrived immigrant to the colony planet Altea, which is represented as a colorfully rendered hex-grid in the tradition of classic war games. As a broke, lowly wretch with a chip on his shoulder (in my case, looking a bit like Mal Reynolds from Firefly) you set out to look for work in the various cities and slums that populate the otherwise untamed landscape. Taking on jobs and advancing your character should be familiar to anyone who's played Mafia Wars or one of its numerous clones, but don't let the dull introduction turn you away just yet.
After a few levels and some aimless wandering you will acquire a cargo truck and the ability to pledge allegiance to one of the various factions vying for control of the world. A quick flight over to your new nation's capitol city, and the game starts to get interesting. We have all read in our history books about brave immigrants traveling to American shores with nothing but a penny in their pocket and the shoes on their feet, and by the sweat of their brow forging mighty industrial empires, but they didn't try it in Altea! A few mouse clicks later and I was the proud owner of two factories and an iron mine. How's that for self-reliance?
Sadly, you're initially limited in the number of resources you can control, which includes vehicles and structures. Expanding your managerial finesse to handling greater than four properties at any given time requires you to purchase points for real world cash. Game developer Novel sells points for upgrades, in-game credits and stamina refills, which leads to the inevitable frustration many newcomers to F2P games experience: unless you are willing to commit massive amounts of time to playing the game, the players with deeper wallets will always have an edge.
Nations battle each other for control of resources and cities on the map, and the resources you control can be used to produce vehicles and other items that you and your fellow citizens will use to conquer and dominate adjacent lands. If you're lucky you could find yourself elected as leader of your people, after which you can issue executive orders and attempt to subjugate and oppress your citizens like any good dictator would. If you find yourself consistently out-voted, you can even attempt a rebellion to found your own empire.
While many features are still being added, the innovative strategic and social aspects of the meta-game already stand out amongst a crowded field of F2P contenders. This game is one to watch in the coming weeks and months, and if you feel that your megalomaniac tendencies toward global domination aren't being completely fulfilled in real-life, you should start playing today to achieve decisive advantages over the many other players that are sure to come.