Ministry of War Preview: Civilization's Browser Brother
By Vincent Haoson, OnRPG Journalist
Ministry of War is a strategy browser based MMORTS game from Snail Games USA. The game plays upon the concept of civilization supremacy in an MMO setting. You are given the choice to represent one of the four factions found in the game in a race for supremacy and a chance to earn the title champion.
MoW has all the markings of your typical browser MMORTS. With the game running on the Flash engine I didn't expect it to look like it's an MMO equivalent of old Civilization games. The game's visuals were nicely done and it's beautiful to look at while not being distracting or even heavy on your browser.
You get to choose from the game's our factions, each one with its own strengths and weaknesses and that pretty much dictates how your gameplay turns out as you progress. I personally think that the choices are quite limited but at least they are varied enough to give you the impression that choosing a different faction would feel different.The thing that MoW has that got me is that the interface is pretty clean and the texts are just right. Unlike in Snail Game's Heroes of Gaia where the interface is pretty cluttered, MoW's was organized and everything seemed to fit just right in the browser window.
MoW follows the usual MMORTS game scheme, farm-build-train. While the core gameplay isn't new, MoW has one game system in place that differs from other browser based MMORTS, it has an endgame. While endgames are not exactly new to the whole MMORTS genre (there are numerous text-based MMORTs that use this mechanic), games like MoW have never used this as part of their game play.
MoW's endgame is reached by defeating the other three factions-- this is what's stated in Snail Game's press release, however the details are still sketchy on how you defeat the other factions, it is either by fame, currency or military power.I personally like the endgame mechanic in MoW because it gives players an ultimate attainable goal to achieve instead of just mindlessly playing till you grow tired of the game. The endgame encourages people to go with alliances and even socialize with their fellow faction-mates, which normally people won't do. It doesn't hurt that the winning faction also gains spoils if they win in the next realm cycle.
MoW uses the hero system where your "hero" is the representative of your troops in battle. Your heroes also serve as the commander of your troops while he/she also takes part in battle.
I liked how robust MoW's features are. If the gameplay provides the meat of MoW, its features are the bread that wraps it into a very delectable game. MoW provides you with three areas to explore; your city, your suburbs and the world map. Unlike in other browser games, MoW let's you decide where to put your structures inside your city. The grid reminds me of the various MMORTS games on the desktop and I was pretty surprised that MoW has that. The suburbs on the other hand are the areas within your walls. This area can be considered the "training area" for your heroes. There are random monsters that your heroes can take on without the fear of being ganked by another player's hero. The suburbs are also the area where you can see your resources and this is where you upgrade them in accordance with your strategy.
Lastly, you have the world map. This area is similar to the suburbs however, the monsters are more varied and you can also face players and also acquire land and send out missionaries to spread your religion.
The Game World
Speaking of which, the missionaries are in fact greatly used in this game and that they also help in increasing your civilization points to further stabilize your civilization.
Among the numerous features in MoW, the one thing that stood out the most is the game's battle system. MoW's battle system is done in real time plus the game gives you the reigns in commanding your troops in battle as it happens.The battlefields are wide areas where you can maneuver your troops in accordance to your strategy. This is pretty unbelievable for a browser game and this practically took my breath away.
You have the option to let the AI fight your battles for you however; going "automatic" is only suggested if your enemies are weak. I've had the misfortune of having a lot of unnecessary deaths in my army if I just controlled them.The game also utilizes the arena system where you can go against heroes of other players in set matches. This happens in real time and pretty much fills the dull moments in the game.
One of the most surprising game features that MoW has is the age system. You can think of this as the ages in games such as Civilization and Rise of Nations where players can "evolve" into the different ages of man which opens up the rest of the technology tree that each faction has.
The age system is the short-term goal setter for players in conjunction with the endgame goal for each faction. The age system in fact meat's up the whole game, which in turn provides players with more things to concentrate on.
Overall, I've enjoyed my experience with MoW. I loved that the game pushed the boundaries set by browsers. The RTS experience MoW brings is pretty top-notch considering that it's just a browser game. However there are times where I feel that the game is in fact a browser game especially in the loading times whenever you change maps. While this isn't really much of an inconvenience, it is a reminder that regardless of how you look at it, this is just a browser game.
MoW is a game you can't ignore. I was amazed to realize that I'd been playing the game for three hours straight. So don't think that this game is like other browser MMORTS games out there. For the most part I enjoyed my CBT experience and I would think that MoW has the potential to have a lot of followers when it opens to the public.